Measures implemented by countries to purportedly contain Covid-19 has resulted in unprecedented school closures. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), around 190 countries have been closed down, affecting more than 1.5 billion students worldwide and forcing them to stay at home. This aggravated child hunger in various parts of the world.
Due to school closures, “370 million children are missing out on school meals,” stated UNICEF. Most of these children are from countries that are torn by war or military interventions. Children in evacuation centers dislocated by calamities and militarization are also vulnerable.
The closures intensified inequality among students. Most poor students have no means to continue their studies, unlike students from well-off families who have internet access and computers at home. The lockdown decreased learning opportunities for poor students, especially as most of them live in congested homes that are not conducive to learning, do not have books and other school supplies, and have no outdoor spaces where children can go out and play. There is a strong clamor to end the semester or academic school year and give all students a passing grade.
Researches indicate that school children are less vulnerable to Covid-19 infection. There is no strong evidence to prove that school closures can stop the spread of the infection. Scientists recommend that instead of closing down schools, governments should prioritize efforts in isolating and putting those who are sick in quarantine. In March, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and UNESCO issued a set of guidelines providing a roadmap for the safe reopening of schools amid the pandemic.
This includes the use of schools for information dissemination and proper health care, continuation of appropriate activities and ensuring essential services and supplies. The groups insisted that school closures must be time-bound.
In countries most affected by the pandemic, school closures result in income loss for education workers, while aggravating the burden shouldered by parents performing crucial duties in hospitals including nurses and doctors.