POSTED September 20, 2021
What does a quality education really mean for a child?
It’s begun — another school year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Canada, we know that’s translated to a lot of anxiety and tough decisions about whether kids should return to in-classroom learning or remain learning virtually.
In other corners of the world, the story is slightly different. In fact, UNICEF reports an estimated 140-million students didn’t return to a school building this year, and, of that number, eight million haven’t been back since the pandemic began.
Indeed, the situation is varied everywhere. In our Nicaragua programs, schools never officially closed (worrying many parents); in Paraguay, they’re hoping to end their hybrid school system and send all the kids back when their new year begins in February; in our other programs in Africa and India some have gone back, some remain learning at home.
No matter the situation, barriers keeping many children out of school (completely) have multiplied.
WHAT KEEPS VULNERABLE KIDS AROUND THE WORLD OUT OF THE CLASSROOM?
There are many reasons children in vulnerable communities haven’t been learning — before the pandemic and now. Consider just a few:
- poverty makes it difficult to pay school fees or purchase a uniform and school supplies
- children are working to supplement a parent’s income or repay old family debts
- social norms and cultural traditions dictate early, forced marriages, which usually lead to the end of a young bride’s education
- gender and class stereotypes prevent many from accessing their right to learn
And, now, the pandemic, which forced many children from school completely, as their parents struggled to earn an income, has created another barrier.
But, we’re not deterred.
HOW WE’RE HELPING KIDS OVERCOME BARRIERS TO EDUCATION
Our teams have been agile to meet changing needs, which continues to (re)define our approach. Here’s what we’ve accomplished in the past year, thanks to support from our generous donors…
Improved access to quality education
- We collaborated with governments in our six countries of operation to help develop curriculums and encourage increased budgets for early-childhood education.
- We partnered with ministries of education to ensure continuity of learning virtually for primary schoolchildren through radio and TV spots, flash drives and printed materials.
- We ramped up the creation of creative learning centres as safe spaces kids can learn. For example, in India small groups learned through apps, activities and more.
- We increased access to affordable, quality and inclusive technical and vocational skills-training.
- We gave more than 63,000 children arts and crafts, books, printed materials and notebooks.
Support school upgrades so students can learn safely
- Working with our local partners, we renovated or equipped more than 245 classrooms and libraries with handwashing stations, sanitizers, soaps and toilet upgrades.
- We helped prepare classrooms for socially distant learning.
- Nearly 400,000 children, and their parents and caregivers, benefited from 375,000+ teaching aids, computers, pieces of furniture and play materials.
Keeping children safe from exploitation
- We promoted gender and social inclusion in schools.
- We integrated child-safeguarding practises into teacher training.
- We supported children and their communities to advocate for their rights.
SCHOOL IS ABOUT MORE THAN BUILDING A QUALITY EDUCATION
Although it may not be possible for all children to return to the classroom, we’re committed to breaking barriers so more kids in our programs can keep learning and return to school soon. That will mean they can access daily meals, immunizations and safe spaces to learn and protect their rights, while on the road to a brighter future.
So, the next time you see a child walk to school in your neighbourhood, consider everything that journey makes possible for students — whether they live in Canada or Africa.
Join us as we help educate 500,000 kids by 2024. We promise it will be worth the journey.