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Research-based recommendations for school reopenings in Africa: Prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable

A review of policies and practices in Africa revealed that marginalized students — especially girls, displaced children and those living in poverty — are particularly vulnerable to pandemic education disruptions.
Student in class in Africa
GPE/Tabassy Baro

Much like the rest of the world, African countries had to shut down schools in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Researchers supported by IDRC tracked policies and practices with regard to both closures and reopenings of schools in 40 African countries and issued key recommendations for education policymakers as they continue to grapple with the effects of the pandemic.  

The recommendations from the Observatory on COVID-19 Responses in Educational Systems in Africa include: 

  • developing contingency plans for better preparedness against future COVID-19-like occurrences of education disruptions 
  • designing flexible COVID-19 school reopening practices to support pregnant teen girls and mothers 
  • prioritizing the needs of  vulnerable and marginalized children and youth — especially girls, displaced children and those living in poverty — so they are not left behind in reopening initiatives 
  • initiating sub-national-level collaboration among schools 
  • sustaining private-sector investment in education  
  • providing infrastructure support to schools 
  • adapting learning to address gaps due to prolonged school closures 
  • supporting teachers with psychosocial help before, during and after school reopening. 

The recommendations stem from a synthesis report on School Reopening in Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic in 40 African countries. The report found that more than 60% of the countries reopened schools after more than 200 days of closure, and that some countries experienced  multiple closures and reopenings. Upon reopening, a decline in school enrolment was evident in many countries. Contributing factors include: 

  • loss of interest in schooling due to prolonged closures 
  • barriers brought about by: 
  • unintended pregnancies 
  • forced marriages 
  • sexual exploitation 
  • engagement in economic activities 
  • mental health and nutrition issues 
  • disruption of household livelihoods. 

The full report can be read here, and the accompanying policy brief can be found here

The Observatory on COVID-19 Responses in Educational Systems in Africa collects, synthesizes and mobilizes evidence about COVID-19 responses in primary and secondary education in Africa. It is overseen by a consortium composed of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the African Union’s International Centre for the Education of Girls and Women in Africa (AU/CIEFFA), with technical support from the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).   

The observatory is one of several projects under the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX). Other COVID-related projects under KIX include a study of the Impact of Gender and Inclusive Pedagogies on Students’ Participation and Learning Achievement at Secondary School During the Pandemic and Beyond

You can learn all about this project and more on the KIX website.  

KIX is a joint endeavour of IDRC and GPE aimed at connecting expertise, innovation and knowledge to support low- and middle-income countries to build stronger education systems and accelerate progress toward ensuring quality education for all. It is the largest education fund of its kind. This video explains how it works.