No excuses. Keep schools open. Children can’t wait

Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore

28 January 2022
Students in class
UNICEF/UN0299019/Kanobana

NEW YORK, 27 January 2022 – “As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues its spread all over the world, we urge governments to do everything in their power to keep it from further disrupting children’s education.

“To avert a learning catastrophe and put children back on the learning track, UNICEF recommends the following:

“Keep schools open. An estimated 616 million children are currently affected by full or partial school closures. We know that mitigation measures help keep schools open. We also know that investments in digital connectivity can help us make sure that no child is left behind. We need bold action to enable every child to return to school. This includes providing comprehensive support with a particular focus on marginalized children in each community, such as catch-up classes, mental health and nutrition support, protection and other key services.

“Vaccinate teachers and school staff immediately. Teachers and school personnel should be fully supported and prioritized to receive COVID-19 vaccines, once frontline health personnel and high-risk populations are vaccinated.

“UNICEF supports the vaccination of children once vaccines are available to them and once priority groups are fully protected. Do not make vaccination a pre-requisite for in-person schooling. Making access to in-person schooling contingent on COVID-19 vaccination risks denying children access to education and increasing inequalities. Consistent with WHO recommendations, UNICEF recommends keeping schools open and ensuring that countries’ COVID-19 control strategies facilitate children’s participation in education and other aspects of social life, even without vaccinating children and adolescents.

“In crisis conditions there are always difficult decisions that force difficult trade-offs, and we recognize the unprecedented challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic is creating for school systems worldwide. But the stakes are too high. We must collectively do everything we can to keep children in school.”

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Notes to editors:

UNICEF and partners have developed a Framework for reopening schools, regardless of vaccination of school-aged children.

Media contacts

Georgina Thompson
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 238 1559
Tess Ingram
UNICEF New York
Tel: Tel: +1 347 593 2593

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being 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 in Rwanda, visit www.unicef.org/rwanda.

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