Skip to content

Hard Lessons as Schools in Africa Struggle to Return to Learning

Only one in three countries in west and central Africa have reopened their schools, leaving children at risk of child marriage, early pregnancy and recruitment by local armed groups, Unicef has warned. Six months after schools across the region closed under lockdown measures, just seven out of 24 countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone – have been able to put measures in place to make classrooms safe for reopening, including hygiene stations and social distancing. Ensuring even the most basic measures to protect against Covid-19 in schools has proven difficult. In Guinea-Bissau, only 12% of schools have access to soap and water for handwashing. The figure is 15% in Niger, 22% in Senegal and 25% in Burkina Faso, according to Unicef. Social distancing is also nearly impossible in many classrooms, with overcrowded classes and an overall lack of trained teachers to support children’s learning, the UN agency added. Although many countries tried to keep some form of education going, with courses on the radio, television and internet, almost half of all schoolchildren across the region were unable to access this remote learning, the agency found.