Theme: Safe Reopening of Schools and Recovering from the Impact of COVID-19: Lessons and Perspectives for building resilient education systems

1.0  Introduction            

The impact of the Corona Virus Pandemic on education globally cannot be over emphasised. COVID-19 triggered an unprecedented education challenges which states, organisations and experts are currently grappling with.  In fact an entire generation has seen its education interrupted with approximately 710 million children in developing countries cut off from schools. According to UNICEF ‘approximately 91 per cent of the world’s students in more than 194 countries were out of school at the height of nation-wide lockdowns in April’. This has caused immeasurable disruption to the lives, learning and wellbeing of children around the world. As at May 2020 41 countries in Africa had completely shut down schools whilst only 2 partially closed. According to UNESCO these nationwide closures are impacting over 60% of the world’s student population.

The story is no different in the West Africa sub-region where all states completely closed schools as at April 30, 2020. Given the numerous challenges developing countries were already facing before the pandemic, especially with regards to education, experts fear that it may be difficult to get children back to school after long-term school closure as well as for economic reasons. Young girls are particularly vulnerable, as school closures may lead to increases in teenage pregnancies and school dropouts.[1]

As the world works out how to live with Corona Virus like many other infectious diseases, states are gradually easing restrictions and schools are beginning to open. Currently three countries in West Africa, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria have fully reopened school for all levels. Apart from Burkina Faso and Niger, all other West African states have partially reopened school for some levels. These actions are being taken in the midst of fears of increased infections, scarce resources, competing priorities and mistrust leading to heavy criticism of governments across the sub-region. It is however critical that education systems build back better after this crisis, to ensure that inequalities in education and the pre-existing learning challenges are not worsened.

The question is:

  1. Whether ECOWAS states are ready to fully re-open school in the midst of a growing Pandemic.
  2. Whether schools in the sub-region have the capacity to adhere to and strictly observe the COVID-19 preventive protocols.
  3. Whether it is safe for students and the population to re-open schools during the Pandemic.
  4. What measures can we put in place to mitigate the impact of school closures as well as fully recover the lost time?
  5. What systems do we have to change or put in place to address pre-COVID-19 education challenges and to ensure more equal and resilient education structures.
  6. What are the lessons to share towards recovery of education in all West African States?   
  7. What lessons can we learn from the Ebola epidemic?
  • Webinar Objectives
    • To promote safe reopening of schools in the midst of COVI9-19 Pandemic
    • To promote recovery from the adverse impact of COVID-19 on Education in West Africa

3.0 Expected results

The Webinar will achieve following concrete results

  • Generate policy and practice proposals for the safe and inclusive reopening of  schools in West Africa in the Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic
    • Generate ideas for building resilient Post COVID-19 Education systems in West Africa
    • Generate ideas and proposals improving and digitising education in West Africa

Some Key Policy Asks

  1. COVID-19 has re-purposed governments expenditure with significant investment earmarked for health sectors. What this means is that little budgets will be allocated and disbursed to other critical sectors, including education. It is important however to issue a strict caution to governments not to deprive the education sector which already had low budgets before COVID-19. The governments of member states should as a matter of priority meet the 2015 Incheon Declaration which recommends that national governments allocate 4 to 6 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) and/or at least 15 to 20 percent of their total public expenditure to education, with a focus on basic education.
  • The virtual approach to work has come to stay and there is the urgent need for national governments to take advantage of it. It is recommended that member states should develop critical digital infrastructure in all public basic schools, including the remote communities, to allow free access to interactive online learning among and between pupils and teachers. There ought to be a sub-regional commitment to close the digital divide in education and promote the delivery quality education for all, particularly in times of crisis like this.
  • Establish a common regional approach to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing lessons and experiences from among member nations.

Topics and Speakers

Topic  Speaker /organisationAllocated Time
1.Ensuring safety in schools in the midst of COVID, lessons and PerspectivesWAHO Rep10 mins
2.Reopening of schools and recovering lost timeECOWAS (ESC Department) / UNESCO20 Mins
3.Education Financing during and Beyond COVID-19              Tax Justice Rep Teachers perspectives 10mins  
E-Learning in deprived WEST –AfricaMTN / E-learing expert 10mins
Country Perspectives/ Keynotes  Country Perspectives – Ghana and Niger10mins each  
Stakeholder PerspectivesTeachers Youth/Student CSOs (ANCEFA) 

Key stakeholders expected to participate in the webinar meeting.

The event will mobilise the following stakeholders, both in public and Civil Society organisation including the youth.

  1. Ministry of Education in Member countries within ECOWAS
  2. Civil Society Coalitions in Education
  3. Youth Networks, Movements or groups across West Africa
  4. West African Health Organisation (WAHO)
  5. Recognized Research Centres within the Region
  6. Universities within ECOWAS

Education International