The plight of children during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Governments worldwide have closed schools indefinitely due to
the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 6th, 2020, The Government of Kenya’s decision to
close all education facilities until January 2021 as a measure to contain
the spread of the pandemic will significantly change the trajectory of a child’s
life for years to come.
Globally an estimated 1.54 billion children and youth – including 111 million girls are not in school because of COVID-19-related prevention measures (UNICEF, 2020). It is evident that girls are at a greater disadvantage and their futures in peril and this is a lifechanging period for many ambitious, hopeful young girls across developing countries who perceive education as a ticket to their independence and indeed success. Blinks engagement with young girls in informal settlements have indicated that girls are far more likely than boys to never return to school after this pandemic. According to the UNICEF report, many children are either compelled to manage household duties, take care of family members, including the sick and elderly, or are pushed into early marriage or forced exploitative labour to cope with economic hardship. It is also known that women and girls are at greater risk of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) due to the economic insecurity and lockdown measures linked to COVID-19. Roughly four and half months after the first case was identified in Kenya the Government has been battling another disaster the unprecedented rise of teenage pregnancies indicative of the urgent need for Sexual and Reproductive Health Services to this vulnerable population.
Continuation of Learning
Although charities and organizations across the world are
working to promote digital learning, access to technology is essential to
achieve this. Unfortunately for many developing countries acquiring digital
learning devices is difficult to gain access to especially at such short notice
and with non-existent infrastructure to support the advanced technology to
continue learning. This clear shortfall further illustrates the gap between the
affluent minority located in urban areas and those in rural communities. It demonstrates
the need for sustainable concrete solutions that promote equitable access to transformative
educational resources supported by technology.
Therefore, to make sure no child is left behind we need to bring their perspectives and experiences to the forefront and work with them to design both short-term and long-term solutions during this time of great uncertainty. Blink is keen to investigate what children and youth need at this time to help them avoid negative coping mechanism due to poverty, boredom or even peer pressure. Our Blink ambassadors across the continent are working to empower and engage children living in vulnerable communities. There should be an increased focus on building and strengthening wider protection services and integration of mental healthcare into all services provided, especially education. Now is the opportune time for older generations to mentor and guide young people so that they may come out stronger, more informed and goal-oriented. It is the time to actualize and harness hidden talents and ambitions that may be pursued in future not only when schools reopen but for their future careers as strategists and problem solvers. There is no doubt that we were unprepared for the disaster we face today and so our children should build a stronger resilience and think about innovative solutions for tomorrows potential problems so that they are in a better position to predict and smoothly ride the waves of the inevitable calamities that are to come.