Today, on the 28th of April, we celebrate Education Day, and we have a lot of thinking to do. This date was chosen in the year 2000, the same year as the first conference of the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, when countries established a commitment to bring elementary and high school to all children and youngsters in the world. But today, twenty-one years later, what progress have we made?
We a submerged by a pandemic that has lasted more than one year and we still do not have a clear indication of when the situation may improve. A convoluted scenario leads schools to face major challenges, such as spending long periods of time with their doors shut and with students ever more distant from the classroom. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – the UN agency responsible for monitoring and supporting education, communication and culture across the globe – the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted more than 1.5 billion students in 188 countries, which represents around 91% of the entire planet.
In a country as unequal as Brazil, the pandemic has increased the educational gap. The PNAD (Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicilios – National Reseach by Household Sampling) estimates that, in August 2020, four million elementary school pupils, 14.4% of the total, did not have access to any school activity. “Most are black students, members of families with a household income below fifty percent of the mandated national minimum wage”, according to the report from the United Nations Children´s Fund (Unicef).
Making up for the gaps and the damage brought about by the pandemic has represented a major challenge for the education sector. Two out of every three Brazilian students may not be able to adequately ready a simple text by the age of ten. This information is taken from a study carried out by the World Bank, which analyzed the impact of Covid-19 in the educational systems of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The pandemic, according to the same research, would have raised the percentage of students in poverty of learning from 50% to 70% in Brazil.
And so, for Brazil to be able to become a more developed country, and one with lower levels of social inequality, it is paramount that education is seen as a priority. Education builds the future! So, in my view, we should celebrate Education Day. We should celebrate how educators and education managers are striving to find ways to renovate teaching and to adapt to new tools and methodologies. After all, be it in the classroom or online, it is through education that we are going to turn our children and youth into citizens that are equipped with the tools they need to pursue a happy and dignified life.
And we should not only celebrate, but we should also plan. It is through a good management of schools and networks that we will be able to achieve a better use today’s tools (remote learning and the use of technology). We need to identify the gaps and necessities of each group, set goals, plan strategies, follow up and act in order to achieve a result that will transform the educational system.
Together we can work for this step to be the launchpad for a great leap towards the rehabilitation of the educational sector in our country so that, in a few years, we may be able to look back and be proud of how far we have reached.