Fighting back: Increased inequalities in children's education
by Valeria Valdez
As the pandemic took control of society, decades of progress in educating more children around the world had an abrupt end. By April 2020, a staggering 1.4 billion students were shut out of their pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools in more than 190 countries. Existing faults and inequalities were exacerbated as social, physical, and digital divides created deeper rifts within society.
A little over a year later, in May 2021, UNESCO reported that schools in 26 countries were closed country-wide, partially open in 55 countries, and an estimated 90 percent of the world’s school-aged children have had their education disrupted by the pandemic. Within Panama in particular the crisis remains, with Jean Gough, Latin America and the Caribbean’s Regional Director for UNICEF stating that “no other place in the world has this many kids without in-person schooling” qualifying this as “the worst educational crisis the region has faced in its modern history”.
As we step back into the world, it’s important to recognize and address these issues. With “millions of children deprived of education during the pandemic, now is the time to strengthen protection of the right to education by rebuilding better and more equitable and robust education systems,” said Elin Martinez, a senior education researcher at Human Rights Watch.
In several ways, PANAMUN allows us to do this. Within our own UNICEF committee, delegates are empowered to learn about this crisis whilst being given the opportunity to develop solutions. One of UNICEF’s chairs, Sol Gorrini reveals that “the conference serves as a means for developing solutions, reminding us to be grateful whilst also creating awareness about the deficit created between local and public schools”.
Education should be adaptable – that is, flexible to the changing needs of societies and communities, and responding to the changing needs of students. Through the work being carried out throughout the conference, we can begin to work towards this.