Almost a year after the World Health Organization first declared a global health emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating toll on the education of millions of children and young people. The closing down of physical classrooms in schools, colleges and universities has severely undermined learning opportunities for students at all levels.
As Oman joined the world in marking the International Day of Education, it remains as urgent as ever to tackle the global education crisis by mobilising and investing effectively and creatively to make the most of limited resources, and embrace a new vision of education for the future.
According to Unesco, education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility. This year, the third International Day of Education (January 24) was marked on Monday, January 25, under the theme ‘Recover and Revitalise Education for the COVID-19 Generation’.
‘Now is the time to power education by stepping up collaboration and international solidarity to place education and lifelong learning at the centre of the recovery,’ Unesco said.
In Oman, since the dawn of the Blessed Renaissance initiated by the Late Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the government, within its successive development plans, has given education top priority.
‘To contribute to the process of building and developing Oman, the government began spreading the ‘umbrella of education’ over every inch of the sultanate, making it a fundamental and compulsory right for every child until the end of the basic education stage,’ the Ministry of Education said in a statement to mark the day.
The indicators of the report ‘Education in the sultanate from illiteracy to postgraduate studies – 2020’, issued by the National Centre for Statistics and Information, confirmed Oman’s achievement of significant progress.
‘The report also indicated an increase in the number of schools in the sultanate to 1,163 schools across its governorates, 56,899 teachers and 637,000 students, besides keen interest in the students studying in special education schools, as well as international schools that target foreign communities,’ the MoE said. ‘The total number of students is about 844,000 distributed in 2,046 government and private schools across all educational levels. The number of students constitutes approximately 18 per cent of the population of Oman.’
According to the MoE, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 was an important event in the human journey. Its impact on various vital sectors, including the education sector, resulted in crises that may be the most dangerous in the modern era.
After schools closed in mid-March following the virus outbreak in the sultanate, the MoE endeavoured to find appropriate alternatives for the continuity of education, taking into account the priority of safety and health of students, teaching and administrative staff.
With active community participation, many alternatives were proposed to operate schools for the academic year 2020/21 safely.