COVID-19, Conflict And Climate Crisis Prevent Children Return To Learning, Save The Children Warns.
The number of children in school in Somalia following the reopening of classes after COVID-19 forced closures has significantly declined.
According to a new assessment from Save the Children, 70% of head teachers indicated the number of children coming back to school was lower than before school closure.
In some parts of Somalia such as Lower Shabelle and Lower Jubba regions, only 20% of children reportedly returned to school. In the Nugal region of Puntland, about 50% of enrolment decline was reported.[i]
There is a significant stigma around the virus which led to parents opting not to send their children to school as 71% of the parents interviewed say that they fear their children will catch the virus and spread it to their families and relatives.
According to the multi-cluster needs assessment conducted across Somalia in 2020, more than three million children in Somalia are out of school due to prolonged conflicts, climate induced crisis like droughts, and flooding[ii].
The impact of the coronavirus exacerbates the situation and the extended school clousure may lead to more children missing learning. Somalia is also reeling from a devastating climate crisis which is worsening at a rapid rate, fuelling severe food shortages, displacing families and reducing access to health and education services, all of which is impacting children’s lives and well-being. The situation in 2021 is dire and set to get worse as the number of children and adults in urgent need of support soars to 5.9 million[iii] –a third of the population and an increase of 700,000 people compared to 2020.
Due to school closure, children are at risk of not continuing their learning and might be forced into child marriage, child labour or simply doing domestic chores. For instance, a sixteen-year old Farhiya*, whose school was closed ended up helping her mother with household chores.
She said: “the first time I heard about Coronavirus was last year. The government abruptly closed all schools out of concerns that the virus might spread among children. Our teachers informed us that the disease affected many people across the world. I stayed at home for five months and at that moment, I missed learning and my classmates with whom I used to enjoy telling stories.
“Even though schools are open now and I am preparing for my end-term exams, I was afraid that schools wouldn't reopen soon. I hope that there are other means that I can access learning at home when schools are closed,” she continued.
Whilst the government and its partners introduced alternative approaches to learning during lockdown, these platforms were not accessible to all children especially those affected by displacement and children in very remote/rural areas.
Mohamed Abdiladif , Save the Children Deputy Country Director:
"A Somali child faces many challenges that limit his or her ability to go to school but the climate crisis and the impact of the Coronavirus have exacerbated the situation. With these new findings, it is now clear that education is one of the worst affected sectors by the pandemic. Many children who were attending classes last year did not return to school. Many of them might not have the opportunity to learn and realise their potential.
"Save the Children is calling on the government, parents, its partners in the education sector, communities, and donors to co-ordinate their efforts to ensure that all children are back to school and learning and that they benefit from a safe, protective and conducive learning environment.
“We are working closely with the government and communities to scale up safe return to schools and learning campaign to ensure that all children continue learning because it is their right to learn in order to create a better life for themselves and their families”.
Note to editor
- In partnership with Ministry of Education at Federal level and member states, Save the Children is supporting alternative learning platform to minimize and mitigate the impact of the virus on access to education and the educational attainment to children affected by closure of schools. The Ministry of Education is estimating 70% of school children will be reached through radio/audio platform, while, the remaining 30% of school children will be reached through online platforms.
- In addition to the alternative learning methods for children, Save the Children is undertaking Safe Return to School campaign in collaboration with Education stakeholders across the country to ensure that school follow pandemic preventative measures and children return to school safely and improve enrolment rates across the country.
- Over 100 days starting 1 June 2021, Save the Children, our partners, supporters and children will take as many actions as we can to get world leaders' attention and push education to the top of their agendas. We will use all channels and opportunities to raise our voices - using the power of collective action - to pressure leaders to #SaveOurEducation and protect a generation.