Millions of children are currently out of school in West and Central Africa due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Save the Children (SC), a non-governmental organisation, has aired concerns about the situation. The organisation noted that the situation could worsen the vulnerabilities of marginalised children within West and Central Africa, especially with their education interrupted and their not being in a safe place such as a school. SC stated that vulnerable children may be at a higher risk of abuse, neglect, violence, and exploitation and that girls, especially, will be more likely to drop out of school completely.

The Regional Director for SC West and Central Africa Region, Philippe Adapoe, said, ‘Education needs to be integrated into the current response of the Covid-19 outbreak, as the future of millions of children is at stake. The disease may disappear over time, but children will continue to suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives’.

‘Managing the health crisis and containing the virus must be a priority of course, but so is ensuring that children can continue their education from home. So far, limited opportunities have been put into place to ensure the continuity of education for children at home. This is a challenge that governments will have to respond to, with the help of the international community. If we relegate this continuity of education to the background, many children, especially girls may drop out of school altogether. The Ebola outbreak, even if it is a different epidemic, should be a lesson for us’, he added.

The organisation called on governments and the international community to ensure that measures are in place to mitigate the impact of schools closing down. They asked governments to support educators to provide quality distance learning. Save the Children stated that radio and television programmes can help children access alternative education.

‘Pay particular attention to the girls, who are more likely to face a disproportionately larger burden for caring for family members who contract the [Covid-19] and taking care of younger children and [who will most] be at risk of negative family coping mechanisms like child marriage. More governments need to put mechanisms in place to protect vulnerable girls, following the recent decision of Sierra Leone government to lift the ban affecting pregnant girls from attending school’, a statement by the organisation added.

Source: Nasir Baba

Photo source: Micheal Coghlan

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