close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
April 7, 2020

UNICEF fears spike in South Asia dropout rates due to school closures

Islamabad

April 7, 2020

Islamabad:The United Nations Children's Fund has feared that the prolonged coronavirus-induced campus closures will force millions of children into dropping out of school across South Asia.

"Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the [South Asian] region had a chronic education crisis with 95 million children of school age being out of school. With the crisis unfolding, many of the 430 million children affected by school closures in South Asia are now in danger of dropping out of the education system. Vulnerable and hard to reach children may never return to school if they get further behind due to not being reached with alternative ways to learn during school closures," the UNICEF said in a statement.

While appreciating the short-term mitigation of the COVID-19’s impact on the region’s schoolchildren by creative approaches to term breaks and examinations, the UN agency asked the South Asian countries to urgently develop plans for continued education at home to be prepared for possible longer closures.

This, it added, means implementing plans to continue education through a mix of radio, television and mobile technology, as well as the home delivery of printed learning materials for those who are excluded from technology for the most vulnerable students.

Jim Ackers, regional education adviser at the UNICEF’s Regional Office for South Asia, said the organisation was concerned that prolonged school closures could hit girls and the most vulnerable, including those with disabilities the hardest.

"Girls are often obliged to take care of household chores and look after siblings." The UNICEF adviser also voiced concern about the psychological impact on children of increasing incidents of domestic violence during lockdowns.

According to Jim Ackers, while most countries in the global north are continuing education at home through online learning, South Asia faces additional challenges due to limited connectivity. Only 33% of the people in the region have access to the internet. Access to both radio and television is limited in some parts of the region. Also, the children who currently do home learning can find it hard to get the necessary help if parents are illiterate or did not complete their own education.

The UNICEF adviser said the organisation was working to support governments in the region to ensure that children can continue with their education at home in partnership with other agencies.

"Most countries in South Asia had received external funding for this purpose, including through the Global Partnership for Education and bilateral partners. Some countries are rolling out innovative approaches to education," he said.

Jim Ackers said Afghanistan and Nepal had started organising the home delivery of learning materials to reach the most excluded, while Bangladesh was using TV, radio, mobile phone and internet platforms to reach a maximum number of students and make the learning interactive, engaging parents and learners.

"Such measures are required to ensure quality learning,” he said. Jean Gough, regional director of UNICEF in South Asia, said the novel coronavirus had turned into a complex emergency that threatened children and young people in many ways – including their right to learn.

“We need to see urgent action across the region to ensure that children’s futures are not compromised," she said.