The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that children are at risk of child marriage, early pregnancy, and recruitment by local armed groups as only one in three countries in west and central Africa have allowed the reopening of schools, reported The Guardian.
All the schools across west and central Africa were closed under lockdown measures to curb the spread of coronavirus for the last six months. Notably, just seven out of 24 countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Sierra Leone have taken appropriate measures to make classrooms safe for reopening, including hygiene stations and social distancing.
“We don’t have time to waste. With every day that goes by, millions of children and young people unable to safely access learning opportunities are missing out on their right to an education and putting their future at risk,” said Unicef regional director Marie-Pierre Poirier.
According to Unicef, ensuring even the most basic measures to protect against Covid-19 in schools has proven difficult.
The UN agency added that social distancing is also nearly impossible in many classrooms, with overcrowded classes and an overall lack of trained teachers to support children’s learning.
Unicef said about 41 million children and adolescents were out of school in the west and central Africa, accounting for a third of the world’s out-of-school children, even before the coronavirus pandemic began. It said the longer schools remain closed, the more likely it is that children will simply drop out altogether.
While many countries resorted to some form of education going, with courses on the radio, television, and internet, almost half of all schoolchildren across the region were unable to access this remote learning.
Unicef urged all the governments to prioritize education in their Covid-19 recovery plans and to put wash stations and social distancing measures in place in all schools.