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15 April 2020 - News

Press Statement on COVID-19: Most marginalised children will bear the brunt of unprecedented school closures in Zambia and around the world

Press Statement on COVID-19: Most marginalised children will bear the brunt of unprecedented school closures in Zambia and around the world

Zambia is among the 138 countries that have issued a nationwide closure of all learning institutions while several other countries have implemented localized school closures- in an attempt to contain the global pandemic. According to UNESCO, an estimated 1.2 billion learners have been affected as countries enforce this massive closure. That number is expected to rise as the Coronavirus looks set to spread further. According to the Ministry of General Education statistical bulletin (2018), the national school enrolment is over 4.2 million children adding to an estimated 575,000 children already out of school.

It is the role of governments and stakeholders to ensure that the vulnerable and marginalized children do not lose out on learning opportunities while schools are closed in the bid to and contain the Coronavirus outbreak. Save the Children calls on the government and communities to act now in order to protect marginalised children from bearing the brunt of unprecedented school closures around the world. Such a disruption in the education system will cause an escalation in the already existing gap in the levels of access to quality education of children in rural and urban areas.

Jo Musonda, Save the Children’s Country Director said: “The impacts of school closures extend beyond an interference in education – they also carry other risks to marginalised children and children from low-income households, because many may rely on school meals to support their daily nutrition. This has been the case in some of the provinces- Southern and Western provinces, that have been experiencing climate change related crisis. The government of Zambia, Save the Children and other partners are currently responding to the food insecurity crisis that is currently on-going in parts of Southern and Western provinces through the implementation of the School Feeding Program. However, with the sudden closure of schools; continuation of this program will be a great challenge. Furthermore, as pressures mount on low income families, children may need to work to bolster family incomes, and girls especially may also face a disproportionate burden of caring for family members who contract the virus or taking care of younger children while others may be married off. As more children are home and have homework, parents and guardians should encourage children to avoid crowds and stay home as much as possible. If safeguarding plans are not put in place urgently at household and community, some children run the risk of never returning to school at all.”

We call upon parents and other primary caregivers, community members, local leaders, the media, civil society and state actors like the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Community Development and Social Services to act.

Parents and Caregivers:

  1. Must ensure the environment in and around the home is safe for their children and place child safeguarding as a number one priority. They must encourage and ensure children wash their hands with running water and soap where possible.

Community members and local leaders:

  1. Continue raising awareness at household and community level about the importance of personal hygiene.
  2. Should be responsible, vigilant and adhere to the ministry of health guidelines on prevention such as social distancing and hand washing.

State actors:

  1. The Ministry of Health should prioritise the development and roll-out of clear, child-friendly public information campaigns to give children and their families the information they need to protect themselves – and their families, neighbours, co-workers and friends – from the risk of infection and combat misinformation that can increase anxiety and distress among children and adults.
  2. The Ministry of Education must proactively issue guidance on best practices in remote learning and ensure that tools and technology used do not exclude the poor, disabled or marginalised children. -      Using radio and Television has proven effective in a lot of contexts.
  3. The Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection must invest in ensuring health facilities prioritise appropriate infection, protection and control (IPC) and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities to help keep health workers, trading places, children and families safe and protected.
  4. The Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare must ensure that preparedness and control measures for COVID-19 protect children and ensure appropriate care for children including developing a contingency plan for the care of children orphaned or left without appropriate care because of severe cases of COVID-19 that require hospitalisation of adult caregivers.


  1. As children stay at home and within communities, they must be given the confidence to report any form of abuse and violence they experience to parents, caregivers, police, their teachers or even their neighbours including using the toll free child help line 116 for further psychosocial support. They must be able to report in the knowledge that they will be believed and treated with dignity, sensitivity and confidence in all cases.


  1. Our partners in the media must continue being the strong voice children need at a time when they are experiencing a rift in education as a result of this global pandemic. The media can support the Ministry of General Education with distance learning platforms and having more education related content.


In conclusion, we are calling for an uncompromising determination from all actors to put in place the concrete measures listed above that will ensure there is a bridge in education for all children in urban and rural areas during the response to COVID-19 pandemic. As a nation our efforts to achieve child wellbeing, such as education and health, will be greatly undermined if we do not tackle the risks facing children in Zambia. We will further fail to live up to the principles we have signed up for under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.


For more information, please contact: Malama Mwila – Email: or Call: +260 960634830