Children in Afghanistan are missing school while struggling to cope with COVID-19
KABUL, July 13 – 2020 – Nearly three-quarters of children interviewed by Save the Children simply want to go back to school and play with their friends, but meanwhile more than half have been exposed harmful economic impacts of COVID-19 in their homes and communities, according to a survey conducted by Save the Children of more than 70 children across seven provinces of Afghanistan.
With schools in Afghanistan closed since 14 March to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, approximately 10 million children have had their education interrupted and many without access to alternative learning options, such as lessons delivered through television and radio.
While classrooms must remain closed until it is safe for children, teachers, and other school staff to return, children’s protection and educational support must be promoted. The inability to attend school in addition to devasting job losses for many Afghan families means that their children are having to work in the streets or marry early in order to support their families. Children must be studying safely in their homes through the most appropriate means, whether television and radio or printed materials, and not working in hazardous conditions.
One 8-year-old boy from Balkh said:
“This is more than one month that we are at home and quarantined ourselves and we are really worried because we can’t go to school and we can’t visit our friends and neighbor[hood] children.”
One 12-year-old girl from Nangarhar said:
“We do not know where we can get support. We used to buy food items on debt from our community, but now people do not give more because of not repaying the old debt.”
Key findings of the survey include:
- Despite the majority (98%) of respondents expressed both knowledge of COVID-19 as well as common mitigation techniques, some children did state that misinformation exists within some communities, including treatments and the cause of the pandemic itself.
- More than 70% of children interviewed expressed not only their desire to go back to school to continue their studies, but also to be among their peers to be able to simply be children and play.
- Nearly three-quarters (74%) of children surveyed reflected on their inability to see family and friends to play and learn, raising additional concerns for their mental health.
- More than half (53%) of children have already observed the economic impacts of COVID-19, including the loss of employment of a parent, increased prices of basic goods in markets, or increased debt.
Milan Dinic, Save the Children’s Afghanistan Country Director, said:
“While many countries seem to be bringing COVID-19 under control, the situation in Afghanistan is worsening. It is reported that the pandemic has yet to peak and the country remains worryingly unprepared to cope.”
“The indirect impacts of COVID-19 on the lives of millions of children in Afghanistan cannot be ignored. Ten million have had their education interrupted while they see their parents and neighbours, struggling to cope with job losses and soaring food prices.”
“Support is urgently needed across all areas– from income support for families to alternative education options for children. COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon, and we need to be prepared for a new normal in Afghanistan.”