New Delhi, As worldwide school closures disrupt the education of more than 80 per cent of students, Unicef on Thursday announced it will significantly scale up support in 145 countries to help children continue their learning while keeping schools safe.
According to Unicef's global chief of education, Robert Jenkins, it was found during the Ebola outbreak that students who stayed away from schools were less likely to ever return. Now with coronavirus taking the entire globe in its grip Jenkins says Unicef is prepared to tackle the Ebola like situation.
To help curb the disruption to children's education and keep children learning safely, Unicef has allocated additional funding to accelerate work with governments and partners in more than 145 low- and middle-income countries.
"The initial global allocation of US $13 million - nearly $9 million of which is from a contribution made by the Global Partnership for Education - will be catalytic by supporting national governments and a wide range of education partners in each country to develop plans to enable a rapid, system-wide response," said Robert Jenkins.
The initiative will enable countries to prepare alternative learning programmes in the case of school closures and help schools keep children and their communities safe by providing vital information on handwashing and other hygiene practices.
"Schools in the majority of countries worldwide have closed. It is an unprecedented situation and unless we collectively act now to protect children's education, societies and economies will feel the burden long after we've beaten COVID-19," Jenkins added.
The funds will also help support children's mental health and prevent stigma and discrimination by encouraging students to avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus.
In all the 145 countries, Unicef will work with partners to support governments' crisis response plans including technical assistance, rapid risk analysis, data collection, and planning for the reopening of schools.
"It will also Support the planning and implementation of safe school operation and risk communication including translating, printing, disseminating and implementing safe school guidelines; equipping schools with hygiene packages and circulating critical information on disease prevention; and training teachers and caregivers in psychosocial and mental health support for themselves and students," a statement by Unicef said.
The statement added that Unicef will ensure continuity of learning and access to remote learning programmes including designing and preparing alternative education programmes through online, radio and television.