The UN supports reopening of schools despite rising COVID-19 cases

Children in the classroom during the launched of UN initiative to end child right violation. PHOTO; UNICEF 2018

UN children agency UNICEF and UNESCO have welcomed the government decision to reopen schools in South Sudan

The reopening is expected to happen in phases 1 and 2 were the candidate classes, Primary 8 and Senior 4, and will start the first week of October 2020, according to the statement the UN agencies released. Phase 2 includes all schools and grades and will coincide with the start of the academic year in February 2021.

The government passed a resolution during the council of Minister last week. The schools have been closed since March this year due to COVID-19.

The UN children agency said 2 million children keep out of school. This comes on top of the 2.2 million children out of school before the pandemic hit South Sudan.

UNICEF and UNESCO stated that Scientific evidence shows children are not super-spreaders of COVID-19 and are the least affected by it in the region, with a mere 2.5 percent of COVID-19 cases among children of school-going age (5-18 years, WHO). “At the same time, we have seen growing evidence of the negative impact closed classrooms have had on children, including abuse, exploitation, child marriage, and early pregnancies”. Both organizations also said children are safer inside the school walls than outside.

“This is a great day for children in South Sudan who can soon resume their learning and continue planning for their future,” said Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF South Sudan Representative. “The last seven months have been a huge blow for learning but also for protecting children from abuse and exploitation; therefore, we are really pleased with the Government’s decision to reopen schools.”

The UN agencies unveil a plan to work with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction for a safe reopening of schools. The plan includes improved water provision to schools, repair of water infrastructure, soap distribution, hand washing stations, and sanitary kits.

According to the statement, students and the teachers will get free washable face masks and social mobilization will be increased to raise awareness on the reopening of schools and encouraging parents to send their children to school.

UNESCO Representative in South Sudan Mr. Julius Banda said in the statement that the longer children stay out of school, the harder it is to get them back to the classrooms. “We don’t have a school day to lose, the children have already lost so many understand that parents might be nervous, but I urge all caregivers to trust that their children are safer at school. I know you want what is best for your children, and right now that is sending them back to schoo/,”Banda said.

The education reopening plan expects to cost 16.4 million US dollars. The UN said only USD 7 million is available through the Global Partnership for Education.

UNICEF and UNESCO are urging donors and partners to step forward to support the reopening of schools in South Sudan.

South Sudan confirmed 2,660 case, includes 1,438 recovered and 49 death since April this year.

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