Unicef has given a call to African countries to re-open schools immediately but with care and caution.
The UN agency is concerned due to the closure of schools because across the region, of the nearly 65 million children out of school, around one in two do not have any form of learning, while millions of children continue to miss what was their one nutritious meal of the day.
Unicef’s call to safely re-open schools follows scientific evidence which shows children are not super-spreaders of Covid-19, and are the least affected by the virus in the region, with a mere 2.5 per cent of confirmed cases attributed to kids between five to 18 years.
“Seven months into the pandemic, we must be very clear about the gravity of this crisis: we are at risk of losing a generation,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, Regional Director for Unicef in Eastern and Southern Africa.
“We see lost learning, rising violence, rising child labor, forced child marriages, teen pregnancies, and diminished nutrition.” He added that a generation of children is at risk, that too at one of the most critical times in the continent’s history.
Also, Africa is experiencing unprecedented population growth, therefore it is important that this expanded workforce can receive quality learning at school which will be necessary for increased production to be able to sustain an economic boom to reduce poverty in the continent. It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of the people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $2 a day, Fall said.
Most countries in Eastern and Southern Africa have seen the rationale of a phased return to schools, starting with exam classes in countries such as Botswana, Eritrea, Eswatini, Madagascar, Somalia, Zambia, and recently Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Bigger countries with larger Covid-19 caseloads and higher student populations – such as South Africa – have re-opened schools for all grades since the end of August.