An Update: How our schools and students have been affected by COVID-19

In February and March 2020, schools supported by Classroom of Hope across Indonesia and Southeast Asia were forced to close due to increased numbers of COVID-19 cases. Some countries reopened schools and then closed schools again. Some countries have partially opened schools, while other countries have had their school doors closed for most of the past year. It’s all a little confusing, and if you have had a hard time keeping track of what’s happening with our schools, we can completely understand why. To provide some clarity, we’re going to break it down for you, country by country.

Photo by Geoff Bartlett

Laos

On 24th March 2020, Laos confirmed its first two COVID-19 cases, becoming the last Southeast Asian country infected with the coronavirus. On 29th March 2020, the government announced a national lockdown, effective 30th March. Schools closed at this time. On 18th May, restrictions began to loosened and by 2nd June schools reopened and have remained open.

Myanmar

In late March 2020, the virus was confirmed to have reached Myanmar. By April 2020, the Myanmar government-imposed nationwide full lockdown, with strict restrictions on movement, to curb COVID-19 infections. Schools across the country were on school break at this time. In July 2020, 6500 of 7173 secondary schools reopened, one month later than the usual term start date. In September 2020, due to an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases, schools across the country closed again, indefinitely.

Cambodia

In late January 2020, the virus was confirmed to have reached Cambodia. In March 2020, having observed an increase in case numbers of the virus, government-run schools and universities suspended in-person classes and moved all learning online. On 7 September 2020, schools reopened for in-person classes after a six-month closure. In early December, due to a significant increase in cases of the virus, the remainder of the 2020 school year was cancelled. Starting in 2021, schools were reopened again and teaching continues as usual.

Photo by Geoff Bartlett

Challenges for Southeast Asia

The most crucial problem across the region is that school dropout rates are increasing significantly due to COVID-19 since kids are being deployed as labour. According to our local partner, Child’s Dream, bringing these children back into the educational cycle will be an enormous task.

At this stage, Child’s Dream is not able to measure the extent of the dropouts in Myanmar in particular because schools have been closed since September. A reopening is hoped for in June 2021, when the next academic year starts. But this is yet to be confirmed. Additionally, the coup in Myanmar may also have an impact on schools, although at this time it is difficult to estimate what that impact is. The founders of Child’s Dream are in constant communication with their team in Yangon, Myanmar and they are currently safe, but the situation changes by the day. You can read more about the situation in Myanmar in the newsletter Child’s Dream shared with us last week.

Lombok, Indonesia

NOTE: In Indonesia, Classroom of Hope only supports school programs in Lombok through our Pop Up Schools program. Across the multiple Indonesian islands, school closures have varied. To keep you informed on how closures have affected our programs, we will only focus on Lombok.

All school activities closed in February 2020 due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. Currently, we are not certain when schools will fully reopen. This will be decided by the Education Department. Some schools are open but only for the last grade of each level (e.g. 6th, 9th and 12th grades). This is because these grade levels are preparing for the national exams. These students have classes and activities for a maximum of three hours per day. Some of our Pop Up Schools are currently being used for these students.

Photo by Manuel Gussmann

Staying the Course

At Classroom of Hope, we are proceeding with our education mission as usual. Our Building Schools program continues as building services are seen as essential in each country we work in. We will keep you updated about how COVID-19 is affecting our schools and students and how our local partners are navigating their way through these challenging times. Until then, keep safe and thank you for your unwavering support.

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