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Five things you need to know this week about global education (February 11, 2022)

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Many teachers have given additional support to girls during the pandemic - and meet the amazing great-granny who's going to school aged 99.

Teachers became pandemic guides for girls

Many teachers took on extra “humanitarian roles” to ensure marginalised girls didn’t drop out of education when the pandemic shut down schools.

Researchers found that as well as their education duties, teachers became “trusted confidantes” - providing child protection, healthcare and emotional support to female students.

The report assessed the impact of Covid-19 on Girls’ Education Challenge projects funded by the UK in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Ghana. It found that 85% of teachers interviewed had given "some form of physical or mental health assistance" beyond their normal roles.

One of the report's authors, Professor Pauline Rose of the University of Cambridge, said: “When schools closed, the GEC projects underwent a transformation, operating not just as educational initiatives but assuming a humanitarian role. Without this, the pandemic’s impact on girls’ learning might have been even more severe.”

Many female, community-based teachers, had vital face-to-face contact with students. This meant that as well as offering personal help, they could refer struggling students to community or social services.

Professor Rose - who has written major reports on pre-primary education for Theirworld - added: “The additional work they [teachers] were shouldering affected their own mental health, led to work-related burnout and put extra pressure on their home life."

New UNICEF chief reveals education targets

The new head of UNICEF says innovations to transform education and supporting girls should be major targets for the international community.

Catherine Russell has succeeded Henrietta Fore as Executive Director of the UN children’s agency. In her first major speech, she said 616million children are still affected by school closures and disrupted education in developing countries has left up to 70% of 10-year-olds unable to read proficiently.

She added: “Schools need to help children recover their physical and emotional wellbeing. We need to transform education for these challenging times - innovating and forging new partnerships to reach the children at greatest risk of being left behind.”

She said UNICEF will “continue making the case for investing in girls and for breaking down barriers and practices that hold girls back”.

The school student who's just turned 99

A woman who celebrates her 99th birthday today has told how she went back to school in Kenya's Rift Valley to set a good example for her great-grandchildren.

Priscilla Sitienei, who is in her sixth year at primary school, wears the same school uniform of grey dress and green sweater as other students.

Kenya's government began subsidising the cost of primary schooling in 2003, allowing some older people who missed out on education in their younger days to revive their dreams.

A film about Priscilla's education journey - titled Gogo after the local word for grandmother - will be launched soon in New York. She said she enjoys other school activities such as physical education classes, adding: "I get to jump around, even though not as much as they can do - but I at least move my body."

Cyclone destroys dozens of schools

A cyclone that battered parts of Madagascar has put 10,000 children out of school.

In the east of the island, 69 schools were completely destroyed, 439 schools were damaged and 55 had their roofs blown off, according to Save the Children.

Cyclone Batsirai killed more than 20 people - five of them children - and displaced more than 60,000, as well as destroying crops due to be harvested.

Tatiana Dasy, Save the Children’s Programme Director for Madagascar, said: “As many as 10,000 who were able to go to school last week are without education this week. After two years of being pushed out of schooling due to Covid-19, this is the last thing children need.”

Back to school after a year in Vietnam

More than 17 million Vietnamese students will return to school for the first time in almost a year.

The Southeast Asian country lifted many of its pandemic curbs in October - but most students had been confined to taking online classes since early last year.

Some in-person classes for secondary school students began this week and all students will be back this week. Primary and pre-primary schools will also reopen during February.

Vũ Minh Trí, an eighth grader in Hanoi, told Asia News Network: “I feel very happy and excited because it has been a long time since I went to school."