Education is one of the powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. When ensuring quality education for all, there is a need for states to pay keen attention to the education of children who live in rural areas especially in these unprecedented times. Taking cognizance of this reality, I conceptualized an idea in an effort to safeguard quality education in my country Rwanda.
On 16th March, the government of Rwanda closed all public and private institutions of learning due to COVID-19. They went farther to encourage the employment of a home-based learning initiative to support remote learning for over 2.6 million children during the period of lockdown, and called on all partners in the education sector to support this initiative, with a view of minimizing the impact of lockdown on the education system. For this learning initiative scripts for radio broadcast lessons and television lessons were developed.
Born and raised in rural Rwanda, I began to think of how children from rural areas like myself were coping with no access to radios and television sets. Many of these children who viewed education as an essential tool to help them achieve their future goals could no longer access it due to limited access to technology. The parents of many of these children were also up in arms as many of them could not afford to support their children’s education through this new home-based learning initiative.
Bearing the above in mind, I founded an initiative dubbed Education Asylum in pandemics. This initiative seeks to advocate for the right to education for children from rural areas during COVID-19. We provide families in rural Rwanda with radios, data bundles and printed learning materials in a bid to ensure that these children are still able to continue their education. We also summarize some of the live radio sessions and television lessons into printed learning materials which we then share with these children.
Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, said that in Africa’s rural areas, children tend to help their parents with farming activities, and it could be positive in the current circumstances. However, he warned that such practices may increase child labor, and harm young people’s education if it continues long term. The danger is that once this crisis is behind us, the risk of some of the children not going back to school becomes even higher. There is therefore an urgent need for more initiatives like mine to be developed for children in rural areas.
COVID-19 is now more than ever leading to greater gaps in the education system. This is the time therefore for us as SDG advocates to amplify our voices and take action to ensure that no child is left behind and that every child attains quality education. Together we can champion for quality education of vulnerable and marginalized children during COVID-19.