COVID-19: UNESCO, partners coalition to support global distance learning


As about 87 per cent of the world’s student population is affected by COVID-19 school closures, UNESCO is launching a ‘Global Education Coalition’ to support countries with best distance learning practices for their students.

In a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency by Clare O’Hagan, of the UNESCO Press Service, it said more than 1.5 billion learners in 165 countries are affected by COVID-19 school closures.

The Coalition was, therefore, to help countries to mobilise resources and implement innovative and context-appropriate solutions to provide education remotely, leveraging hi-tech, low-tech and no-tech approaches.

It would also seek equitable solutions and universal access, ensure coordinated responses and avoid overlapping efforts, and facilitate the return of students to school when they reopen to avoid an upsurge in dropout rates across the globe.

According to the statement, Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO said: “Never before have we witnessed educational disruption on such a scale. Partnership is the only way forward.

This Coalition is a call for coordinated and innovative action to unlock solutions that will not only support learners and teachers now, but through the recovery process, with a principle focus on inclusion and equity.”

Since the closure of schools to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, governments according to the statement, were deploying distance learning solutions and grappling with the complexity of provisioning education remotely, from delivering content and supporting teachers to provide guidance to families and addressing connectivity challenges.

Equity, it believed, was the paramount concern as closures disproportionately hurt vulnerable and disadvantaged students who relied on schools for a range of social services, including; health and nutrition.

Ms Angelina Jolie, the UN High Commission for Refugees Special Envoy, and a partner to the formation of the Coalition said: “We must speed up the ways we share experience, and help the most vulnerable, whether or not they have internet access.”

UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohamed, the statement said expressed the UN’s full commitment to the Coalition, saying, ‘for millions of children and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, school closures could mean the loss of a vital safety net of nutrition, protection and emotional support’.

“This is not a time to deepen inequalities. It is a time to invest in education’s power to transform. As we embark on the decade of action of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, our responsibility as a global community is to leave absolutely no one behind,” she added.

Among the members of the Coalition are the International Labor Organization, the UN High Commission for Refugees, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization, World Bank, the World Food Programme and the International Telecommunication Union, the Global Partnership for Education, Education Cannot Wait, the OIF (Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Asian Development Bank,

The private sector, including, Microsoft, GSMA, Weidong, Google, Facebook, Zoom, KPMG and Coursera have also joined the Coalition, contributing resources and their expertise around technology, notably connectivity, and capacity strengthening.

Companies using learner and educational data to support the initiative, the statement said.
Philanthropic and non-profit organisations, including; Khan Academy, Dubai Cares, Profuturo and Sesame Street are also part of the Coalition, mobilising resources and services to support schools, teachers, parents and learners during this time of unparalleled educational disruption.

The statement invited media outlets to also join the Coalition and support the BBC, which had already joined to support the initiative.

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