The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and its partners resolved to close their digital channels for 18 hours in order to mark 18 months of school closure due to the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19).
According to a press release, Unicef was joined by UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission Humanitarian Aid operation, the LEGO Foundation and the WEF Global Shapers community of world youth to shut down their digital platforms from Thursday at 13:00 GMT in order to send a clear message to global leaders that "reopen schools as soon as possible"
According to Unicef, schools for nearly 77 million children in six countries remain completely closed. Bangladesh, Philippines and Panama are among the countries that kept schools closed the longest. Over 131 million students in 11 countries are estimated have missed more than 3 quaters of their in-person learning. Almost 27% of countries worldwide continue to have schools fully or partially closed. Uganda is among countries across the world whose schools still remain closed with no clear reopening schedule in place.
The executive director of Unicef Henrietta Fore said, "As classes resume in many countries around the world, millions of students are heading into a third academic year without stepping a foot in a classroom. The losses that students are incuring from not being in school may never be recovered."
As a results of school closure, many children are missing out on school based meals and routine vaccinations, experiencing social isolation and increased anxiety and being exposed to abuse and violence.
School coasters have also led to drop outs, child labour and child marriage because many parents have been unable to continue with their employment while balancing their children's care and learning needs which has pushed their families into poverty and creating a deeper Economic crisis.
The quality of the curriculum has been un-even within communities and school districts due to inaccessible technology. Unicef urges governments, local authorities and school administrations to reopen schools as soon as possible since they are not the main drivers of transmission.
It says schools can take possible steps to mitigate against transmission of the virus through implementing mask policies for students and staff, providing hand washing facilities, cleaning surfaces and shared objects, ensuring adequate and appropriate ventilation, establishing information sharing mechanisms with parents teachers and students, cohorting where students are kept in small groups and do not mix and also ensuring that teachers receive Covid-19 vaccine after the health workers.
"The education crisis is still here, and with each passing day that classrooms remain dark, the devastation worsens,” said Fore. “This is a crisis we will not allow the world to ignore. Our channels are silent, but our message is loud: Every community, everywhere must reopen schools as soon as possible. Schools must be the last to close and the first to reopen. We have to start putting the best interest of every child first. In all but the most extreme cases, this means getting students back into the classroom.