Supporting education system to cope with COVID-19
Press Conference with the Minister of Education
I am very pleased to join Minister Damir Sehovic here today at this press conference and use this opportunity to speak on two issues: the risks to children, especially those “left behind” whose education has been severely interrupted by the covid-19 pandemic and also join the Minister in congratulating those behind the launch of the e-enrollment system, particularly UNDP, the Ministry of Public Administration and European Union for funding this initiative in context of public administrative reform programme that seeks to create more transparent, efficient and service oriented institutions.
In March, UNESCO estimated that over 1.54 billion children and youth are out of school, many will continue their lessons using e-based learning, but many will not. It will be those with disabilities, young refugees and displaced children and children from vulnerable communities who will be most at risk of dropping out of school or never accessing education again.
Even where options to continue education exist, they do not reach all. In poor households without access to internet or computer, for young girls called on to help with household chores or look after younger children, or in households where there is no parental help or guidance, children will certainly fall behind in their learning, it is estimated by a year or more.
Secretary-General António Guterres has called on governments and donors to prioritize education for all children. In line Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goal 4 a Global Education Coalition has been established to support governments in strengthening distance learning and facilitating the reopening of schools.
Happily, I can confirm that Montenegro rose to the challenge. The Ministry of Education and the entire education system invested extraordinary efforts to ensure all students have access to quality remote education. The #UciDoma initiative shows the capacity of the system to respond to the crisis, enabling students to study at home and stay healthy. The success of the #UciDoma project is due to many factors – including dedication, speed and innovation and a vision for a modern, agile and open education system which is fit for the 21st century.
There are, of course, gaps and challenges. A rapid assessment of the social impact of the pandemic that the UN system in Montenegro conducted in April showed that there are a children who do not have access to TV or internet and are not able to follow distance learning. There is a need for support – in particular for beneficiaries of social assistance, Roma families, refugee children, children in foster care and children whose parent(s) have a history of substance abuse.
Students with disabilities require additional assistance and while adolescents have mostly adapted well to the new situation many feel overburdened with homework and miss regular social interactions. A large number of adolescents are concerned about their academic prospects and employment - more than 75% believe that they will face significant challenges with finding work during at least the next 12 months.
The Ministry of Education is working hard to fill these gaps and to address challenges and the UN system in Montenegro is supporting efforts by improving and expanding the #UciDoma remote learning programme as well as teacher’s capacities to provide high quality digital content. Support to parents of young children with quality materials through the #PlayAtHome Campaign, ensuring that vulnerable children have access to paper-based learning materials and athe dditional assistance for new services for online enrolment – for preschool, primary school and high school.
To allow parents to enroll children in a safe and timely manner for the coming school year the new online enrolment system is launched.
UNDP anchor this initiative through their work with the Ministry of Public Administration, and support of EU, on the establishment of electronic services for the citizen and the development of a National system for exchange of data among state registers. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, a new electronic service was created to facilitate enrolment into kindergartens and elementary schools and is expected to be launched on Monday. This is a long-lasting digital solution, which will make lives easier for both parents and kids, and school administrations. It takes less time, less paper and it can be done from the comfort of your home. Also, capacity building was provided to the staff in all schools across the country on how to handle the data from this e-service.
UNICEF’s continue to provide assistance in the overall reform of education system especially during the emergency. They work to ensure sustainability of the Montenegrin Education Information System (MEIS), making the system suitable for online enrolment and other relevant processes - with New web services for online enrolment in secondary schools being planned.
The United Nations will continue to support the education system in Montenegro and stay at your side in the response to the immediate challenges as well as during the recovery phase when schools are reopening and we will need to find a new normal that allows all children to learn and grow.