Getting Children Safely Back into Learning is our Global Priority
We are collectively experiencing the worst education crisis in our generation. With 700+ million children out of school; an increase in poverty levels not seen for almost 25 years; and over 202 billion closed days of school since January 2020, millions of children risk falling – or staying – into an intergenerational trap of poverty. For children who were already struggling to access education before the pandemic- particularly those affected by conflict and crisis- accessing quality, relevant learning opportunities is now more difficult than ever. For many vulnerable children, the likelihood of their return to learning is questionable without targeted and intentional support at community, state and national levels.
When children no longer have to access safe learning environments, their nutrition, health, protection and wellbeing is also impacted. For many children access to education also provides access to food, health care and referrals to mental health services. When home isn't safe, learning environments can provide protection, a sense of normalcy and routine, and that chance to develop strong social emotional skills necessary for managing stress and becoming more resilient.
A rapid assessment conducted by Save the Children in September 2021 found that out of 39 country programs, 41% said that the majority of schools were still closed. 90% said that the majority of children had no access to learning when schools were closed.
While the effects of vaccination seem promising, the reality is that access remains both unequal and inequitable - with only 0.4% of vaccine doses being administered in low-income countries globally. For some low-income countries, this may not begin until 2022-2023. The reality is this: from 2021, the gulf between countries with successful containment measures and those without will widen, and continue to grow in the years to come. Vulnerable children living in the latter, for whom access to education provides safety, the chance to learn through play, and comprehensive wellbeing support (spanning across health, nutrition and protection), will lose out at a colossal scale, furthering inequities for the greatest in need.
Since announcing “Safe Back to School” as its global priority in 2020, Save the Children has convened around country programs’ needs to develop a series of multi-sectoral tools and resources, using internal and external evidence, to support children’s safe entry or return to learning. These included:
- A suite of protection and well-being tools for teachers and caregivers including: Teacher training modules on teacher wellbeing and psychosocial support and social emotional learning , as well as signposting guide for teachers and caregivers on violence prevention and MHPSS
- A suite of tools for inclusive and equitable access to learning including: A Guide for Supporting Inclusive and Equitable Learning; Guidance on Conducting Situational Analysis; an Integrated Community Case Management Model bringing together child protection, health, nutrition and cash & voucher assistance; and a Tracking and Absence Monitoring Toolkit
- A suite of tools to make sure learning remains effective including: Case studies of best practices in TPD
All tools can be found here across a series of languages, with more to follow in months to come.
Recognizing that a crisis of this size needs all hands on deck, these resources were developed by thematically and functionally integrated teams from across Save the Children – bringing together experts in global, regional and country roles. Now, the tools are being used by country programmes in all regions with feedback guiding improvements. Most recently, a training on teacher wellbeing modules was delivered in Nepal, which will be subsequently rolled out to a further 250 teachers on the frontline.
Bridging policy and practice, please also see Save the Children’s Build Forward Better report which combines learning and links to resources based on what Save the Children and others have learned from the response to this pandemic. Policy recommendations indicate what needs to happen now to ensure that education systems are better prepared, resilient and inclusive in the midst of future shocks, in the immediate future.
We hope that these resources can support your organization in our collective effort to ensure that all children can return to learning. Should you have any questions, feedback or suggestions, please contact Julia Finder, Senior EIE Adviser, Save the Children US.
About the Authors
Tara Painter is the Global Head of Education Programs for Save the Children International. Tara developed her passion for education at the beginning of her career while teaching in Canada, South Korea and Tanzania. This practical experience laid the foundation to becoming a development practitioner. With 15 years of experience across a variety of organizations, Tara’s work is always done with a goal to ensure that all children have access to learning and wellbeing.
Jasmine Jahromi is the Team Leader of Save the Children’s ‘Safe Back to School’ Initiative. Holding over ten years of experience within the sector, she has worked in a variety of roles focusing on humanitarian response leadership, partnerships, and localisation across the Middle East, Asia and West Africa - most recently serving as Deputy Country Director in Afghanistan. Prior to joining Save the Children, Jasmine worked for DFID (now FCDO) and the Television Trust for the Environment. She holds an LLB in Law from University College London and an LLM in International Law from the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Julia Finder Johna is a Senior Education in Emergencies Advisor with Save the Children US. Julia’s expertise is on integrating psychosocial support and social emotional learning into education programs to provide comprehensive care to children, their families and teachers. Julia is co-convener of INEE’s PSS-SEL Collaborative, and within Save the Children she serves as education lead of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Technical Working Group to support integrated and cross-sectoral programming. Julia began her career in education as a classroom teacher in the inner city and also has previous experience as a teacher trainer. She holds a MA in Social Justice and Education from University College London’s Institute of Education.
The views expressed in this blog are the authors' own.