Schools should be the last to close and first to reopen
For every child, right to education
Pristina, 06 November 2020: “As Kosovo experiences higher level of COVID-19 infections than ever before during the pandemic, the best interests of children must be central to when and how to keep schools open. Earlier this year, the school closure affected around 345,000 children and adolescents in Kosovo, and the lack of play, socialization and interaction with teachers may significantly affect psychosocial wellbeing and development of children and adolescents.
Kosovo has made tremendous efforts to keep children learning during the pandemic. While most children continue their education through distance learning, the decision to reopen schools with the recommended preventive and protective measures in September, has been a positive step towards reducing the negative impacts of prolonged school closures. The Ministry of Education and Science adopted global guidance and approaches in reopening of schools. Measures included temperature checks at entry, reduced class sizes and hours, reduced school days, increased hygiene measures and awareness raising on COVID-19 prevention measures.
Following the Guidelines of the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) for reopening of schools and the requirements of the Institute of the Public Health (IPH) and Ministry of Health (MoH), UNICEF supported development of a Tracking and Early Warning System, COVID -19 module, to track down and collect data on a daily basis of the number of students and educational staff at school, class, group confirmed and/or suspected with covid-19 can be followed. The access to data are available to MES, IPH, MoH and local authorities.
UNICEF Kosovo Office in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science recently launched a U-Report poll on the reopening of schools for the academic year 2020/2021. Out of 1577 U-REPORTERS, around 60% of those U-Reporters were under the age of 24, with most (40%) being between 15 and 19 years of age. The majority of U-Reporters (62%) felt happy about schools reopening and want to continue with in-school learning during this academic year (65%). More than half of U-Reporters felt confident that students are sufficiently informed about COVID-19 preventive measures (55%). U-Reporters considered that most educational institutions have some means of COVID-19 prevention (39% reported to have enough, 37% reported to have some, but needing more). Distance learning was considered as not enjoyable by 1 in 3 U-Reporters aged 15 to 19.
Global evidence shows that adhering to enhanced prevention measures in schools timely detection and isolation of cases and their contacts, has so far been successful in preventing progression to larger outbreaks in most situations. In Kosovo, according to the Ministry of Education and Science, only 31 schools have been fully or partially closed since they reopened. As large parts of the world are heading into a second wave of the pandemic, it is vital to know how school closures impact students' progress, as well as to consider the disproportionate harms to students from disadvantaged homes.
Global early modelling studies suggested that closing schools reduced community transmission less than other social distancing interventions. Also, studies to date show less spread among children under ten years of age than in older children.
The Head of the UNICEF Office in Kosovo, Murat Sahin, said: “Over the past month, my team visited more than 100 schools across Kosovo, observing the ownership and rigorous effort of school staff and students in meeting necessary COVID-19 prevention measures. Together with our partners, we are committed to continue and expand our support to schools so that they are the last to close and first to reopen”
The costs of keeping students out of schools are much more difficult to make up for than damage to the economy and may be here to stay with us for a generation to come.
U-Report promotes dialogue, freedom of expression, and gives youth the platform and the voice to actively participate and help shape policy development, and to become more informed about matters that are important to them so that they can make a difference in their communities. Once U-Reporters sign up, they receive polls and alerts and real-time responses are collected and mapped. These polls are focused on topics and challenges that are most relevant to U-Reporters in their respective communities.The results are then relayed to decision-makers who use them to inform their policies.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.