24 April 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis that has affected billions of people around the world so far and impacted all aspects of life and society. In the area of education, for instance, nearly 165 countries have implemented country-wide school and university closures, as indicated by the Secretary-General in his report ‘Shared responsibility, global solidarity: responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.’ More than 1.5 billion children and youth are currently out of school or university, representing 87 per cent of the world’s enrolled student population. In addition, over 60 million teachers are no longer in the classroom.
This unprecedented situation, with so many children out of school at the same time, could have an adverse impact on children’s education and mental health; moreover, the risks of exploitation and abuse are higher than ever, for girls and boys alike. There is therefore also a need to sensitize children on issues such as discrimination, gender-based violence, misinformation and cybercrime, among others, issues which are at the core of UNODC’s mission to promote peace and justice.
“UNODC believes that the crisis cannot be overcome without education, in line with the United Nations’ principle of ‘Leaving No One Behind’ and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A key area of focus is on the evolving implications of COVID-19 for children and youth, especially pertaining to human rights, health, peace, security and the rule of law,” explained Sergey Kapinos, UNODC Regional Representative for South Asia.
Responding to the global crisis, UNODC has launched the ‘Lockdown Learners’ series of online dialogues with students and educators in India on COVID-19 and its impact on SDGs, peace and the rule of law. Developed under the Education for Justice Initiative (E4J, a component of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration), these dialogues aim to sensitize students on concerns of vulnerable groups and issues such as cybercrime, misinformation, gender-based violence, discrimination, and corruption, among others. The Lockdown Learners series also provide a platform for students to receive mentorship and knowledge support through activity-based learning, and to use their talents and skills to promote awareness and share ideas and solutions to address some of these problems.
“Over the past week, educational resources have been shared with partner schools in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, and focused interactions convened with hundreds of students and educators,” said Samarth Pathak, UNODC’s Communications Officer for South Asia. “UNODC welcomes schools to join these efforts in creating a positive framework for students to be productive and engaged during this period of lockdown, to reduce stress through positive messaging, and to empower young people to become champions of tomorrow.”
E4J’s educational tools put great emphasis on values, on helping children build skills which empower them, and on teaching them to think. These varied products include free-to-use educational material, comics, board and online games, The Zorbs cartoon series, and other modules and videos that may be used by teachers, parents and students at home to develop an understanding on peace and the rule of law.
UNODC believes that respect for human rights and the rule of law must be the fundamental element of a youth-focused strategy, with evidence-based and balanced responses. In this direction, E4J seeks to prevent crime and promote a culture of lawfulness through education activities designed for primary, secondary and tertiary levels. These activities help educators teach the next generation to better understand and address problems that can undermine the rule of law and encourage students to actively engage in their communities.