Nepal launches LCC to mitigate learning loss created by COVID-19

By Laxman Datt Pant

Nepal launches LCC to mitigate learning loss created by COVID-19

Along with the nationwide lockdown enforced on March 24, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nepal, the education of nearly 8.5 million schoolchildren has been placed at risk by the prolonged closures of educational activities. Therefore, to help children continue to learn safely in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, on January 11 the Government of Nepal and partners launched the Learning Continuity Campaign (LCC).

This campaign seeks to involve and engage parents, caregivers, teachers, school authorities, local governments, and children with information and guidance on standard public health security protocols for the safe reopening of schools to prevent the spread of infection in areas where schools have reopened and also targets the promotion of the effective use of alternative education methods.

The Government of Nepal ended the nationwide lockdown on July 21, 2020, allowing the limited opening of businesses and services. Subsequently, by the end of September 2020, a few schools started to reopen in some areas where local governments deemed the risk of COVID-19 to be low. However, the risk of infection in many other areas continues to pose a challenge to the reopening of schools.

Aligned with the Emergency Action Plan relating to School Education (2020) of the Center for Education and Human Resource Development under the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Nepal (MoEST), the LCC has been developed in partnership with UNICEF Nepal, the School Management Committee Federation, the Confederation of Nepalese Teachers and the Nepal Education Cluster.

The campaign was launched in collaboration with Plan International, Save the Children, the United Mission to Nepal, UKAID, USAID’s Early Grade Reading Program II, World Education, the Centre for Mental Health and Counselling – Nepal, Voluntary Service Overseas, Educational Pages, Environment and Public Health Organization and Setogurans National Child Development Services.

The guideline on the school reopening framework in the context of COVID-19 issued by the MoEST on 7 November 2020 stated that local governments could make decisions regarding the reopening/reclosing or keeping schools closed based on an assessment of the risks involved for COVID-19 transmission at the local level.

As per the guideline, local governments in Nepal can decide to run schools using different approaches depending on the local situation, such as conducting all classes in school at the same time as in a normal situation, running classes at different times for different grades in different shifts or conducting classes for only a few days a week or a few hours a day.

Highlighting that the Center for Education and Human Resource Development (CEHRD) has been working with provincial and local governments and other stakeholders to establish a number of alternative education approaches, Ghanshyam Aryal, Director at CEHRD, said, “The campaign expects to create a facilitative environment for children as per available services.” It is aimed at ensuring the learning rights of all students, he added.

Emphasizing that alternative education modalities are being developed and promoted as part of the LCC, Elke Wisch, UNICEF Representative to Nepal, said, “These modalities are likely to prove valuable not just for children who are being impacted by school closures, but also in places where schools have opened to help children make the transition.” Providing teachers, parents, and school authorities with these guidelines, learning tools, and approaches will also be key to ensuring children keep learning in the case of future crises, she remarked.

The alternative education modalities are based on the categorization of students into five major groups, i.e. those with no access to media, those with access to radio, those with access to television, those who have access to computers but lack internet connectivity, and those with internet connectivity. The LCC is said to have been positioned with a strong focus on ensuring the effective use of these modalities which includes plans to mobilize teachers to utilize low-tech mechanisms such as telephone-based activities to enable a closed user group service through Nepal Telecom.

  • The LCC encourages the effective use of alternative education modalities to help ensure children keep learning during the pandemic.
  • The campaign has a specific focus on marginalized children from poor, remote, and disadvantaged groups who require additional and targeted support to continue learning and to prevent them from dropping out.
  • The campaign is anticipated to promote parenting education through a dedicated radio program along with the formation of parents’ groups to support learning and the use of a home-schooling modality.

Although the reopening of schools is a priority, planning, implementation, and monitoring are still challenging due to the risk of the pandemic spreading in many areas across the country.