UNICEF wishes all student, teachers, and school staff a safe and successful school year

Statement by Patrizia DiGiovanni, UNICEF Representative calling for a whole-society effort to keep schools safe and open.

01 September 2021

SKOPJE 1 Sept 2021 “The first day of school for students is an exciting day. The excitement comes from beginning a new phase in their life, entering a realm of unknowns but also endless possibilities.

This school year, the first day of school for children and youth in North Macedonia is perhaps one of the most important first day’s because for the majority it will be the first time that they are able to sit with their peers and face-to-face with their teachers in a classroom after having spent 54 weeks of learning behind a digital screen.  This is much longer than the average of 25 weeks in Europe and Central Asia.

A school is more than a building. It’s a place for learning, it helps children gain independence, adapt to new routines, and develop meaningful relationships with teachers and students.

This is why reopening schools for in-person learning is a critical step to ensure every child can access a quality education that builds and accredits the skills children and adolescents need for life.

In-person learning also enables teachers to identify and address learning delays, mental health issues, and abuse that could negatively affect children’s well-being.

We understand that in a pandemic it is possible that we need to shift to different learning models, and this country has proven that it has the ability to do so quickly and successfully.

With the uncertainties in the early onset of the pandemic, the shift to distance learning was a needed measure, however it was never intended to be a long-term solution and never to replace in-person learning. 

The role that teachers played during this time was a reflection of the enthusiasm, perseverance, creativity, professionalism and the qualities that teachers in this country have.

For this, we all need to show teachers appreciation for the important role they play in building resilience and shaping the future of education and improving student learning outcomes.

Teachers and school staff are also leading and serving as role models in the community on how to keep schools safe so that they remain open.

They are also serving as role models when it comes to getting vaccinated against COVID19 with some 7 in 10 being vaccinated before the beginning of the school year. 

Following the prevention measures and protocols, wearing a mask, practicing hand hygiene, physical distancing, and getting vaccinated when it’s our turn, is what we can all do to reduce transmission in the community, and keep schools safe and opened.

This first day of school I would like to wish all students, teachers, and school staff a safe and successful school year.  

Children and youth cannot risk having another year of disrupted learning. They need our support now more than ever. 

We must have a whole-society approach to keep schools safe and open. Closing schools for in person learning should only be considered when there are no other alternatives. They must be the last to close and first to reopen when it is safe to do so.”


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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.

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