Urgency on Access to Universal, Inclusive and Safe Quality Education

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June 2, 2022 – Education as one of the children’s basic services has been experiencing serious challenges and disruptions throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, which has devastated educational and learning opportunities for children. Millions of learners, usually children and youth, are experiencing learning loss due to lockdowns and school closures. Two years into the pandemic, more than 1.6 billion children continue to face difficulties in the learning process. This unprecedented situation presents challenges for children with access to technology and even more for those without.

This bleak picture emerged at the global webinar managed by Civil 20 (C20) Education, Digitalization and Civic Space Working Group (EDCSWG) on May 31, 2022, featuring a government official and experts from NGOs from several countries. The webinar titled Access to Universal, Inclusive and Safe Quality Education1 highlighted existing serious children and youth learning conditions, looked at options to address the challenges and shaped calls to action to global leaders.

A grim picture of the potential learning loss is suggested by the following data, as presented by Emma Wagner, Save the Children United Kingdom: 1.6 billion learners were out of school because of Covid-19 and around 50% of those had no access to computers, and 43% without any access to the internet. In low and middle-income countries, the share of children living in Learning Poverty—already over 50% before the pandemic—will rise sharply up to 70%. 4 out of 5 learners had learned very little or nothing while out of school. On girls, the impact was much bleaker as—while out of school—their learning experience is disrupted by increased house chores and caregiving responsibilities.

Data coming in from several countries suggested a similar dire state. A Save the Children global study states that in Indonesia, 79% of children living in rural areas are unable to access adequate learning materials. In South Africa, 400 – 500 thousand learners have dropped out of school over the past 16 months (National Income Dynamics Study, 2021). UNICEF (2020) reported that 78% of children of 5 – 18 years old are learning less in India. In Saudi Arabia, 57% of low-income families have access to computers as suggested by OECD (2020) report.

Through her experiences socializing with peers, Putri Gayatri, a representative of Children and Youth Advisory Network (CYAN) raised heartbreaking conditions. Further, Putri mentioned that poor families use escapism as a way out of this unprecedented realm, with child marriage, for example, becoming a serious issue. More and more girls are expected to get married, while the boy must work to support the family. In this gloomy picture, the students from poor families are presented with additional problems that will push them further down the lower level of the community pyramid, not to mention the impossibility of upward mobility. “In addition, children are posed with digital negativity”, Putri added.

Dr. Iwan Syahril, PhD, Chair of G20 Indonesia Education Working Group (EdWG) conveyed the G20 EdWG’s strategies to overcome educational inequalities and education recovery in a post-Covid world. Indonesia will ensure the priorities for children in vulnerable areas and has put a plan together to encounter this problematic situation in the four G20 EdWG priority agendas. In short, the agendas will address the issues through pushing for universal quality education, benefitting from digital technology, bringing all actors through solidarity and partnership, in order to better prepare for the future of work post-Covid-19.

While the proposed agendas are in place, Rene Raya from Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE) voiced that education budgets have been insufficient in supporting the provision of learning services. Even before the pandemic, funding was a critical issue, and the pandemic has made it so much worse. Therefore, the need for a special allocation for education becomes more imperative. The learning loss or learning poverty exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic is an extremely urgent matter which must be taken into account.

While struggling to address the effects of the pandemic, innovations to deal with learning disruption must be undertaken. Dr. Jigar Jogia from Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation suggested a learning process involving massive engagement to enable the children to get more out of learning. He proposed collaborative team teaching, indoor or home learning and peer- mediated playing. Traditional face-to-face learning is challenging, but creative ways must be invented to reduce the deep learning loss at the very least.

However, as the world continues to fight against Covid-19 and other emergencies, the education sector requires immediate attention, in particular from G20 leaders. The Civil 20 (C20) – a forum for Civil Society Organizations worldwide to bring people’s voices and agendas to the leaders as one of the official Engagement Groups (EGs) of the G20 – must be at the center of the play and stress the urgency of the situation to the G20 leaders. G20 leaders should take into account the inputs from the C20 more meaningfully, as called for by Sugeng Bahagijo the Chair of C20.

Children’s learning life is at stake, leading to more learning loss, learning poverty, and hindering them from upward mobility. The G20 EdWG 2022, chaired by the Indonesian Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, has prepared strategies to overcome this issue based on the so-called ‘Emancipated Learning’ model. Nevertheless, to strengthen the strategies, the C20 also calls on the G20 leaders to2:

  • Prioritize the most disadvantaged learners of all ages, especially, out-of-school children, girls and women, as well as those in vulnerable and remote areas.
  • Guarantee safe learning environments for all learners, especially children.
  • Secure more than sufficient education budgets to mitigate learning loss and learning poverty.
  • Engage, partner, and collaborate with teachers, parents, and caregivers to provide innovative teaching and learning methods for more resilient Education.

All of these will ensure that we can recover together and recover stronger. #RecoverTogetherRecoverStronger #C20forG20 #YouAreHeard

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