How we educated Palestinian refugee students during Covid-19 lockdown

By Nesrin Al Hasan, Principal 

Truth be told, we are used to emergencies. I am the principal of a school in one of the largest Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon. The camp was set up just after 1948 during the Arab-Israeli war. Three generations of families have lived here – people who have known only this camp as their home.  After the Syrian war broke out, even more Palestinians moved in after having been forced to flee Syria.

Credit: Anthony Upton / Arete / UNESCO

Currently, 45% of Palestine refugees in Lebanon live in camps, in small, overcrowded houses of usually one or two concrete rooms. In some camp sectors, the alleys between shelters are so small that sunlight cannot be seen, and the coffins of the dead cannot pass. There were armed clashes a few years ago, so military checkpoints have been erected at every entrance. All of us, whether we have fled wars or lived in the camp all our lives, are accustomed to existing in a state of emergency, preoccupied with our safety and that of our families. 

When COVID-19 hit, it was a different kind of threat, an unseen enemy. Despite this, since we have always been on constant alert, we felt prepared. The school has closed a number of times due to clashes and other emergencies, so we already had a system in place that would allow children to study from home. This is the system on which we fell back when the school was forced to close in February 2020 in order to contain the spread of the pandemic. 

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Supporting vulnerable adolescent girls to continue their education should be prioritised in recovery plans for COVID-19

By Kath Ford, Young Lives

Substantial progress has been made in educating girls and young women in low- and middle-income countries over the last few decades.  The 2020 GEM Gender Report estimated that 180 million more girls have enrolled in primary and secondary education since 1995. 

Credit: SONIKA/UNESCO

The Young Lives study, which has been following the lives of 12,000 children in Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), Peru and Viet Nam since 2001, has highlighted significant improvement in the educational attainment and performance of both girls and boys compared to their parents, despite the impact of persistent inequalities and gender disparities. Our latest survey, however, adds to the mounting evidence that COVID-19 could not only halt progress but also reverse important gains, hitting those living in poor communities hardest.

New findings from the Listening to Young Lives at Work COVID-19 phone survey shows that while the pandemic has had significant economic and social impacts on adolescent girls and boys, the combined pressures of interrupted education, increased domestic work and widespread stresses on household finances are having a disproportionate impact on girls and young women, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Urgent action is required to support vulnerable girls and women to continue their education and avoid long term impacts on their future life chances.

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Trash Hack: young people rethink waste in their schools, homes and communities with UNESCO

By Giulia Ceriani, UNESCO

Each year the world generates over two billion tonnes of waste. Trash clogs our oceans, fills our streets and litters huge areas of the planet. Waste and over consumption are both contributors to the climate crisis. If we continue to live the way we do now, the equivalent of almost three planets would be needed by 2050 to provide the natural resources.

To tackle this global problem through education, UNESCO, with support from the Government of Japan, launched the global campaign Trash Hack on the occasion of World Cleanup Day 2020. Since then, thousands of young people have joined the campaign.

Trash Hacks are small steps everyone can make to bring about bigger, lasting changes in waste reduction. The campaign aims to encourage young people to take action to promote sustainable development, reflect on their actions, and share their learnings. 

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Join our cartoon competition on school choice launched in partnership with the Cartoon Movement

This year, for the first time ever, the GEM Report is launching a cartoon competition in partnership with the Cartoon Movement, a global platform for editorial cartoons and comics journalism with a community of over 500 cartoonists in more than 80 countries. The competition is focused on the theme of the forthcoming 2021/2 GEM Report covering the role, influence, benefits and concerns about non-state actors in education.  The competition is to draw the best cartoon depiction of the issues around school choice and the impact of non-state actors in access, equity and quality in education. The winning submission will receive $500. Read the full brief and information on how to take part here.

The GEM Report team has worked with cartoonists for several years to illustrate the various topics being analysed in its annual publications. Deemed by the team as a thought-provoking communications tool, the cartoons are commissioned as an original way to tease out the multiple themes in each annual report.

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Armenia aims for inclusive education for all children with disabilities by 2025

In Armenia, historically, children with disabilities and special educational needs were often excluded from mainstream education. Negative attitudes towards disability, combined with feelings of shame, led large numbers of children to be sent to special boarding schools, particularly in rural areas. In 2014, the government passed a Law on Mainstream Education providing a legal and financial obligation for all children with disabilities to be accepted in mainstream schools by 2025. Since 2015, all secondary schools in the country have become fully inclusive of children with disabilities. The regional edition of the GEM Report on inclusion and education in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, which was released this week in Russian, and with an executive summary version available in almost 30 regional languages, details how the country is now working towards achieving inclusion in all primary and tertiary institutions.

In a new video about the change, a parent describes the impact of this change on Gor, her son, who was born with a disability. ‘School was just the first big step for his future life. To achieve that goal, the teacher had to work with all children and parents so that they could explain to their own children that Gor is a child just like them. His classmates started acting like adults, helping to get his backpack ready, to take a chair, to enter the classroom to walk and go to the dining room. These were big achievements for Gor, for his classmates and for me as a parent’.

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Could this be the most inclusive school in the world?

‘Every child is unique and their learning path differs. We’re all unique, including children. Some need more support and attention. This school provides it’, says Tiina Keskula, a parent of a child in Pärnu Kuninga Tänava Põhikool, Estonia.

Out of the school’s 55 teachers, 13 are special educators. Timetables consider the child’s abilities, skills and current emotional state. They receive their timetable, which is revised as needed. Time spent in class might change. Some subjects may call for additional support.

‘Cooperation with the parents is crucial. We can’t make decisions alone. We discuss all decisions regarding the child and their development beforehand. It’s vital for the child to feel they have a say in the matter. I believe the greatest gift that inclusion gives to our school is that pupils are truly tolerant. They accept variation and people who differ from them. I believe it makes everyone more empathetic’, said a teacher from the school.

