UNICEF meets with African Council of Religious Leaders to support keeping schools open in East and Southern Africa – Kenya
NAIROBI, October 12, 2021 – UNICEF and the African Council of Religious Leaders – Religions for Peace (ACRL-RfP) hosted an interfaith virtual conference on Tuesday, October 5 to advocate for the safe reopening of all schools in East and Southern Africa and keep them open.
The online event followed the two-day Faith and Science in Conversation on the COVID-19 pandemic in late March 2021 and brought together stakeholders from seven countries in the region, from multi-faith religious leaders to civilians. society organizations, academics and technical experts. The seven countries involved were: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In total, more than 140 participants joined the interfaith conference.
UNICEF and ACRL-RfP are concerned that around 32 million children in the region are out of school either because of the closures or because they did not return after their schools reopened. Access challenges concern both public and private schools, the latter also being an important service provider in the field of education.
School closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic pose an unprecedented risk to the education, protection and well-being of children. School closures have the greatest negative impact on the most vulnerable children who are much less likely to have access to distance learning and other essential school health and nutrition services and more likely to be exposed to violence, abuse, neglect, child labor, teenage pregnancies and child marriage.
During the virtual interfaith conference, UNICEF and ACRL-RfP strongly advocated for governments to reopen and keep all schools operational, even in communities with high rates of COVID-19 – recognizing all safety measures adequate ventilation, in particular, but also hygiene, distancing and the use of masks, are in place. Stakeholders also noted the importance of a larger budget allocation for quality education to fund COVID-19 safety protocols and run community engagement programs to get all learners back to school. , including those who had given up before COVID-19.
On a related issue of COVID-19 vaccinations, UNICEF and ACRL-RfP agreed on the importance of ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines immediately reach the most vulnerable – such as the elderly – and frontline workers. line, including teachers – with ACRL-RfP faith-based members pledging to encourage their congregants and the general public to get vaccinated.