“This is the worst education crisis Latin America and the Caribbean has ever faced in its modern history. Many children have already lost one year of face-to-face schooling; now they started to lose another school year. Each additional day without face-to-face schooling puts the most vulnerable children at risk of dropping out of school forever.”
- Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America & the Caribbean
One year after the beginning of the pandemic, Latin America and the Caribbean remains the region in the world with the largest number of children still missing out on in-person classes.
It is estimated that more than 3 million children in rural Central America may permanently drop out of school because of the pandemic.
Our 2021 Project Equity Initiative is designed to improve the consequences of the pandemic and lessen the inequities heightened by the focus on distance learning, especially online learning, in our extremely poor rural communities while schools remain closed.
At the start of the pandemic, we immediately pivoted our programs to meet the new needs of our communities. Through brand NEW programs and innovation, we kept children learning while schools were closed:
WhatsApp Groups for Parents: When schools closed, we quickly started sending messages to parents over WhatsApp about how to stay healthy and safe. We then began sending homework to children and inspirational graphics to parents about the importance of education and encouraging parents to re-enroll their children in schools once they reopened.
Work Guide Development & Delivery: The children we serve live in remote areas, often far removed from cell service due to geography and poverty. That means they cannot access work guides through WhatsApp, so we found a way to create our own and safely hand-deliver them.
Book Exchange Program: These children do not have books at home. In order to keep kids reading, we created a library exchange program, allowing them to “check out” a book every other week. This allowed our children to escape into a book and continue to improve their literacy skills while at home!
School the World Radio: Children in these rural communities might not have a TV, computer or internet, but they do have radios! Programs for the entire family were broadcasted on local radio stations in Guatemala and Honduras with weekly lessons, story-time and a seat-gripping "Radio-Novela" filled with advice for parents!
WhatsApp Support Groups For Girls: Stay-at-home orders during the pandemic can create uncertain, and unsafe environments for girls as they no longer have the safe haven of a school. Teenage girls are at risk of entering early marriage and/or suffering abuse. Their families’ economic situations, exacerbated by COVID-19, could also send the girls into the labor force instead of attending school. We created WhatsApp Support Groups to give them back their safe space. Now, they always have someone to turn to (virtually). We also created work guides with accompanying trainings, teaching them about their rights, how to stay safe and report violence, and how teenage pregnancy and early marriage can deeply affect their lives.