Finland’s schools reopen this week – what about schools in Finland’s development cooperation partner countries?
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, children and young people around the world are left without education. Finland supports the organisation of teaching in development cooperation partner countries in this exceptional situation.
It is estimated that as many as 10 million students may prematurely drop out of school by the end of the year. An even larger number of schoolchildren are at risk of a decline in their learning outcomes.
The disruption of school activities weakens children’s food security, especially in the Global South. For many children, the school meal is the only warm meal of the day. It is estimated that around 350 million children have been left without school meals due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What is the current situation with school attendance in some of Finland's development cooperation partner countries: Ethiopia, Mozambique, Myanmar and Nepal? How does Finland support the organisation of teaching in these countries in this exceptional situation?
Final exam awaits certain students in Ethiopia
Schools are still closed in Ethiopia, because the number of coronavirus infections continues to grow. Students in grades 8 and 12 will still have to take the final exams that could be not held in the spring. Other students will automatically move on to the next grade.
Finland supports school attendance in Ethiopia in many ways through development cooperation funds also during the coronavirus crisis. Finland's support is used for improving hygiene in schools by constructing water supply points and providing information. Information about coronavirus is provided also in Braille and sign language, thus paying attention to special groups.
The support will be used for improving the accessibility of education so that children can study while schools are closed. Some lessons and study materials are available on television and on the radio, but assignments provided by teachers and self-study materials in different subjects have a more important role. Those in need of special support for learning will also be taken into account.
Schools will be gradually reopened in Mozambique
In Mozambique, all schools have been closed since 23 March. Students have participated in distance learning through radio and television programmes. They may also have picked up homework packages in schools, which have then been checked by teachers.
Participation in distance learning has not been possible for everyone, which means that inequality between students has grown.
Schools are scheduled to reopen in October, if the development of the epidemic only allows this. The President will inform the public about the opening of schools. The plan is to open schools gradually, starting with universities and vocational education and training institutes. If the situation so permits, this could take place already in September.
A multi-professional working group is currently assessing whether the measures planned to prevent the spread of the coronavirus epidemic can be implemented in teacher education institutions and general upper secondary schools. Before schools open, there are many challenges to be tackled in order to ensure that children can attend school safely: safe distances, hand hygiene, access to water, toilet facilities and the organisation of teaching in shifts.
Finland supports the education sector in Mozambique. Sector programme funding has so far been used for the planning and implementation of distance learning arrangements in the exceptional situation, production of learning materials, and acquisition of cleaning equipment to educational institutions.
Strict security measures in Myanmar’s schools
In Myanmar, the first students returned to school on 21 July after a four-month continuous break. The school year started on a staggered basis, and the first ones to return to school after summer holidays were secondary school students. They returned to school about 1.5 months later than usual.
Primary school students and students in vocational education and training institutes and higher education institutions are still waiting for their turn, and the confirmation of the starting date.
Teaching in lower secondary schools resumed under strict safety precautions. The number of official infections confirmed in the country remains low, at around 350. Due to the scarce resources and inadequate expertise in healthcare, it is necessary and justified to place heavy focus on preventive measures.
Students have been given face masks and visors, hand hygiene practices have been enhanced, and students’ temperature is taken when they arrive at school. Class sizes have also been reduced and students have been divided into groups that go to school in shifts. In addition to classroom teaching, students get more home assignments.
The Ministry of Education is preparing guidelines for a concise curriculum for the exceptional school year.
Finland will support the development of the education sector in Myanmar with a total of EUR 5.7 million in 2020. Finland co-chairs the education sector and supports Myanmar’s Ministry of Education in responding to this new situation.
Self-study packages as support for learning in Nepal
In Nepal, students will return to school in September, if the coronavirus situation so permits. Student registration will begin on 18 August. Schools have been closed since 19 March. The epidemiological situation in the country remains difficult.
Since June, distance teaching has been provided to students via radio and television, and there is a variety of learning materials available on the website of the Ministry of Education.
Printed self-study materials have been produced for students without a television, radio or internet connection in the most remote villages. In some places, teachers have taught students in small groups, maintaining safe distances. Private schools have provided online instruction.
Finland has allocated special support to Nepal due to the coronavirus crisis, and part of the aid granted earlier aid has been rechannelled to address needs that have emerged as a result of the epidemic. An additional EUR 2.5 million granted to the education sector in Nepal is intended for the production of learning materials and the development of teaching in the exceptional situation.
Out of Finland's support to UNICEF, EUR 300,000 has been channelled to the development of education and EUR 200,000 to the water sector in Nepal. Finland's water resources management projects have an important role during the epidemic, as the significance of good hand hygiene is emphasised.
The author works as Communications Officer in the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Communications. The text has been compiled together with the Foreign Ministry's experts in development cooperation in the education sector.