The COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of all school in Iraq during the month of February 2020.
As a result, over 10 million children were affected throughout the country. While the Ministries of Education prepare for end of year examinations for transitional grades as well as the gradual reopening of schools, it is important to keep the risk of contracting COVID-19 at a minimum and the safety and wellbeing of the children at the centre.
This framework and accompanying checklist build upon international standards and resources and aim to give guidance to education partners in Federal Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for the safe re-opening of schools and other learning spaces. It is important to note that any guidelines developed by the Ministries of Education will supersede this guidance note and this note will serve as a supplementary resource.
For consistency, this document refers to schools as education spaces which include all formal and nonformal learning spaces, child-friendly spaces and other facilities where learning activities occur.
Key principles for the safe re-opening of schools that should be considered throughout the process include:
• Gender, inclusion and accessibility: When returning back to school, children will have different needs based on their gender, age, disability, ethnicity, refugee/asylum-seeker status, socio-economic status or other factors. School re-opening must be inclusive and accessible for ALL children!
• Build on existing structures: It is important to consider existing support structures such as PTA’s, SMCs, youth-led groups, etc. and include them in the different stages of school reopening.
• Participatory approach: Ensure active engagement with the community (children, youth, parents and caregivers, teachers, school administration, etc.) in the re-opening process.
• Integrated approach: COVID-19 is calling for a holistic approach during the reopening process. This includes not only education consideration but also aspects of mental health and psychosocial support, health or hygiene.
• Child Safeguarding: It is key to consider the safety and wellbeing of children throughout the entire process. Protecting children, young people and adults from any form of abuse and exploitation from staff, volunteers and partners should remain paramount as schools reopen.
Structure of the Framework:
The framework is divided in 3 phases covering the following:
I. Before school re-opening: During this phase an analysis of the situation should be conducted, and partners and the DoEs should start preparing for a reopening.
II. During school re-opening: This includes the period immediately before and after school reopening (roughly 1-2 months before and after).
III. After schools reopen: This period covers the period when schools are open again. Specifically, long term effects, the continuity of protective measures and behavioural changes as well as the provision of quality learning and additional offers are in the centre of this stage.
Additionally, the checklist at the end of this document should help partners throughout all phases. The checklist can further be used to assess the status of implementation of the framework.