Education is currently facing a threat of unprecedented magnitude and a crisis of exceptional magnitude. As of March 28, 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic deprived more than 1.6 billion children and young people of school in 161 countries, or nearly 80% of students in school worldwide . This situation arises in a context of a global learning crisis: many schoolchildren do not acquire the fundamentals intended to prepare them for life. According to the World Bank's “learning poverty” indicator, 53% of 10-year-olds in developing countries cannot read and understand age-appropriate text. The current pandemic is likely to make this situation even worse if we do not act quickly.
At this stage of the health crisis, what fallout, which could directly affect children and young people, are to be feared? 1) A decline in learning; 2) an increase in dropout rates; and 3) deprivation of the most nutritious meal of the day. Moreover, because of the great inequalities that characterize most education systems around the world, disadvantaged children will suffer disproportionately.
- Learning. The postponement of the start of the school year or the interruption of the current year (depending on the hemisphere considered) seriously disrupts the situation of a large number of children, parents and teachers. Distance learning strategies can reduce the impact of such upheaval. Richer countries are better equipped to switch to these online alternatives which admittedly require a lot of effort from parents and teachers. In low- and middle-income countries, the situation is very mixed and, in the absence of appropriate measures, the inequality of opportunity, which is already reaching extreme and intolerable levels, will widen further. Many children do not have desks, books, internet access or laptops at home, nor parents who can help them. What we must avoid – or minimize where possible – is to increase these inequalities and exacerbate the impact of this crisis on the learning of disadvantaged children.
Fortunately, many countries are showing great creativity. Many education ministries fear, and rightly so, that the exclusive use of digital strategies will only affect children from the wealthiest families. In most countries, the best approach is to use all possible dissemination channels by mobilizing available infrastructure. We can thus use online tools to make available to a certain number of students and probably the majority of teachers lesson plans, videos or tutorials, but also to exploit the usefulness of podcasts and others. more data-efficient resources. Public authorities can also work with telephone operators to adjust their pricing policies and thus facilitate the downloading of educational materials on smartphones, knowing that these devices are more common among students.
Radio and television are also extremely effective instruments. Today, through social media, WhatsApp or SMS, education ministries can communicate with parents and teachers and provide recommendations, instructions and coaching that will support the learning process through of radio or television content. Distance education cannot be reduced to online learning: today, the challenge is to use diverse supports to reach the greatest number of students.
- Motivation. It is essential to preserve children's interest in school, especially in the early years of secondary school. In many countries, the school dropout rate remains very high and prolonged distance from school can exacerbate this trend. School is not just about acquiring knowledge: it is also a space for social relationships and interactions between peers. The school trains future citizens and develops their ability to live in society. This is why it is imperative to preserve this essential link with the school today. It is also an opportunity for all students to develop their socio-emotional skills and their citizenship. In this area, the role of parents and families is more crucial than ever. Ministries of education should therefore reach out and help parents as well, using all means of communication at their disposal (radio, television, SMS) to give them educational advice and tips.
- Meals. In many parts of the world, school feeding programs provide children with the most nutritious meal of the day. Essential to cognitive development and well-being, these programs nevertheless remain logistically and administratively complex. Despite these difficulties, it is desirable that countries organize themselves to continue providing meals through schools or community spaces / networks, or even to make deliveries directly to families' homes. If the provision of meals or food is not logistically feasible, this should be remedied by establishing or expanding cash allowance programs. Of course, this goes through a planning phase, but one that must remain flexible: the information we have on the possible evolution of the pandemic is constantly fluctuating, under the effect, to date little known, of the various health measures. taken by countries. The return to school could be gradual: the authorities will want to limit the phenomena of concentration or the possibility of a second epidemic wave. Faced with these uncertainties, it seems preferable to make decisions that are more about the long term than the very short term. The good news is that many of the improvements, initiatives and investments made by school systems could have long-term benefits.
Some countries will equip their teachers with more digital skills. National radio and television stations will realize the key role they play in serving the educational goals of their country. We can thus hope that they will improve the quality of their programming, mindful of the immense social responsibility incumbent on them. Parents will become more involved in the school monitoring of their children. As for the ministries of education, they will perceive with greater clarity the gaps and challenges related to the effective use of technologies (in terms of connectivity, computer equipment, integration of digital tools in programs, teacher preparation, etc. ), and they will take appropriate action. All these elements can consolidate the education systems of tomorrow.
Michel SOUCAR would have written “30 years of crisis for a normal country”. As he had written in the past a work titled “16 years of struggle for a normal country”.
So one wonders with Jean Price-Mars of the indigenist movement of the 1920s what is the vocation of the Elite in Haiti? Successive governments, what were their programs? And the Presidents for the past three decades, what have they done for the country in terms of social peace? What about the so-called friendly countries of Haiti within the framework of bilateral and multilateral financing agreements? But for what benefits? For what accompaniment?
Like the French writer of messianic tendency Zola, I cannot say “Jaccuse”. However, it is time for the nation to demand accountability with historian Alain Turnier. And do we have the right to wonder more about the causes of our misfortunes with the economist Edmond Paul having marked the second half of the Haitian 19th century, to parody Eddy A. JEAN, of late memory, brilliant professor at the 'INAGHEI and the Encyclopédistes d'Haiti, above UNAFH.
Darline Alexis, the moderator, indicated that 4.5 million children in Haiti attend school under the responsibility of 149,643 teachers in 20,900 schools across the country, while 320,000 children of school age do not have this opportunity due to the advanced level of precariousness of their parents as well as the carelessness of the state. The Haitian state spends the equivalent of $ 90 for each child attending a public or semi-public school. In the meantime, says Darline Alexis, households are spending more than 46% of their annual budget to enable their children to attend schools with no guarantee that the education they will receive there will be of quality.
All the school systems have the same mission: to overcome the learning crisis and find the solution to the current pandemic. Today, the challenge is to limit the impact on learning and schooling as much as possible, but also to rely on this experience to progress more quickly thereafter. The objective is twofold: to manage the current crisis and to reflect on how education systems can recover more vigorously, both led by actors whose sense of responsibility is renewed and better equipped to understand the urgency and the need. to tackle inequality of opportunity and to guarantee every child a quality education.