Not all children back in Children’s Ger

By Johnny Baltzersen, Chair, CICED 

September 1 is the start of school in Mongolia. New students in first grade bring flowers for the teacher. Others are just happy to see their friends again after a long summer vacation.

This year, the summer vacation has been longer than anyone could have wished for. Mongolia was the first country in the world to react quickly and quite radically to the COVID-19 outbreak. Schools and universities closed. So did airports and border crossings. All cross-country traffic was halted. For months, there was a curfew in Ulaanbaatar. Mongolian nationals stranded abroad were only repatriated at a pace and scale that matched the quarantine capacity. The radical action paid off. So far, only about 300 people have been infected and no one has died from coronavirus.

But no school for almost half a year is a long time without classes and without friends. The Mongolian education system has gone to great lengths to compensate for the shutdown. There have been 3-4 hours of daily TV-based training. Thousands of teachers have kept in touch with students via Facebook, Zoom and mobile phones.

But, as always, crises and misfortune bend inequality. The poorest and most isolated children and young people have been excluded from participating in much of the online education that has been delivered. Often they don’t have a computer or internet access at home.

It’s the same for the typical Children’s Ger student. So on September 1, students were excited to show up for the first day of school. Not least because they could also have a proper meal again. As a report from Save the Children shows (read below), corona also means less and poorer food for the poorest children.

Children’s Ger still needs to see around half of the children who should be in school this year. Many children are sent to families in the countryside over the summer, where there is (almost) always plenty to eat and at least plenty of fresh air.

If corona doesn’t break out in Ulaanbaatar in the coming weeks, all children will probably be in Children’s Ger before the end of September.

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