COVID-19 has brought education in 195 countries to an unsettling halt with an estimated 91% of the world’s children out of school, 743 million of whom are girls. The impacts of school closures are multidimensional, ranging from the growing digital and learning divide to the increase in malnutrition and risk of child labour and most importantly, absence of a key safety net for millions of children. Girls are the worst hit when it comes to increased drop-out rates and further entrenching of gender gaps in education. For these children at grave risk right now, focused measures are needed to ensure that they not only are able to retain their human right to quality and accessible education but also safely return to schools when they reopen.
Civil Society Efforts and Challenges
Global March Against Child Labour’s network member in Togo, WAO Afrique along with Members of Parliament is providing 100 street children with food kits and PPE, raising awareness in their community on COVID-19 and its impact. In Argentina, our member, “Confederación de Trabajadores de la Educación de la República Argentina” (CTERA), the national teachers’ union confederation, has developed educational resources accessible to students, teachers and families to support distance learning via the “Seguimos Educando” (Let’s Keep Teaching) platform. While civil society is putting their best foot forward, they have limited financial capacity to ensure that all children have access to learning opportunities, nutrition during the pandemic and safe environment in schools when they reopen. In the absence of continuous aid, sustaining their interventions would also be challenging.
The Contributions that Businesses Can Make
The Global March Against Child Labour seeks the support of the business community to lead the way in making education accessible to the most vulnerable children and ensuring a safer return for them to schools. Businesses can help by extending financial aid to our regional partners in the following ways:
In countries still in a lockdown situation: Providing aid and tools for increasing access to online education, especially telecommunications for the most affected communities. Where alternative means of communication (radio, television) are being used, private partners can make them accessible to the most vulnerable.
Countries in a transitional phase:
a) Ensuring children return to school as they reopen and continue their education by providing such as transport, clean drinking water, basic sanitation services, and menstrual hygiene products for girls
b) Supporting local stakeholders in making food schemes such as school meals available to the children and their families
c) Supporting grassroots organisations in providing training and awareness in schools and communities on how to protect children and families from COVID-19