Today is International Day of Education which celebrates the role of education for peace and development.
This year, the day is marked on Monday 25 January 2021 under the theme ‘Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation’.
The pandemic has amplified social, economic and digital inequalities, putting a generation at risk of a learning catastrophe. The world moved towards distance learning, but at least one third of the world’s students were not able to access remote learning. South Sudan does not have the hardware or internet connectivity to scale-up digital learning. It is vital that we use alternative means to ensure that the children of South Sudan continue to have access to learning, now and during future crises.
At the same time, the pandemic has been a wake-up call – to make education systems more resilient to crisis, and more inclusive, flexible and sustainable. Throughout history, women and girls have been affected negatively and at a disproportionately higher rate by the outbreaks of epidemics and pandemics, and COVID-19 hasn’t been an exception.
In South Sudan, an intersection of factors leaves girls and adolescents at greater risk of marginalisation, discrimination and neglect. Prolonged school closure can result in increased sexual and gender-based violence and teenage pregnancies. Further, girls from the poorest communities are likely to miss out on remote learning strategies, either because access is limited or because the burden of care often falls on women.
Throughout the pandemic, GESS has adapted approaches using radio and other media, such as SMS. These channels are appropriate for South Sudan’s media landscape, with radio being the most widely accessed media source (GESS’ National Endline Survey, 2018) in the country. These distance learning pathways will ensure that learners do not miss out on required instructional time and teachers can maintain and build their skills through remote training packages.
GESS has been working alongside the Ministry of General Education and Instruction to roll-out three nationwide assessments on:
- Distance Learning
- Pregnancy Mappings
- Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools
The results from these three assessments have assisted MoGEI with plans for the phased reopening of schools, alerting government and education partners of the needs with the aim of providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all, and to address past inequalities in education provision.
Now is the opportunity to ‘build back better’ and to renew commitments to those that are most marginalised.