Pandemic deepens disparities in children’s development and learning in Nepal: UNICEF survey


The pandemic has affected children’s health, learning and psychosocial well-being, new data from UNICEF shows.

In a press release on Monday, the United Nations agency said the early childhood development of one in five children aged 2 to 4 in Nepal is not on track amid the pandemic of Covid-19.

“The Early Childhood Development Index (ECDI) survey conducted in August showed that children from low-income families, living in rural areas, with guardians without or with a low level of education , and not attending early childhood education (ECE) programs were at greater risk. to be on the right development path, ”the statement read.

The survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,853 households with children to understand the developmental needs and status of young children aged 2 to 4 years.

According to the statement, children who participated in government ECE programs were always at a higher risk of being developmentally delayed compared to those who participated in private programs.

Data from the telephone survey revealed an alarming drop in parental engagement from pre-pandemic conditions.

“In the dynamic situation and especially at a time when people’s lives were affected by the relaxation of prohibition orders in August 2021, only 31% of children received early stimulation at home by family members , against 73% in 2019, “said the press release. read.

According to the statement, a follow-up survey conducted later in October found that mothers’ engagement improved over time as they settled into normality after the strict prohibition orders were lifted.

“However, fathers’ engagement remained low (six percent),” the statement read.

The UN agency highlighted the underuse of alternative learning modalities during school closures specified by the government’s emergency action plan, including online courses, mobile teachers, radio, television, distance education, among others, as factors contributing to developmental delay in children during the pandemic. .

“Thirty-four percent of children have not engaged in learning through alternative learning modalities at all,” the statement said. Minimal use of low-tech solutions and uneven access to high-tech solutions like online courses, which were almost exclusively accessible only to children who attended private ECE, may have contributed to the gap development observed between children who attended private ECE and those who did not, the statement noted.

Based on the survey results, UNICEF, through the statement, called on the government, development partners, teachers, parents and other stakeholders to target children most at risk of losing. their development through effective remedial education interventions.

The UN agency also called on stakeholders to develop systems to help teachers and parents understand each child’s individual development and learning level through user-friendly assessments and instructional guidelines- learning to enable learning at home and at school.

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