The Human Rights Watch has advised governments and schools, all around the world to analyse who left school and who came back, while ensuring that back-to-school programs seek out all who dropped out.
Such efforts should be complemented with the disbursement of financial and social benefits, Human Rights Watch stressed. Consequently, the back-to-school programs should be broad and extend to all others who dropped out even before the pandemic closed schools.
In a report released today, May 17, 2021, the Human Rights Watch recognised that Covid-related school closures, although intended to be temporary, for far too many students, rather marked the end of their education.
In preparing the report, the Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 470 students, parents, and teachers in 60 countries between April 2020 and April 2021.
The report highlights that staying at home turned out to be an avenue for child work, others got married, assumed new family obligations. Some more became disillusioned with education or felt could not catch up or simply-aged out of free or compulsory education as guaranteed under their country’s laws.
Moreover, it stressed a fundamental outcome, all-too-common among countries due to the pandemic-related school closures. Covid-related school closures affected children unequally. This is because not all children had the opportunities, tools, or access needed to continue learning during the pandemic, Human Rights Watch found.
This problem was encountered, the report says, since many governments did not have any policies, resources, or adequate infrastructure to roll out online learning. Which therefore meant that children could not participate equally.
Highlights of problems encountered in some countries
In Ghana, the government organized classes to be delivered on radio and television. However, effectiveness and wider access became a problem for those who did not have these gadgets, especially, students in the villages. More so, most public schools which are largely under-resourced could not reach students for internet-based learning.
A mother of seven in Lagos, Nigeria who lost her income when the university where she cleaned shut down due to the pandemic revealed that, “[my children’s] teacher called me to tell me to buy a big phone [smartphone] for online teaching.” She added that, “I don’t have money to feed my family and I am struggling to make ends meet. How can I afford a phone and internet?”
Elin Martinez, senior Education researcher at Human Rights Watch remarked that, “with millions of children deprived of education during the pandemic, now is the time to strengthen protection of the right to education by rebuilding better and more equitable and robust education systems.
“The aim shouldn’t be just to return to how things were before the pandemic, but to fix the flaws in systems that have long prevented schools from being open and welcoming to all children.”
The report reiterated the urgency with which governments, schools, donors should handle the situation, without ignoring the difficulty associated with it.
“Removing the barriers to children’s right to education highlighted during the pandemic will not be easy. But all governments, and the donors and international actors supporting them, should be firm in their commitments.
“[And] that moving forward, their focus will be on investing and adequately distributing greater resources to strengthen public inclusive education systems, swiftly removing discriminatory policies and practices, and adopting plans to redress the right to education for millions of students.”