COVID-19: Education replaced by shuttered schools, violence, teenage pregnancy
A culture of “safety, friends and food” at school has been replaced by “anxiety, violence, and teenage pregnancy”, with remote learning out of reach for millions, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Tuesday.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “more than 600 million children in countries not on academic break are still affected by school closures”, James Elder, UNICEF spokesperson at a press conference at UN Geneva.
In countries such as Uganda, this has led to a “20 per cent spike in the last 15 months in teen pregnancies, or pregnancies of 10-24-year-old girls, who were seeking antenatal care. Across the globe in all continents we’ve seen child helplines, a good precursor to understanding kids who are reporting violence, seeing often triple-digit increases,” said Elder.
COVID-19 school closures
In nearly half of countries in Asia and the Pacific, schools have been closed for around 200 days. Latin America and the Caribbean have seen some of the longest closures ever with 18 countries and territories affected by either full or partial closures.
As of today, the UN agency estimates in Eastern and Southern Africa that 40 per cent of all children aged 5 to 18, are currently out of school.
Elder added that if these figures “did not resonate with those in power, then a World Bank report estimates a loss of $10 trillion in earnings over time”, for this generation of students.
Remote learning ‘out of reach’
Equally alarming is the fact that the solution of remote learning is “simply out of reach” for at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren, the UNICEF spokesperson continued. In East Asia and the Pacific, “80 million children have no access whatsoever to any remote learning.
In Eastern and Southern Africa, Uganda school children have gone more than 300 days out of school, while home internet connectivity “is the lowest on the planet there at about 0.3%”.
‘Situation cannot go on’
In a call for action, UNICEF appealed for five main steps: Schools should reopen as soon as possible; governments and donors must protect the education budget; enrolment should be extended to children who were already out of school pre‑COVID‑19 – by removing financial barriers and loosening registration requirements – and cash transfers to the most vulnerable, must be increased.
“Everything needs to be done to bring an end to the pandemic,” Mr. Elder said, starting with making vaccines available everywhere by sharing excess doses and financing to support the roll-out of vaccines.
ABC news: Xi signals strength in Russia-China alliance
Chinese President Xi Jinping departed Moscow on Wednesday after two days of highly symbolic meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which the two presented a united front and an alternative vision for global leadership, notes ABCnews.
Despite statements saying that “China-Russia relations are not the kind of military-political alliance during the Cold War,” China and Russia made clear they wanted to “advance the trend toward a multi-polar world.”
“This highly publicized summit may reflect a shift towards a new and more active role for China, as it seizes the opportunity to convey diplomatic – and possibly tangible – support for Russia and any other state that wishes to defy the West,” – Michael Butler, associate professor of political science at Clark University, told ABC News.
Joint animosity towards the U.S.-led world order has kept Russia and China close despite Putin’s war in Ukraine and western sanctions against Russia has made China their biggest customer and economic lifeline.
Beijing increasingly sees Russia as necessary ally as China and United States continue to fallout over numerous fronts not limited to Taiwan and access to semiconductors. It was further exasperated by the spy balloon episode earlier this year.
Beijing had initially hoped that the spiraling tensions with the U.S. would abate in the wake of Xi’s meeting with President Joe Biden in Bali last November, but as they continued to crater, Xi seems to have re-prioritized Russian relationship. He even aimed a rare direct slight at the United States earlier this month, blaming the Americans for “containment and suppression” as the reasons for China’s economic challenges.
Xi highlighted on numerous occasions over the two days of meetings that Russia and China are each other’s largest neighbors and that their partnership is “consistent with historical logic and a strategic choice of China.”
Petr Pavl: “Ukraine must adjust to dwindling Western support”
“We must consider war weariness”, says Czech President Petr Pavl. According to Czech President Petr Pavl, Ukraine must adjust to dwindling Western support. “We have to consider war weariness and what that means for support from Western states. This will pass with time,” Pavel told the ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’.
He also mentioned the 2024 US presidential election and the concentration on domestic politics that could then be expected: “If US support decreases, support for a number of European countries will also decrease. Ukraine should take this into account.”
Thus, in 2024, Ukraine will probably no longer be able to start any large and complex operations, the new Czech president said. “This year is decisive for the development of the war.”
The former general was wary of the prospects of Ukraine joining NATO in the foreseeable future. “Ukraine’s path to Europe should run through a faster rapprochement with the European Union and only then with law enforcement agencies,” the President said. “I think that’s the right order.”
WP: The real lesson from the showy Xi-Putin meeting
Pentagon strategists have always divided the world into East and West, with U.S. regional forces under European Command or Indo-Pacific Command. But looking at the embrace of Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin this week, you wonder whether we may need a single “Eurasian Command” to handle an integrated threat, writes ‘The Washington Post’ in a comment.
Xi’s rescue strategy for Russia seems to center on a peace plan that would stanch the bleeding in Ukraine. From what we know, Xi proposes a cease-fire agreement… By playing the peacemaker, Xi can position himself better to take other, harsher rescue measures if Ukraine rejects a cease-fire. He could offer ammunition for Russia, arguing he’s only leveling the playing field.
He could try to mobilize nations of the Global South, such as India, South Africa and Brazil, to pressure Ukraine to end the fighting. Xi wants to keep the high ground, invoking the sanctity of the United Nations charter even as he affirms his support for the Russian leader who shattered that charter’s norms. It’s a shameless approach, but smart diplomacy.
Xi’s emerging role as the leader of a Eurasian bloc presents dilemmas for U.S. strategists.
For a generation, separating China from Russia was a central goal of U.S. foreign policy. Driving that wedge was a major reason for the historic visit to China in 1972 by President Richard M. Nixon and national security adviser Henry Kissinger.
The Biden administration initially hoped it could try that strategy in reverse — warming relations with Moscow in the June 2021 summit in Geneva in part to concentrate on the Chinese challenge. That didn’t work out as the White House hoped, to put it mildly.
Now it’s Xi who is the triangulator. He is playing off the bitter split between the United States and Russia, helping Putin.
Xi similarly used China’s close relations with Iran to make the diplomatic breakthrough between Riyadh and Tehran that the United States could never achieve, writes WP.
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