With school closures ongoing to curb COVID-19 spread, teachers, students, and parents all over the globe are venturing into remote learning. Education has been recognized internationally as a basic right of all children and should be accessible without restrictions as regards boundaries and discrimination. This has been repeated time and time again by most international organizations including UNESCO and UNICEF. It is the duty of the respective governments to ensure quality education is offered to all. Nevertheless, innocent children are suffering the most in the current background of rising incidences of natural disasters and armed conflicts, and their fundamental right to education is gradually eroded. Education can be linked in three main stages to crises that are, in crisis prevention, crisis prevention and post-crisis. War as well as peace continue in people’s minds. This is why UNESCO took on the task of creating unity in the minds of men and women alike. Much better preventive than treatment. It is therefore of paramount importance that all countries try to inculcate the concept of peace and sustainability in their youth’s minds. As such, we commend UNESCO initiatives in this regard, particularly those of MGIEP. Learning to live together as one of the four pillars of education, we need to put a greater focus on education for global citizenship in order to foster sustainable peace by inculcating acceptance, compassion, empathy, and a culture of sustainable consumption in the minds of younger generations. Such constructive initiatives would lead to raising wars and conflicts. Natural disasters are growing mainly because of uninhibited human activities and various malpractices. If we can instill concepts like sustainable use of non-renewable resources and reverence for nature in the minds of young children, so there would be a trend to decrease the number of natural disasters that occur. Research and development will include a greater focus on designing kid-friendly teaching and learning resources that use games and simulations to increase a kid and public knowledge of these concerns.
For one way or another, a crisis will always leave its mark upon education. Either in the context of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and cyclones or armed conflicts, the right of children to education in times of emergency is challenged. Among low-income countries, children are most vulnerable to these conditions. According to UNICEF, 36 percent of the 59.3 million out-of-school children in the world live in war-affected countries. It is also worth noting that 100 million children and young people are affected each year by natural disasters which prevent them from pursuing education. Schools are the first choice of location in most countries for makeshift refugee camps during disasters or war and conflict situations. A UNICEF report noted that in the last few years’ schools and universities that had been taken over for military purposes were intentionally targeted for attacks in 70 countries. It is heart-wrenching to learn that more than 13 million children are being prevented from attending school due to conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.
The countries are left to deal with weakened infrastructure and heavily battered minds in the aftermath of every crisis. It is easier to recast damaged property or infrastructure than to mend bruised minds. Such delicate circumstances need to be treated extremely carefully so that we can heal the wounds and scars left in the minds of children and young adults and ensure a steady growth in the country. Special methods of delivery of education for those children who have come through crises should be developed because many young people are left with lasting physical as well as mental trauma. In the wake of wars and natural disasters, innovative teaching and learning methods combined with the use of new technology will play a crucial role in educating impacted young people. In addition to improving the enhanced quality of education, our potential investment will be aimed at creativity, information, and communications technology in education and disaster preparedness. In preparing their mid- and long-term education planning, I urge all countries to take into account these issues in order to maintain the lives and futures of disaster-affected children by ensuring that they continue to have access to education.
While school closures may be required to decrease the spread of the virus, both parents, who may need to take off work to care for their child, and students, especially low-income students, who depend on school meals for lunch, maybe adversely affected. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported versatility to ensure that during school delays, students receive meal service while reducing possible exposure to the novel coronavirus. The USDA has provided exemptions to exempt states from the requirement for congregated meals as they develop tailored approaches to respond to the needs of their population.
The United States, on March 12, 2020, The Department of Education (ED) confirmed it would grant conditional one-year exemptions on criteria for evaluation and transparency that could be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. If schools are closed for a large portion of the year, Waivers may ease state performance standards and the designation of low-performing schools. The ED had issued exemptions of federal evaluation standards for all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Bureau of Indian Education by April 1, 2020. Such exceptions include the opportunity for state education agencies to circumvent testing and accountability provisions for the 2019–2020 academic year in the Every Student Success Act.
The epidemic has also interrupted the test-related acceptance process, and the next scheduled national ACT and SAT exams have been canceled. The CollegeBoard, which administers the SAT, canceled the May 2 test as well as the March replacement test for earlier cancellations, refunds will be given to students who have registered for the exam. The ACT had postponed its test date of April 4 to June 13. Also, the CollegeBoard has announced a proposal to allow students to take home Advanced Placement (AP) tests.
This is a time when educators must continue to help educate the knowledge about the world but must also look for lessons from this current disaster. Many of us have experienced weather, war, or disease downtime before, but no one has ever experienced the kind of global disaster that we’re going through now. While we need to realize that our modern world holds many threats that we need to consider and take seriously, there will be a cure for this virus someday. This could happen again and will happen. Disease, toxins, climate change, and pollution are by-products of the global economy from which all of us profit. Science skeptics will now face the truth of this pandemic ‘s deaths. Elected leaders are learning the hard way that knowledge is critical in our dynamic world. As educators, we are accountable for maintaining the expertise needed to maintain this complex world. When we can, we need to do that face-to-face, and online learning if we must.