UNESCO Chair Global Health and Education Health Education, Prevention, Health Promotion, Children and Young People

GEM 2020: Reopening schools safely – the challenges for health and education

On 20 and 22 October, UNESCO with the Governments of Ghana, Norway and the United Kingdom, has convened a virtual Global Education Meeting (GEM) focused on post-COVID learning. Ministers and representatives from UN and other agencies looked at the challenges for health and education. Children have suffered many impacts on their health, diet, mental health and well-being, but also violence, sexual and reproductive health risks, because of the closure of schools due to COVID19.

The director of School-based programmes at the World Food Program, Carmen Burbano, spoke about the importance of reopening schools and the need for safe and creative ways to keep schools open. Dr. Valentina Baltag from the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at the World Health Organization (WHO), added that “There is no zero risk strategy for the reopening of schools, but a lot can be done to make sure they are a safe place to learn”.

Dr. Anshu Banerjee, Director at the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing, WHO, proposed reducing the size of classes, improving hygiene, and alternating days at school as measures to maintain the health and the well-being of the pupils.

The UNESCO Chair Global Health & Education was represented by Dr. Nicola Gray. She expressed the fact that this year is difficult for students all over the world. She underlined: “It’s fair to say that this year has been a year of lost milestones for children; proms, graduations, birthday parties, she said. These joyful events in the lives of children and young people have been disrupted.”

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