Sep. 22 2021

Keeping Schools Open in Times of Public Health Crises; A Report to the G20

A report to the G20 co-authored by Nina Schwalbe, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health adjunct assistant professor of population and family health, provides evidence of the negative effects on children of closing schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries continue to keep schools closed even when there are clear World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations to the contrary. In the report “Access to Education During Public Health Emergencies: Keep Schools Open,” Schwalbe and co-authors call for the G20 countries—which account for nearly 60 percent of the world’s population—to develop a policy to reopen schools and close them only when recommended by the WHO and as a measure of last resort.

According to Schwalbe and team, the G20 can play a critical role in ensuring access to education for the world’s children by advancing the policy recommendations of this brief and influencing countries—both within and beyond the G20. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the authors make the point that countries and the global community should take immediate action to prioritize schools reopening and invest in policies and programs that will mitigate the wide range of negative impacts of COVID-19-related schools closures. Contingency planning where school closure is unavoidable and associated investments to realize these plans should be a critical component of pandemic preparedness plans so that children can realize their right to health, education, and protection.