Joint African Union Commission and UNICEF Statement to Member States on Response of the Education Sector to COVID-19 to Ensure Continuity of Learning

Learners attending a lesson: Photo Credit: UNICEF Uganda/2020/Bongyereirwe
Learners attending a lesson: Photo Credit: UNICEF Uganda/2020/Bongyereirwe

Since 11 March 2020 when WHO declared a global COVID-19 pandemic, African Union (AU) Member States have taken steps to suppress and control the spread of the Coronavirus in Africa, including closing of schools.

While school closures are important in mitigating the spread of COVI D-19, prolonged closures negatively impact all students and disproportionately affect the most deprived and vulnerable students.

Schools closure however does not mean children should not continue to learn. This means creating opportunities for learning at home and we need to act fast to limit the negative consequences of COVID-19 on Africa’s education systems as follows:

1. Ensure continuity of learning based on DOTSS approach

Implement an immediate response to support continuity of learning based on the DOTSS approach endorsed by the 3rd Specialized Technical Committee on Education, Science, Technology and Innovation:

  • Digital connectivity of schools: Advocate for schools and other learning institutions to be connected to the internet and to become hubs for providing internet access in deprived communities.
  • Online learning: Provide distance learning content, deploying radio, TV, podcast and online/e-learning.
  • Teachers as facilitators and motivators of learning: Teachers should deploy relevant technologies such as webinars, to continue to engage and motivate learners to learn. All Ministries to provide guidelines and support to parents for home schooling.
  • Safety online and offline. As more children use the internet for learning, they become increasingly vulnerable to online sexual exploitation and abuse. Ministries should provide guidelines and tools for online safety.
  • Skills focused learning. The curriculum should embrace the 360 degrees approach to skills development combining foundational, digital, 21 st century, entrepreneurial and job specific skills.

2. Monitor, learn and improve

Ministries of Education should document good practices and monitor learning engagement and learning outcomes to improve the education sector response to COVID-19.

They should also share information on education responses and successes and challenges with the AUC to facilitate inter-country learning and replication of good practices.

3. Plan for re-opening

Ministries of Education should put in place plans to re-open schools, launch back-to-school campaigns when appropriate, and implement education strategies to catch-up on the lost period of learning.

Unless the above actions are taken with speed and at scale, national efforts to improve education and learning will stagnate or will be undermined. The impact will be felt at all levels from individual children and families losing hope in the promise of education to member states experiencing a loss in human capital and diminished economic opportunities.

Please find attached for reference UNICEF, WHO and IFRC guidelines for the prevention and control of COVID-19 in schools.

Let us work together to ensure uninterrupted learning for all during this trying time. UNICEF Country Offices are available to support you in your response to COVID-19.

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