The Education International Africa Regional Committee, in a virtual meeting held on 20 April 2020, adopted a statement that focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in the region and urged governments to consult teachers and education support personnel (ESP) through their representative organisations to ensure that school re-openings are safe.
As in other regions, the pandemic meant the expansion of distance learning. However, in Africa, it is estimated that internet access is only 24 percent as opposed to 47 percent at global level. Access is particularly difficult in rural areas and in zones of conflict. Efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on schooling have been “impromptu, diverse, and riddled with discrepancies”.
The Committee emphasised that precarious and unprotected staff suffered greatly from the economic dislocation of the crisis. Most part-time teachers and education support personnel as well as those on temporary contracts have been on compulsory leave without compensation.
Stressing that safety on re-opening of schools is not yet assured and that the process needs to be well-prepared, the Committee recommends that governments step up the fight against the virus and engage educators through their representatives in back to school strategies.
In addition to safety measures for education workers and students, including protective equipment and other emergency precautions, governments are called on to ensure that clean water and electricity are provided in schools. The Committee also urges that governments make available resources so that teachers in private institutions can be paid as is the case elsewhere in the private sector.
Education unions are urged to encourage their members to use the EI Guiding Principles on COVID-19, to follow strict health measures, and to seek to be involved in any innovations and adaptations related to education during the pandemic.