Photo credit: Joel Godwin/Wikipedia Commons

By: Varkpeh Gonowolo

I am still assigned within the Education Sector at UNESCO, New Delhi, India, where I provide technical support into the areas of research and operations. The scope of my duties has been constantly evolving since the publication of my first blog about three months ago. My first major research project, which focuses on “assessing the impacts of COVID-19 on SDG4 outcomes across four countries (Bhutan, India, Sri-Lanka, Maldives),” is awaiting final approval for publication hence—clearing up space for me to move on to another project.

For the past few months, I worked on the 2021 International Day of Education (IDE) celebration, which took place on January 25, 2021. The theme for the 2021 IDE as proclaimed by UNESCO, “Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation,” places an emphasis on the way the pandemic has negatively affected learning outcomes for students globally and how we should combine resources to invest more in education. Globally, about 1.6 billion students – approximately 90 percent of all students, from some 190 countries – were affected by the shutdown of schools caused by COVID-19, reversing years of progress in education.

I was tasked with developing an Op-Ed that synthesizes our sector countries’ (Bhutan, India, Sri-Lanka, Maldives) financial and budgetary commitments toward education amidst the current severe fiscal challenges, and the overwhelming need to prioritize public health and social safety spending.
The Op-Ed provided the opportunity for me to reflect in further detail on the impacts of the COVID-19 on the SDG4 outcomes and the corresponding shift in public expenditures, as well as prospects for investment. Although the pandemic caused a reduction in overall education spending, it also provided a window of opportunity for increased spending on ICT to support the delivery of education through a mix of radio, television, and mobile technology, as well as home delivery of printed learning materials for vulnerable students in our sector countries who do not have access to technology.

The Op-Ed presents a clarion call to country governments, development partners and businesses to learn from the crisis brought on by the pandemic, to increase funding and make education systems more resilient, inclusive, flexible, and sustainable for the COVID-19 generation.

Although this task seemed daunting at first, I am glad that I was given the opportunity to complete it, as it has broadened my understanding of the inadequacies and inequities of our global education systems. The Op-Ed has been reviewed and published on the webpage of UNESCO New Delhi, India, including in several print and electronic media outlets bringing the task to an end.

I look forward to the responsibilities that the next three months has in stock for me.