Now is not the time to mince words. These are tough times. Our days are filled with uncertainty. Life seems a shell of its former self, as social distancing has changed how we manage our relationships, placing barriers between friends, family, and community. Whole countries are in lockdown, economies have ground to a halt, and livelihoods are in jeopardy. There are no two ways about it: the rapid spread of COVID-19 has dramatically upended life as we know it and looms like a menacing thundercloud over the most basic human interactions. One can only imagine what life was like before the onset of the pandemic for children on the margins who simply dream of going to school every day as opposed to work to help put food on the family’s table. This grim reality confronts us wherever we find ourselves all over the world.
Although we are at the beginning of this saga and no one can be certain what toll COVID-19 will ultimately bring to bear, what must be asserted by those working to secure a more sustainable future for the world’s children, is that now, more than ever, our focus has to remain trained on that prospect. Educate A Child (EAC), a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation, embarked upon an impossible mission in 2012 – to reach over 10 million of the most marginalised out of school children with quality primary education. Assuredly, this was a steep hill to climb and while many admired the nobility of the cause, few thought it could actually be done. Until, it was so.
All of that to say, is that this work, this proposition – to make the world a better place for future generations – was never going to be without setbacks or unforeseen challenges. A little more than a week after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, calling on governments everywhere to take adequate measures to ensure the health and safety of their citizens, the schools in all the countries where EAC is currently working, were shuttered; exacerbating an already tenuous situation for many of the children we serve.
In all likelihood, the accessibility of education to vulnerable children will figure amongst the disease’s casualties as well. Yet this moment will pass, and it will no doubt be the result of the generosity of the human spirit, extraordinary effort, and innovation. In that vein and to continue to support children who face the steepest of barriers to education amid this crisis, we stand by our partners on the ground, delivering on the front lines of exclusion. Patience, empathy and the safety of staff, students and family are our first priority. There’s only one way through these tough and uncertain times and that’s together—together to make a better future through education during and after COVID-19!
About the Author
Dr. Mary Joy Pigozzi is executive director of Educate A Child (EAC), a global programme of the Education Above All (EAA) Foundation. She has led the programme since 2012. Before joining EAC, she served in senior positions in UN agencies and NGOs. Born and raised in Botswana and educated in Botswana and Zimbabwe through secondary school, the focus of her professional work has been on education for the most marginalized.