Schools for all age groups should be opened in Viet Nam irrespective of vaccination status among children – UNICEF

Monday, 04/04/2022 16:11
(CPV) - “As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year, UNICEF Viet Nam is deeply concerned about children’s learning loss and the increasing risk of rising inequality for too many children in the country.

A global report released on March 30th 2022 stresses the urgent and critical need to address the colossal loss to children’s learning worldwide. With a combined 2 trillion hours of in-person school lost due to school closures since March 2020, students in more than 4 in 5 countries have fallen behind in their learning.

Source: UNICEF

When children are not able to interact with their teachers and their peers directly, their learning suffers, their cognitive skills and brain development suffers, and the social and employment skills that come from interaction and communication suffer. After such a long period out of school this may become permanent learning loss if that interaction is not immediately addressed. The rising inequality in access to learning means that education risks becoming the greatest divider instead of the greatest equalizer. When we fail to ensure access to education for every child, we all suffer, our communities suffer, and our economies falter.

With numbers dropping and a high vaccination coverage of adults, the risks to children of being out of school are significantly greater than the health risks faced in school. Citing health as the reason for school closure fails to recognize that the child’s learning and development is negatively impacted every day they remain out of school, their mental health is impacted, while the risk of infection and serious disease remains lower among children. It is a clear recommendation of UNICEF, all key partners, all educators, as well as of WHO, that schools for all age groups should be opened irrespective of vaccination status.  

In crisis conditions there are always difficult decisions that force difficult trade-offs, and UNICEF is much aware of the unprecedented challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to schools in Viet Nam. But the stakes are too high. The country is effectively open for all except children whose learning poverty simply increases each day. We must collectively do everything we can to get all children, including preschoolers, back to school in every city, town and village, with no prerequisites.

We know that the mitigating 5K measures help keep children safe. We know that around 99% of COVID cases in Viet Nam are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms. Education cannot wait. We need bold action to enable every child to return to school. 

UNICEF strongly encourages all school districts and, in particular, the private schools and kindergartens within those districts to put children first. In making this call, UNICEF Viet Nam expresses deep concern regarding the loss of teachers from the school system, as they have gravitated to finding paid work after 

months of school closures. An investment of government support to the MOET is needed to attract trained teachers back to the classrooms and to invest in the kind of catch-up strategies that are now needed.

A solid learning recovery strategy is needed and should include comprehensive support to children with a particular focus on marginalized children in each community. This means schools implementing catch-up classes, mental health and nutrition support, protection, and other key services. And they ensure this support is focused not just on the older grades but on the youngest learners in preschools and primary schools, as they are among the worst impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prioritizing catch-up in the early years is essential to ensure the regression in children’s learning caused by COVID 19 is addressed and does not leave a whole generation behind”./.

Khac Kien