At present, the UN estimates that over 1.2 billion children and young people are currently affected by school closures worldwide. All Link’s partner countries, Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda, have nation-wide school closures in effect.
Access to a quality education is the first step in empowering a new generation in Africa. As the crisis surrounding the coronavirus unfolds, we are working hard to adjust the way our teams work to keep themselves and others safe whilst adapting our plans to ensure that children and young people continue to learn and are able to return to school safely when they re-open.
With school closures and restrictions on gatherings we are unable to continue with school-based activities or deliver face to face training, however, our work continues as normal where possible. We are continuing to develop and improve training materials for teachers and community partners; we are liaising remotely with government partners to support and develop inspection and management tools; and we are distributing bursaries to the vulnerable girls most at risk of abuse, early marriage, or dropping out of school.
To assist with immediate needs, we’ve added information on life-saving COVID-19 protection measures to our usual radio programmes on inclusion, safeguarding and education rights, and supported food and soap distribution to rural communities. In the event of schools remaining closed for several more months, we are exploring safe, low-tech distance learning opportunities via radio or worksheets so that education continues and children and their families remain engaged in learning.
Across our COVID-19 response, we are co-ordinating with partners, the wider sector and government at local and national levels to ensure efficient, appropriate and timely support is provided. Critically, this is a global crisis and as such it requires a co-ordinated global response.
Beyond the immediate effects on learning, a humanitarian crisis looms that risks undoing much of the progress that the global community has made fighting extreme poverty and under-resourced education systems. Women, girls and people with disabilities will be the hardest hit as vital services come under pressure, and child marriage, pregnancy and discrimination present a greater risk. Link is acutely aware of these challenges. As in all our work, we continue to ensure our programme activities provide a sustainable, long-term solution and support communities through this crisis whilst taking the most vulnerable along with us.