UN agencies call for school reopening amid pandemic
By Kitab Unango
The United Nations (UN) agencies in South Sudan have called for the reopening of schools despite rising cases of the novel coronavirus.
United Nations Children Fund and the United Nations Education and Cultural Organization say the decision was an attempt to balance the impact of school closure on children and the need to control the spread of Covid-19.
According to the joint statement by the representatives of the two organizations, the risks of keeping children out of schools outweigh the health risks caused by the virus.
According to the agencies, little was known about the virus when it first broke out but so much has been learnt with prove that children were least directly affected by the pandemic, not prone to fall ill and much less likely to spread the disease.
“Yes, children are at risk of infection, and yes, that is terrifying for parents. However, the vast majority of children, if infected, display mild symptoms and recover well. And the risks for them of keeping schools closed outweigh the health risks caused by the pandemic, the statement partially read.
“It is against this background that we encourage the authorities of South Sudan, as well as communities, parents, and teachers to employ the same agility and urgency to safely reopen schools.”
The statement continued saying “The long-term impact of extending the school lockdown risks even greater harm to children, their future and their communities. Sadly, on these fronts, the evidence is overwhelming.”
Last month, some schools in capital, Juba attempted to reopen for candidates but the move was objected by the National Task Force on COVID-19 Pandemic.
According to UNICEF, there were more than two million school going age children out schools, putting their future and the future of the South Sudan at risk.
Edmon Yakani, Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) backed suggestion of reopening schools saying the shutdown had led to early pregnancy among young girls in the country.
“In terms of level of earlier pregnancy on school girls, if you look at the rate of early pregnancy on school girls, it is alarming. I support the idea that let schools reopen but with full observation of COVID-19 pandemic preventive measures,” said Yakani.
Media reports over the past months have indicated increase in early pregnancy among school girls due to shutdown of schools with more than 20 reported in Western Equatoria State in June.
In the statement, the UNICEF and UNESCO pledged to ensure safety of children during the school reopening, calling on the education authorities to back the suggestion.
“UNICEF and UNESCO will work with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction to ensure that the return of the children of South Sudan to school can happen in the best circumstances, reducing as much as possible the risk of infections and ensuring that children no longer lose time. Because education cannot wait.
“We applaud for the plan of the Ministry of General Education and Instruction to gradually reopen schools in the coming weeks and encourage the National COVID-19 Taskforce to support the plan.” They said in a statement.