UNICEF, UNESCO and WHO concerned over school closures in Eswatini
MBABANE, 29 July 2021: UNICEF, UNESCO and WHO are deeply concerned about prolonged school closures in Eswatini over a total of 13 months, resulting in extensive loss of valuable teaching and learning for children. Despite other sectors, such as bars, restaurants and cinemas reopening after recent unrest in the country, schools continue to stay shut.
Like the rest of the world, Eswatini has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to schools closing between March 2020 and March 2021. There was a brief, short-lived period when schools re-opened in March 2021, before closing again in July following the recent political unrest in the country.
Continued school closures expose children to more violence, increased teenage pregnancy, greater likelihood of permanent learner dropout and threaten to reverse any progress made in improving educational outcomes. Many also lose access to their one nutritious meal of the day as shutting school gates means pausing school feeding programmes.
UNICEF, UNESCO and WHO reiterate that education is a basic and fundamental right of every child and it plays a vital role in the future of a society. The abrupt closure of schools due to unrest has further exacerbated the impact of COVID-19 on children’s education and the year-long loss of learning. UNICEF, UNESCO and WHO appeal to all parties to be very conscious of the psychological impact on learners, and subsequently the eminent future impact on the country’s economy.
Schools are safe and protective environments for children, and there is no evidence that schools are super-spreading environments for COVID-19. Indeed, open schools with the right safety measures in place can be protective environments as opposed to allowing free and widespread mingling in their communities.
UNICEF, UNESCO and WHO urge all parties to ensure school closure is the last resort when discussing and agreeing on containment measures and calls for the immediate reopening of schools and realisation of every child’s right to education. Schools should be the last to close and first to open, which is not the case in Eswatini.
UNICEF Eswatini, UNESCO Eswatini and WHO Eswatini
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