MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi / MTHULISI SIBANDA in Johannesburg
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – MORE than 127 million students in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) have failed to return to school due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The students, who are at pre-primary, primary and secondary school were supposed to return this week but remain at home as governments maintain lockdowns.
There are fears lack of schooling could expose the minors to pregnancies, abuse and exploitation.
While in most parts of the world, learning at home has been supported by online tools, in ESA, internet penetration is constrained.
Barely one in five (22 percent) of households have internet access, while 84 percent of the rural population – where the bulk of the learners reside – have no electricity.
Lack of schooling has triggered a number of secondary crises across affected regions.
Across ESA, up to 16 million children are no longer accessing critical daily meals at school.
Violence is increasing.
In March this year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) disclosed more than 3 000 more calls made to ChildLine, the free counselling helpline in South Africa, than 12 months earlier.
“COVID-19 has triggered an education crisis that is unprecedented in scope, duration and impact,” Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF regional director, said.
He said governments, businesses and parents must come together to ensure inclusive, realistic and scalable ways that reach all children with education.
“Every day that passes is another where children – and their communities – are robbed of a fundamental right,” Fall lamented.
– CAJ News