Worldwide, schooling in 2020 has been marked by unprecedented interruptions to children's learning and teacher's efforts to educate. With COVID-19 first leading to school closures, and later to social distancing measures, the pandemic has forced educational systems to adapt and develop new ways of learning, as well as identify solutions to mobilize youth remotely. In West Africa, where the COVID-19 reaction measures reflect much of the rest of the world, one of the ways this is now being achieved is through the region's first educational television station, Télé-Ecole, with whom UNODC recently partnered.
With the 2020/21 academic year in Uzbekistan kicking off in early-September, the country's Ministry of Public Education recently announced the launch of a new curriculum for primary schools. Among several new additions are lessons designed to provide children with learning opportunities centred around a strong educational framework that promotes fairness, justice and integrity in a fun and interactive way - a perfect fit for UNODC's friendly space characters, the Zorbs, and with it their messages around peace and justice.
While not exclusively a young person's area, information technology (IT) - including specifics such as artificial intelligence (AI), mobile app development and other emerging technologies - can be of particular interest for youth. At the same time, there is a growing interest among the younger generation in driving implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, taking advantage of opportunities to become social entrepreneurs. Indeed, according to the 2020 World Youth Report, "There is tremendous potential for young social entrepreneurs to utilize frontier technologies to tackle systemic social issues innovatively and effectively."
With an infinite curiosity and a predilection for voicing honest opinions, children tend to enjoy the mental exercise of ranking their favourite things. For the past two months, they were given the opportunity to watch short movies online and to vote on their preferences in the Takorama Film Festival, designed by the association Films pour enfants to engage children around the world with stimulating subjects and appealing animations.
This unique festival has accompanied children in various situations of COVID-19 lockdown and social distancing confinement, exposing them to artistic contributions which tackle solidarity, tolerance and respect for others - subjects which form an integral part of the work of Education for Justice, an initiative of UNODC's Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration.
As the COVID-19 crisis may lead to an erosion of trust in public services and governments, urgent questions should also be asked about how measures to prevent its spread can adversely affect the rule of law and human rights. UNESCO and UNODC stress the importance of education which teaches awareness of human rights and ultimately helps build more equal, sustainable and inclusive societies and economies that are more resilient in the face of crisis.