HOW MANY CHILDREN WILL “BACK TO SCHOOL” LEAVE BEHIND IN 2020?
As we approach the new school year, many parents in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are asking the same question: “Will my kids go back to school at all this year?” As families face this uncertainty along with severe economic challenges, SAT-7 ACADEMY is a trusted resource that ensures no child need be left behind.
“Imagine you are a child in Beirut. Once you went to school in a city known as an educational and cultural capital. Then, your school was closed by COVID-19. As Lebanon fell apart around you, and your family was plunged into poverty, you tried to keep up with work. Then came the explosion – and your school is destroyed. Where will you turn now?”
– SAT-7 ACADEMY Brand Manager Juliana Sfeir
While 2020 has been a tumultuous year everywhere, in many MENA countries COVID-19 has meant an even deeper dive into poverty, unemployment, and the endangerment of vulnerable groups – not to mention the future of the new generation. The region was already home to 15 million¹ out-of-school children, their education disrupted by conflict and displacement or prevented by poverty.
Now, an additional 10 million children worldwide are in danger of never returning to school following coronavirus lockdowns, with girls in Yemen and Afghanistan among those at extremely high risk. In Lebanon, a country already struggling to meet the education needs of both Lebanese and Syrian refugee students, the 4 August explosion at the Beirut port has left as many as 70 public schools and 50 private schools either partially or completely destroyed, denying 55,000 Lebanese and non-Lebanese students their right to an education.
Viewer numbers surge for SAT-7 ACADEMY
“SAT-7 must do its part to make sure these millions of children do not miss out on education. And we are in the perfect position, as a trusted media ministry, to do so,” shares Sfeir.
SAT-7 ACADEMY, an education and social development brand that provides remote learning for children and support for parents and teachers through satellite, online, and social media, has seen a huge increase in demand for its programming.
Since the beginning of lockdowns, the brand’s Audience Relations department has witnessed a more than 4,000 percent increase in phone calls, messages, and comments. Social media engagement has seen a 400 percent increase as well. “Before, SAT-7 ACADEMY would receive 800 messages a day, but now we receive around 3,000 messages daily,” shares Carla Bachir, SAT-7 ACADEMY Audience Relations Officer.
One beacon of light for children left without education during this period is My School, SAT-7 ACADEMY’s primary education program, which launched a new weekly “language medley” of Arabic, English, and French lessons through Facebook Live. Now, while much of the global community remains on standby regarding children going back to school, SAT-7 ACADEMY is able to offer stability by producing My School episodes every day.
In Sfeir’s words, the program is receiving an “enormous” number of messages. “I didn’t know much French before,” shares one young viewer. “Thanks to Madame Carole, I started to learn a little bit and with every live episode I’m improving. Thank you so much. I won’t forget what you’ve done for me.” Adults are writing to the program, too. “My nephew always watches your programs,” says Ekram from Lebanon. “He has learned many things before even going to school. Keep going and providing the best content.”
Meanwhile, a viewer from Morocco says, “Thank you so much for your great efforts in this program. Special thanks to Teacher Grace because she has helped me learn the English language through TV. I thank God so much that you are all well.”
“Due to the on-going coronavirus threat and the possibility of a second total lockdown, many children may need to stay home and will need support in their learning,” says Sfeir. “In addition to My School, we will also release the new season of Follow Up – a program for parents to support their children’s education – aiming to help parents and teachers through this uniquely challenging time.”
George Makeen, SAT-7 Arabic Channels Programming Director, shares how supporting education is part of SAT-7’s holistic care for viewers. “In earlier Christianity, the first thing Christians did when they went to a new country was to open schools and build hospitals,” he says. “It is part of our values as Christians to support people beyond their spiritual needs. With modern technology, social media, and the power of satellite television, SAT-7’s educational programs have the ability to reach beyond previous boundaries and help millions of children realise their rights to an education and a better future.”
¹ February 2018 UNICEF MENA Regional Fact Sheet on Out-of-School Children (OOSC)