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Unicef on damage caused by Covid-19 induced school shutdown

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By Staff Reporter


THE United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) says the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on the country’s education sector could have devastating long-term effects on the academic growth of children.

This comes as local schools reopened last week for final year examinations for the first time since shutdown in March this year.

However, the majority of teachers have not reported for duty as they continue to press for improved wages.

Through their unions, the educators have vowed not to report for duty until the government meets their demands for a return to their minimum US$520 monthly wages and provision of Covid-19 protective clothing.

A Unicef analysis report of the prolonged school closures noted serious implications for the well-being of children and their academic growth.

“The prolonged school closures are likely to have a major and negative affect on children’s learning, physical, social and mental health and well-being threatening hard-won educational achievements for years to come,” the Unicef said in its report.

Schools closed in March as a Covid-19 preventive measure.

While attempts at online learning was emphasised, the digital alternative saw many learners particularly from marginalised areas missing out on learning due to lack of telecommunications enabling infrastructure.

“Prolonged school closures will likely exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and inequalities among children, especially girls, children with disabilities, those in rural areas, orphans and vulnerable children, as well as those from poor households and fragile families,” Unicef added.

“School closures have the potential to widen learning disparities and increase the risk of some learners permanently dropping out of school.”

Government has promised to ensure teachers return to classes while also pleading with the educators to be realistic with their demands.