"We want to learn like everyone else”: Children have their say
To support the findings of our latest report Build Forward Better, we asked 42 children in 11 countries to tell us how COVID-19 has affected their right to a safe, inclusive, quality education, and give us their recommendations for decision-makers to ensure that another crisis doesn’t affect education as badly ever again. Here’s what they said.
“Decision-makers must educate parents and provide the means to support their children at home.”
In a workshop in Cote d’Ivoire, children spoke about the disruption that COVID-19 has caused and what can be done to make it up. They said “we want decision-makers to make a decision to bring teachers closer to children who are in poor neighborhoods so that they can learn like everyone else… Many parents are not helping their children with education during COVID-19.”
The children also pointed to different social protection systems that would help children access education. “Children who do not have a birth certificate do not go to school. The minister must sign a paper so that all children even without papers can go to school… The state must provide financial support to parents who have lost their jobs so that they continue to take care of their children.”
“Distance education is a big problem that children face, and it may lead to children dropping out of schools, so solutions must be found”
Children in Lebanon focussed on the effect the pandemic and other crises have had on their mental health and wellbeing, “children’s wellbeing has not been priority in the current situation, which is affecting children’s mental health. Thus, we must work on solutions to address this issue. The solutions can include the integration of play with education, finding recreational places for children, building playgrounds inside schools, providing schools with social guides, and finally, providing recreational trips to children in safe places. The decision-makers responsible for implementing these solutions are the Minister of Education and UNRWA, as well as the Minister of Finance in cooperation with the Minister of Education to set a budget for entertainment venues, as well as civil society organizations and United Nations organizations.”
“In my school, we still don't have teachers, or we have teachers who are doing the work of other teachers”
GANNAR, Save the Children`s Regional Advisory Group of Children and Adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean, had a detailed discussion about the importance of equal access to education for all children. They say, “Many children and adolescents do not have connections to the Internet. Rural areas were the worst affected. There have been some initiatives in which SIM cards were loaned out, but these can only be used in very open areas. They want to solve the problem, but it doesn't work very well. Many children were left without education, because the government did nothing to support them”.
“In Peru, they were giving out tablets in rural areas. There were boys and girls who had received the tablets, but the teachers were threatening them to make them take care of the devices. They didn't know how to use them and there was no signal where they lived. There are few classes with platforms because many classmates work; in addition, there is no signal to give them access. There are classmates who continue to work and study at the same time. The government could invest in giving out mobile devices or tablets to make education at home easier”.
“Governments also need to conduct a study, an analysis of the situation in the different districts, cities and municipalities, so that they can see what the problem is. In my district there are some areas that are poorer than others, and there should be a proper study of the real situations we are going through. The government should take a more in-depth approach with the Ministry of Education.”
“I think more funds are needed from the fiscal budget to support our educational system.”
Children in Ethiopia, Sudan and Zimbabwe came together for a discussion about how education had affected their education and what governments should be doing to support them. They spoke about the effect of conflict on the region, “the current existence of conflict in some regions is a barrier to education. Children are sexually abused, separated and lack essential services…The leaders should stop conflict in these regions immediately. This is not an issue that should be tolerated or given time.”
They also wanted to highlight the effects on children with disabilities, “people tend to forget about children with marginalised children special needs when they talk about access to education for children. For example, the television lessons which are being provided do not have subtitles and there is no sign language box to assist children with hearing disabilities.”
Save the Children’s new global report ‘Build Forward Better’ launches on 6th September. Our report brings together learnings from the last 18 months and includes an 8 point plan detailing what actions leaders should now take to Build Forward Better. To support this, we are also launching a new index which shows the education systems at the most extreme risk of collapsing from the effects of covid, conflict and climate change.