Recovering from COVID-19 Learning Losses
Teachers’ Efforts in South Sudanese Community Schools
There is a global learning crisis. Children are not developing the foundational learning and skills that they need to be able to complete 12 years of education and reach their full potential. In the MENA region, prior to COVID-19 crisis, almost 60% of children, at the age of 10, could neither read nor understand simple comprehension texts. Furthermore, 10 million children in conflicted areas in the region with poor infrastructure and challenging economic status were on the verge of dropping-out of education.
In Egypt, despite great progress, marginalized children -and especially migrant and refugee children - remain below expected learning levels for their age in literacy and numeracy based on children’s participation in several educational trainings and teachers’ observations. This learning crisis has been exacerbated by the after-effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
Mauwada is a 2nd Grade teacher in a South Sudanese community school in Cairo. “Due to children staying at home for a long period during COVID-19, they lost a lot of knowledge. Before we were able to start with the new curriculum, we had to go back and repeat previous content. Children now in grade 3 are still missing knowledge from the previous years.”
Furthermore, the unavailability of remote learning access for marginalized families has further dampened any hope to buffer the pandemic effects. The role of Entrepreneurship and private sector entities is now in much greater need to bring solutions to the millions of children both in classrooms and at home.
Parents all over the world struggled to support their children at home while schools were closed. In refugee communities in Egypt many parents did not have the tools to support their children to not interrupt their learning, as described by the teachers in Knowledge Refugee Community School. Children have fallen further behind in terms of learning and teachers struggle to support them.
“Children globally have been facing psychological challenges due to the change in normal routines and lifestyle as a result of the pandemic. Imagine refugee children, who already have other psychological disturbances due to displacement, war, among other daily difficulties; the children became more violent and anxious” - Amany, South Sudanese Primary School Teacher.
The teachers who serve the communities most in need are those who lack the most resources for teaching. They have limited opportunities and support to improve their teaching skills, perpetuating a cycle of learning poverty with lifelong detrimental effects for children. Mawada, the school principal at Knowledge School described the efforts of the teachers working in the school she manages: “Normally if we provide 6 lessons of a certain subject a week, one is dedicated to revise the basics of previous years to ensure children’s loss is addressed”.
Teachers, parents and children in South Sudanese community schools in Egypt have uprooted their lives, escaping from a violent civil war that has displaced millions of people. While refugee children have found a safer home in Egypt, they need much more. They need to fulfill their right to learn.
UNICEF is supporting refugee and migrant teachers so that they can cope with the rippling effects of COVID-19 on learning and become able to use the most effective techniques to help their students catch-up with lost learning.
Despite the trauma that refugee and migrant children have suffered, they still hold a gleaming excitement in their eyes, a will to thrive, and an unwavering ability to smile when their teachers make the effort to connect with them. Their resilience is astonishing, but what will become of their future? They are in urgent need of quality learning opportunities.
UNICEF is conducting a learning loss assessment to tackle education recovery that will be based on national and international educational benchmarks that measure literacy and numeracy skills outcomes for students in the primary education stage. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Technical Education (MOETE), Discovery Education, and Ain Shams University, UNICEF will ultimately provide the necessary support to both students and teachers under the current pandemic and global education crisis. The needs assessment will result in a teacher’s tool that will assist them in identifying children learning loss and addressing it within the classroom setting. Consultation meetings are held with teachers and staff in refugee community schools, Egyptian community schools, and public schools to ensure that schools are receiving optimized support and as part of UNICEF’s commitment towards the accountability of affected populations.
Thanks to generous contributions from The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM), and the Opportunity Fund provided by the Netherlands, UNICEF Egypt is collaborating with national governmental entities and international experts to reach close to 30,000 children from different nationalities in refugee community schools and public schools with a programme to remediate the learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.