/ 18 December 2020

THE UNITED Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the government’s decision to resume limited face-to-face classes in areas where Covid risk is low.

UNICEF said it is ready to support the implementation of in-person schooling while responding to the pandemic by providing technical assistance, essential supplies, learning resources for teachers, children, and parents.

It also expressed readiness to develop communication strategies and materials to reach the most vulnerable population.

“Together, we can overcome these trying times and safeguard the rights of children and their families for a better future beyond Covid19,” it said.

The agency stressed that the resumption of face-to-face learning requires measures and clear guidance at the national level, some of which the government has already outlined. This includes the implementation of a communication plan with schools and community members, continuous testing, use of masks, hygiene promotion and access to functioning water, sanitation and handwashing facilities, social distancing, transportation to and from school, disinfection and ventilation of classrooms, safe food preparation, proper waste disposal and prevention of stigma and discrimination, among others.

It said that distance learning is complementary to, and not a replacement for, face-to-face learning. This is especially true for learners who have no access to the internet or technology and whose parents and caregivers are unable to provide active home-based support.

The agency said the longer children are out of school, the less likely they are to return, which also places them at heightened risks for physical, emotional and sexual violence, exploitation and abuse.

It added that teachers should be given priority when a vaccine becomes available in the country. The agency stressed that giving teachers protection from Covid19 infection is a critical step to provide education for all.

“Our task is clear but challenging. We must work together to improve education outcomes while ensuring equitable access and strengthening the protection, health, and safety of children,” UNICEF said.