New School Year in the COVID-19 era
UNICEF Calls for Increased Efforts to Provide Remote Learning Opportunities and Access to WASH for Every Child
Pre-primary, primary and secondary students, about 1.4 million children in Lao PDR, are about to return to the classroom. Despite the lack of data, estimates indicate that a majority had no to limited access to remote learning options (via radio, television, online or take-home materials) during the school closures from mid-March to mid-May and June.
Vientiane, 4 September – While schools reopened in a staggered phase after the lockdown, about 14,700 schools, from pre-primary to secondary, including private centres, are set to open as of the first week of September. Coinciding with the beginning of the new school year, UNICEF calls for joint efforts to put in place remote learning options, improve access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and protect the education budget from further cuts.
In early 2020, schools around the globe closed to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and at the peak, these closures affected 1.5 billion students from pre-primary to upper secondary, 1.4 million in Lao PDR.
“It is still crucial to further strengthen preparedness measures and put in place a mix of interventions to ensure students can continue learning should there be another wave as well as other emergencies that disrupt learning, such as floods. We cannot, and we won’t allow their learning journey to be interrupted. Therefore, we will continue working with the Government and development partners to ensure that children go back to school and improve learning outcomes,” said Dr. Pia Britto.
To ensure that schools are safe and that children, particularly disadvantaged ones have access to continuity of learning options that are suitable to their context and needs, UNICEF has been supporting the Government of Lao PDR through the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) since the outset of the pandemic.
Under the leadership of MoES, UNICEF has contributed to set up a TV programme for remote learning during the school closures. For the new school year, textbooks and learning materials for pre-primary, primary and secondary students will be distributed across the country, and training and capacity development support for teachers to support remote learning will be provided. In addition, information and tips for parents to support children’s remote learning and well-being will be provided as well as catch-up support for children lagging behind. Moreover, UNICEF will provide more pre-primary and primary schools with water connection, handwashing facilities and hygiene materials across the country.
“We have put efforts into using innovations to improve learning outcomes. In this regard, we are providing support to the Government to set up a digital teaching and learning online platform for students and teachers that will bridge the digital divide and will help more children in Lao PDR with remote learning,” stated Dr. Britto.
Furthermore, UNICEF has launched the second phase of the #SafelyBackToSchool campaign which main objective is to promote a safe return to school while continuing to protect the community from transmission of COVID-19. To reach this goal, this mass media campaign is using a variety of channels including social media, television, radio, WhatsApp and offline platforms to remind parents, teachers and students about the ways to stay safe in schools. Learning from home materials have been produced and disseminated, a survey to better understand the perceptions of children, parents and teacher on the beginning of the school year has been launched, and printed guidelines on safely going back to school have been distributed.
According to The Remote Learning Reachability report recently published by UNICEF, at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren, or 463 million children globally, have been unable to access remote learning during school closures. 80 million in the East Asia and the Pacific region.
The report uses a globally representative analysis on the availability of home-based technology and tools needed for remote learning among pre-primary, primary, lower-secondary and upper-secondary schoolchildren, with data from 100 countries. Data include access to television, radio and internet, and the availability of curriculum delivered across these platforms during school closures.
Schoolchildren from the poorest households and those living in rural areas are by far the most likely to miss out during closures, the report says. The report also notes varying rates of access across age groups, with the youngest students most likely to miss out on remote learning during their most critical years of learning and development.
 Data for SY2019-20.
About the Safely Back to School Campaign
As part of the campaign, the following assets have been created:
- Learning from home materials.
- Images of students and teachers in the new normal setting.
- Posters and banners.
- Social media cards.
- Guidance report (safe school guidance, check lists for parents teachers and students).
- QR graphics of the Back To School Survey
- Social media pack
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.