/ 4 October 2020

THE UNITED Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund stressed the need for impartial education programs that embrace all learners especially the poor and disadvantaged as nations continue to address the impacts of the pandemic.

The agency warned that all children should have access to learning opportunities despite the health crisis. It warned that the inability to address education problems fuels inequality and reverses the progress made in recent decades.

UNICEF said that evidence shows that if marginalized and vulnerable children miss out on school, it leads to child labor, teenage pregnancy, and other situations that can keep them trapped in the cycle of poverty.

Children with disabilities and children from indigenous groups should also be prioritized to prevent negative outcomes that can last a lifetime.

Postponing learning, despite the availability of alternative means, makes it less likely that they will ever return to school, UNICEF said.

It said that the Covid19 pandemic did not only trigger a global health crisis but also a learning crisis.

The agency said that the ‘sheer scale of school children with no access to education constitutes an education emergency on a global scale’. The repercussions of this situation would be felt by economies and societies for decades to come, it added.

The UN agency lauded the Philippine government’s decision to start classes using  blended approaches, suitable to the needs and capabilities of families.

It also supported the Department of Education in the development of the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan, as well as capacity building to enhance the online learning platform – DepEd Commons.

UNICEF vowed to work with DepEd and other partners to uphold every child’s right to education amid the pandemic.

Part of its upcoming response initiatives include support to DepEd’s intersectoral collaborations to promote health and social protection of children, a community-based communication campaign to increase ALS enrollment, and preparation of a Basic Education Sector Plan that will specify longer term strategies for quality inclusive education.

On the possible reopening of schools and holding face-to-face classes, UNICEF batted for a phased return to schools in low risks areas.

“We urge the government and authorities to look at the benefits and risks across education, public health, and socio-economic factors, in the local context, using the best available evidence. The best interest of every child should be paramount in all these decisions,” the agency said.