Return to learning a priority for children to catch-up on education in person or remotely in the Middle East and North Africa

Two in five children in the region did not have access to remote learning during school closures in the time of COVID-19 pandemic

09 September 2020

As schools start to reopen, UNICEF works with partners on the safe return to learning and launches “Ready to Come Back: A Teacher Preparedness Training Package”

AMMAN, 9 September 2020- The COVID-19 pandemic forced an unprecedented disruption to education in the Middle East and North Africa and around the world, hindering access to learning for millions of children.

“All children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized and those at risk of not coming back to school, should be provided with support to continue learning” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director for UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa. “This is an opportunity to reform education systems in the region and move to a blended learning approach. Systems can be made more flexible, increasingly using digital tools, so that every child can acquire skills, get knowledge and be prepared for adulthood” he added.  

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF supported remote learning in all MENA countries. UNICEF helped governments and partners produce and disseminate e-learning modules and educational broadcast materials for radio, TV and online platforms, as well as guidance for parents in supporting learning and stimulating activities for their children at home.

“Every child in the region deserves to have an equal opportunity to access education. Unless the education sector is prioritized, we will see a reversal in progress made to increase access to education, further increasing inequity in societies and economies for generations to come,” added Chaiban.

As part of UNICEF’s commitment to support the safe reopening of schools, UNICEF launched the “Ready to Come Back: A Teacher Preparedness Training Package to prepare teachers for teaching and learning in the time of COVID.  “This package provides practical and ready-to-implement recommendations and activities to improve the safety, wellbeing and learning of students in the classroom or remotely. Education and learning in the time of COVID is possible if everyone follows the health precautionary measures while in school including physical distancing, washing hands and wearing masks if required by national health protocols” said Jeannette Vogelaar, Regional Education Advisor at UNICEF MENA.

As schools reopen around the region, UNICEF is advocating for the following:

  • The safe reopening of schools following hygiene protocols including physical distancing, promoting regular and thorough handwashing, good respiratory hygiene, keeping facilities clean and hygienic, using protective equipment including masks based on a national protocol, and monitoring student and staff health while maintaining regular contact with local health authorities.
  • Provide children with opportunities to get the chance to catch up on what they missed out during lockdown so they do not fall further behind.
  • Maintain the protection, health and wellbeing of children especially services that many children access only while in schools including social support, food, and health and nutrition.
  • Bridging the digital divide to increase and improve children’s access across the region to remote learning tools including via TV, radio and online platforms.
  • Adjust policies, securing additional financing, mobilizing community support and parental engagement. And above all, provide support to the teachers, who are key to keeping children engaged whether in the classroom or at home.

“Now is the time to work together to find innovative ways to bring education to children whether in the classroom or remotely. It is a chance to wish all girls and boys around the region a healthy and fruitful school year ahead. We salute teachers for their extraordinary efforts to provide children with education and overcome what was lost in the past months” concluded Chaiban.



Notes to Editors:

  • According to recent data:
  • The education of 110 million children in the Middle East and North Africa was interrupted due to lockdowns and school closures as a result of COVID-19.
  • Six out of 10 children in the region cannot read or understand a simple age-appropriate text at the age 10.
  • Among students aged 13-15, nearly half of the children experience bullying while in school.
  • Almost half of the schools in the region do not have adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
  • More than 14 million school-aged children in the region are out of school, many because of wars and armed conflicts.
  • Of those children who are in school, half do not master the basic skills or reading, writing and mathematics
  • According to UNICEF, the reopening of schools is a matter of state sovereignty, and the epidemiological situation may vary from one country to another. While UNICEF supports governments’ decisions, all children, especially the most vulnerable and the marginalized, should continue to learn whether face-to-face or remotely. Once schools reopen, the safe operations should be maintained to safeguard the health of students, teachers and staff.
  • The UNICEF-produced “Ready to Come Back: A Teacher Preparedness Training Package” is available in three languages Arabic, English and French. It is available from online here and will be distributed across the region.

UNICEF in MENA is committed to support governments, the private sector, non-governmental organisations, foundations and individuals to bring all children in the region back to learning, including: 

  • Support learning through a blended and hybrid approach that combines face-to-face and remote learning (high or low tech).
  • Provide supplies to schools including personal protective equipment like masks, disinfectants and hand sanitizers.
  • Support the integration of life skills through the Life Skills and Citizenship Education initiative, essential for independent learning including critical thinking, problem solving and innovation.
  • Continue to advocate with governments to increase allocated budgets and public financing for the education sector as a top priority in every country.
  • Support the preparedness of teachers and parents with the return to school in the time of COVID.
  • Support inclusive policies and initiatives to address the digital divide and increase children’s access to digital learning.


Media contacts

Juliette Touma
Regional Chief of Advocacy and Communications
UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office
Tel: 00962798674628
Hasan Nabulsi
Communication Officer
Tel: 00962791368405

Additional resources

a girl wearing a mask - lowered to her chin - in a classroom
Rama, 12 years, on her first day back to school at Aisha bent Al Mo’meneen girls' school in Amman.


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