Jakarta: Unicef Executive-Director Henrietta Fore has underscored that no effort should be spared to keep schools open during covid-19 pandemic.
"As we enter the second year of the covid-19 pandemic, and as cases continue to soar around the world, no effort should be spared to keep schools open or prioritize them in reopening plans," said Fore in a written statement on Tuesday.
"Despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closures on children, and despite increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic, too many countries have opted to keep schools closed, some for nearly a year," the head of Unicef stated.
According to Fore, the cost of closing schools – which at the peak of pandemic lockdowns affected 90 per cent of students worldwide and left more than a third of schoolchildren with no access to remote education – has been devastating.
The number of out-of-school children is set to increase by 24 million. Children’s ability to read, write and do basic math has suffered, and the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy have diminished. Their health, development, safety and well-being are also at risk.
"The most vulnerable among them will bear the heaviest brunt," Fore added.
"That’s why closing schools must be a measure of last resort, after all other options have been considered," the official stressed.
Assessing the risk of transmission at the local level should be a key determinant in decisions on school operations. Nationwide school closures must be avoided whenever possible. Where there are high levels of community transmission, where health systems are under extreme pressure and where closing schools is deemed inevitable, safeguarding measures must be put in place. This includes ensuring that children who are at risk of violence in their homes, who are reliant upon school meals and whose parents are essential workers are able to continue their education in their classrooms.
"In case of lockdowns, schools must be among the first to reopen once authorities start lifting restrictions. Catch-up classes should be prioritized to ensure that children who have been unable to learn remotely are not left behind," Fore said.