EDITORIAL: Covid-19 or not, let's get all children to class

Monday October 05 2020

Failure to put in place deliberate measures to encourage parents to send their children to school means the effect of the pandemic will be graver. PHOTO | FILE


Children are not the face of this pandemic but they risk being among its biggest victims.

All children are being affected, in particular by the socio-economic impacts and, in some cases, by mitigation measures: Many children have dropped out of school, some have been defiled or raped or impregnated while others have endured and witnessed abuse that has left permanent scars.

Moreover, the harmful effects of this pandemic will not be distributed equally. They are expected to be most damaging for children in the poorest families, and in the poorest neighbourhoods, and for those in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations.

The crisis could increase the number of children living in monetary poor households by up to 117 million by the end of the 2020, according to the latest analysis from Unicef and Save the Children.

Immediate loss of income often means families are less able to afford basics, including food and water, are less likely to access health care or education, and are more at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.

Worse still, the prolonged closure of schools has increased the risk of many children from vulnerable homes dropping out of school in particular young girls who may have become victims of teenage pregnancies. Others simply could not afford costs associated with remote learning.


In some homes, economic pressures mean some parents cannot afford to pay school fees as the pandemic may have rendered them jobless.

It is understood that in some homes, children have been forced to engage in domestic work which remains unquantified raising the risk of child labour and abuse.

The pandemic has significantly undermine child health, particularly in vulnerable homes were children depend on school feeding programs to meet their nutritional needs. Now, more children are at the risk of malnutrition due to the deteriorating quality of their diets.

According to Unicef, the Covid-19 disruptions could lead to the first rise in child labour after 20 years of progress. While child labour decreased by 94 million since 2000, but that gain is now at risk.

Among other impacts, Covid-19 could result in a rise in poverty and therefore to an increase in child labour as households use every available means to survive.

A one percentage point rise in poverty could lead to at least a 0.7 percent increase in child labour in certain countries.

As government plans for school reopening, steps must be made to provide the necessary and appropriate direct assistance for the removal of children from the worst forms of child labour.

It is important that measures are put in place to ensure that all children return to school; this includes supporting parents who are unable to pay school fees or meet their financial obligations as required by some schools to minimize cases of more children dropping out of school.

Failure to put in place deliberate measures to encourage parents to send their children to school means the effect of the pandemic will be graver.