As a global partnership that attracts and pools investment for young people’s education, learning, skilling, entrepreneurship and employment, Generation Unlimited (GenU) can play an important role in supporting the global response to COVID-19 and address both its short- and long-term impacts.
Young people are already among those affected the most by the socio-economic effects of the pandemic:
- 192 countries have implemented nationwide school closures, adversely impacting the learning of 91% of the world’s student population, over 1.5 billion learners (UNESCO, 30 March 2020)
- Nearly 60.2 million teachers are no longer in the classroom (United Nations)
- A global recession could lead to the loss of five to 195 million jobs, with grave consequences for young people. (ILO, 7 April 2020)
GenU’s focus on scaling up remote learning and work and digital connectivity as well as helping to generate employment and entrepreneurship opportunities is central in responding to the current crisis.
Digital technologies have become a positive enabler during COVID-19, facilitating business continuity and connecting people more than ever. However, inequities in broadband connectivity and access to computers and other devices, and barriers to free and open-source online educational content hinder remote participation of all young people in schooling and training and limits their access to vital telemedicine and health information online. Now, more than ever, there is an urgent need to expand and democratize access to remote and online learning, as well as platforms for acquiring market-relevant skills and engaging in remote work. Combining online learning with online work offers new potential for people who have limited local opportunities. It can also help to shorten feedback loops between education and employment in this time of a crisis.
Large-scale investments are needed to ensure young people do not experience interruptions in their education and livelihoods. GenU can ensure young people are able to access educational content and develop market-relevant skills, preparing them for the transition from school to work and helping them become more resilient to current and future crises.
GenU gathers more than 50 partners that – in different forms – have already actively started supporting global and local responses to COVID-19. To accelerate results, GenU is working to rally the support of all of its Board members to form task forces around four key areas:
(1) Connect all schools and youth to the internet
(2) Scale up remote online learning and skilling platforms
(3) Boost entrepreneurial skills and opportunities
(4) Strengthen the voice and agency of youth as change-makers in this time of crisis and beyond
GenU Frontrunner Countries responding to COVID-19
YuWaah! – Generation Unlimited in India – is working to reassess its short-term strategic direction and align with the immediate needs of India’s young people in the face of the pandemic. For example, it is developing an online career guidance and counseling network with the aim of reaching 16 million young people. It is also exploring a coalition of job-tech companies to accelerate youth entrepreneurship and the placement of young people to employment opportunities. Further, Yuwaah! is working with partners to engage at least one million young people as volunteers to contribute to the COVID response, including through U-Report and social media.
UNICEF South Africa is collaborating with UNDP to explore a last-mile ecosystem model that would leverage a network of unemployed youth as community ambassadors to facilitate the sales and distribution of various types of goods in the community during COVID-19. Utilizing existing technologies, the intention is to create digital jobs for youth, support existing township businesses, and facilitate market inclusion for township consumers as well as small-scale manufacturing and distribution. Together with partners, a transaction platform to manage cashless payments has already been launched and partners will help with logistics management through an “Uber-type” distribution function.
All schools in Nigeria have closed indefinitely due to COVID-19 and more than 39 million students have been removed from the traditional educational context. To mitigate the negative impacts on education outcomes, UNICEF and GenU are working to increase the availability of e-learning platforms, while also utilizing traditional media – including radio and TV – to ensure equal opportunities for learning for those with limited or no access to the internet. Further, through the Generation Unlimited Youth Challenge, young people will be engaged in designing solutions that address the pandemic’s impact specifically on education and mental health.
GenU partners responding to COVID-19
Children's Investment Fund Foundation
The Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) is scoping a multi-million dollar investment to start, support and accelerate digital learning for primary, secondary and tertiary education in India, with the goal of delivering digital learning opportunities for one million children in the state of Rajasthan hit hard by COVID-19. Further, CIFF seeks to catalyze digital learning across India and to build capabilities for its more effective utilization beyond the pandemic. CIFF believes that this could dramatically reduce costs and improve the consistent delivery of education to all students – and girls in particular. CIFF is also looking to expand its work in digital learning to Sub-Saharan Africa to respond to school closures, the lack of access to health services by young people, increasing mental health issues, and the rise in youth unemployment.
Secondary education is critical to prepare youth for the workforce and life, but projections from 2019 indicate that of the 1.5 billion school-aged children in low- and middle-income countries well over half – 870 million – will not be on track to acquire the minimum level of secondary skills by 2030. COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate these trends due to the impacts of widespread, prolonged school closures and the associated financial crisis and squeezed government budgets. The Education Commission together with GenU, UNICEF, the Global Business Coalition for Education, and the World Economic Forum will undertake a review of “Financing in the Second Decade.” Building on the Commission’s projection modelling and analytical expertise, the review will present the latest data and trends that are relevant for education and financing ministers and global decision makers as they navigate the critical choices around education investments that arise as a result of the pandemic.
International Labour Organization (ILO)
GenU and the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth (DJY) will jointly host the Knowledge Facility, a one-stop-shop for resources for both partnerships and their members to learn, share, and engage on youth education, decent work, and engagement through curated tools, data and resources. Building on the existing DJY Knowledge Facility, GenU and DJY will continually expand the facility with high-quality content of relevance for all partners and audiences. As the lead entity of the Global Initiative on DJY, the ILO has also committed to take a lead role with UNICEF in selected countries with Bangladesh, Nigeria and Sri Lanka in the first wave to convene partners and stakeholders to operationalize and advance the country-level work and identify areas of investment and action.
The World Bank
The World Bank has announced the approval of operational support in developing countries of up to $160 billion globally in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The response is tailored to addressing the health, economic and social shocks that countries face, and aims to strengthen their pandemic response and health care systems, protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery. School closures can affect learning, increase drop-out-rates and cause children to miss their most important (or only) meal. Over a longer time, it can also increase learning poverty and reduce future economic opportunities. To help respond, the Bank is supporting countries with technical knowledge products, advising on remote learning at scale, and facilitating the transition after the pandemic and protecting human capital.