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Posted in disability, Equality, Inclusion | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Breaking down institutionalisation for marginalised children in the Republic of Moldova

In 2005, every day one child under the age of seven was abandoned in an institution in Moldova according to UNICEF. Disturbingly, nine out of ten of these children who were abandoned were not orphans but had living parents. Poverty and a lack of support in local communities were the primary factors that caused families to abandon children or place them in long-stay institutions.

‘These residential institutions were left over from the Soviet times’, said Liudmila Lefter, education officer with UNICEF, who we spoke to for a new video on inclusive education to support the regional edition of the GEM Report on Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia released this week in Russian and with an executive summary produced in almost 30 regional languages.  ‘Few families would take the children home for the vacation. Most of the time, the children in the institutions were isolated from the community, isolated from their families. And in 2007 there were over 11,000 children in over 65 residential institutions, including more than 4,000 children in 37 schools, special schools, auxiliary schools for children with physical or intellectual disabilities’.

‘These institutions also offered very low quality education’, she continued. ‘Children were not prepared for life when they got out of the institutions; they did not have many chances to continue their education and to get a good profession. So they were in way doomed’.

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Centuries of discrimination still run deep for Roma in Europe

By Manos Antoninis, director Global Education Monitoring Report

In the Roma settlement of Obiliq, on the outskirts of Pristina in Kosovo, people have little access to basic amenities like electricity and running water. Since the pandemic hit, schools have closed their doors and shifted to online learning. With little access to WiFi and no laptops, Roma children have now missed almost a year of learning. The same story is repeated in other settlements across the region. The most marginalised children in Europe, have once again been excluded and fallen completely behind.

Credit: Petrut Calinescu

The Global Education Monitoring Report published by UNESCO has launched a new study, in partnership with the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education and the Network of Education Policy Centers, that examines 30 education systems in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Looking back over the past twenty years, undoubtedly ethnic minorities have more protection now than they did then. There are also more opportunities for the most disadvantaged children and young people to attend school. But for some groups, many changes are only happening on paper. Deep-held beliefs and actual practices remain unchanged.

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Despite progress, segregated education persists in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia

English / Español

Today, the regional edition of the GEM Report on inclusion and education in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia has been released in Russian, with an executive summary version produced in almost 30 regional languages, from Albanian to Uzbek and from Latvian to Georgian.

Credit: UNICEF/UNI42671/Roger LeMoynee

A regional webinar and region-wide media release called on countries to shed one of the most poignant legacies of the second half of the 20th century: segregated education, once wrongly regarded as an efficient solution. All means all, produced by the GEM Report, the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education and the Network of Education Policy Centers, shows that in 15 out of 30 education systems, school admission depends on medical-psychological assessment and other selection procedures. While there has been progress, for instance as the percentage of children with disabilities in special schools fell from 78% in 2005/6 to 53% in 2015/6, segregation persists. One in three students with special needs in Central and Eastern Europe is placed in a special school. Even those no longer enrolled in such schools may be placed in other non-inclusive arrangements, such as special classes or home schooling.

What is considered in some countries to be inclusive pedagogy may instead be a medically defined focus on disability. In Belarus, integrated classes use two curricula: a standard one for general education and another for special education; joint instruction is limited to a narrow list of subjects.

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Posted in Equality, Inclusion, Out-of-school children, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The impact of COVID-19 school closures and stress on adolescent mental health in Kenya

By Jessie Pinchoff, Karen Austrian, Faith Mbushi, Population Council & Julie Mwabe, Kenya Executive Office of the President, Policy and Strategy Unit

“I had anxiety because we left school when we were just about to sit for the exams, and then we left school being told that we wouldn’t know when we would go back to school. So, it was giving me stress because I wonder when we would go back to school and when would it be announced”

Adolescent boy, 14 years, Nairobi

The first case of COVID-19 reached Kenya in March 2020, triggering a national response, including closure of businesses and schools and strict curfews. While these measures may have saved lives, they also had widespread unintended secondary impacts on Kenyan households. Globally, researchers are finding higher-than-normal reports of depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. In Kenya specifically, recent news reports highlight worrisome trends of fires in schools, potentially linked with increased stress and difficulty adjusting as schools reopen. However, there is limited research available in African contexts on what works to address adolescent mental health, and the long-term impacts of the pandemic on education and mental health outcomes in the region are unknown.

Credit: Marcel Crozet/ILO

Population Council researchers, in collaboration with the Kenyan National Emergency Response Committee for COVID-19 and the Kenyan Executive Office of the President’s Policy and Strategy Unit (PASU), set out to explore this by surveying adult–adolescent pairs across four locations in Kenya. The findings presented here are for three of these sites: Kisumu, Kilifi and Nairobi. The first adolescent surveys were conducted between June and August 2020 (during school closures), with a follow up survey in February 2021 (after schools reopened). We sampled 1,022 adolescents in Nairobi, 1,063 in Kilifi, and 602 in Kisumu, in a ratio of 1:3 male to female participants. Survey questions covered topics including remote learning and school, economic impact, food insecurity, and COVID-19 beliefs and behaviours. Qualitative surveys were also conducted.

At the time of the first survey, in mid-2020, all schools were closed. Almost all adolescents surveyed (85%) were enrolled in school before COVID-19 related closures, and most (80%) were doing some learning from home, including reviewing documents from the school, reading ‘other’ books, or learning via mobile phone. The first survey found that over a third (36%) of adolescents reported depressive symptoms (as measured by the PHQ-2 scale), with the highest rates among older adolescent boys (15-19 years).

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