Well into the 21st century, we could take it for granted that children would have the guaranteed right to a dignified home, to an education that prepares them for the challenges of adult life and to enough food to ensure ideal growth. Yet millions of children in various countries of the world do not have access to any of these basic rights, a situation that has been accentuated by the pandemic caused by Covid-19.
For four years, ProFuturo has been joining its international partners in celebrating this anniversary with the firm desire to improve the education of millions of children in vulnerable environments of different places in the world. The pandemic has clearly shown the need for an urgent change in education and in how digital tools can and must help to narrow the education gap.
According to UNICEF data, over 175 million children – around half of preschool age children in the entire world – are not enrolled in preschool education, which represents the loss of a fundamental opportunity and creates profound inequalities right from the very beginning of their lives. Today we know that the coronavirus could destroy the dreams and ambitions of an entire generation of children, thereby representing an authentic pandemic of poverty in countries of vulnerable environments.
The data are devastating: The education of 1.6 billion children in the whole world has been interrupted due to the coronavirus, which is why urgent action by governments, educational institutions and international bodies is more necessary than ever. Today, investment in education is more pressing than ever, as it was clearly shown in the launch of the #RaiseYourHand campaign, in which ProFuturo participated with its partner GPE to raise awareness about the urgency of this situation.
The pandemic has laid bare the gaps that exist not only in fields as vital as education, but also in needs as basic as access to water, food and work. They are all causing a direct impact on millions of children, whose growth will be affected and who need protection by international institutions, governments, NGOs and the private sector. This November 20th presents another opportunity to raise our voices on behalf of those who cannot do so for themselves.
Refugees, even more vulnerable because of the pandemic
The situation is more drastic in the case of children refugees. The recent report by UNHCR and the Malala Fund, entitled “Coming Together for Refugee Education” and published in September 2020, places special focus on the pandemic’s effects on the education of refugee girls. For them, access to education is a true challenge, given that they have fewer opportunities than boys, especially in access to secondary education. Moreover, this report forecasts that half of refugee girls will not be able to return to school upon reopening after the global lockdown.
For ProFuturo, the coronavirus has meant an opportunity to “reinvent ourselves and reach those who are disconnected”, in the words of our Managing Director, Magdalena Brier. Despite the fact that digital education cannot replace traditional schooling, at ProFuturo we believe that it can improve the quality of education, as well as ensure that lessons continue beyond the walls of the classroom when the world is enclosed or when other barriers limit on-site education.
To mitigate the impact of the pandemic crisis on education, during the closure of schools we have opened up all our teacher training courses and educational resources and placed them at everyone’s disposal for free. With the objective of benefiting more people, we also made these resources available to the ministries of education of the countries where we work and to international institutions so that they could include the resources in their educational platforms.
It is part of a commitment to education that never ceases to grow in times as dark as these. Yet for ProFuturo there is a hopeful message that we would repeat on the occasion of this anniversary: we’ve seen that the coordinated initiatives and the partnerships developed in recent months work. For example, ProFuturo has been invited to join the Global Education Coalition of UNESCO, a true example of cooperation. The key resides in working together and in the will to tackle this pandemic.