Angelina Jolie: We need to provide a continuity of education for kids around the world

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Visits Iraq

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether schools should reopen for in-person education in the fall or late summer. In Europe, most countries are planning to reopen schools, because the overwhelming majority of European countries have flattened their coronavirus curves, and their daily “new cases” are in the dozens, not hundreds or thousands. Here in America, many states are seeing daily new cases in the thousands. We suck. We suck at pandemics. We suck at public health. And no, if I had a school-aged kid, I would not believe that schools were safe here in America. Schools are always breeding grounds for germs, bacteria, lice and viruses, and that’s without an enormous public health crisis happening. Still, the Trump administration is trying to force schools to reopen in the fall and they’ve sent Betsy DeVos out to make an ass out of herself constantly.

Why am I bringing this up? Because Angelina Jolie had some stuff to say about education and school reopenings. To be fair, I totally understand her perspective as a global advocate for girls and women, and I understand that she’s looking at the larger trends worldwide and she’s speaking about refugee children specifically (??) but… the public health crisis.

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie called on the world to invest in education for refugee children at a virtual UNESCO and UNHCR event on Monday.

“We’re meeting today to discuss how we can prevent this disruption from becoming permanent for millions of refugee children,” Jolie said in her opening remarks. “If you were a refugee child before the pandemic, you were already twice as likely to be out of school than other children.”

About 1.6 billion children were pushed out of school due to COVID-19, UNICEF reported in April. Prior to the pandemic, there were already almost 260 million children missing out on an education around the world, according to a UNESCO report.

“To my mind, there’s one fundamental question in this, because of how the world so often speaks of and talks about refugees: Do we allow [the world] to regard refugees as a burden? Or do we help them to see that they are individuals with huge potential, who, if given the right tools, can develop their minds, contribute to society, and help stabilize their home countries? There is no better investment that we can make — and, of course, it is also their basic human right that must not be denied,” Jolie added.

“For millions of children and youth, schools are a lifeline of opportunity as well as a shield. Classrooms offer protection — or at least a reprieve — from violence, exploitation and other difficult circumstances. Without urgent practical assistance, some of the children left without schooling worldwide due to the coronavirus may never set foot in a classroom again. We must find ways to try to ensure access to continuity of education for young people across the world.

[From Global Citizen & The Daily Mail]

She spoke about the same issues back in April, when she talked about the longterm effects of isolating kids with abusive parents, and how kids around the world need to go back to school just so they’ll have an exit from their abusive homes. There’s a lot of nuance to these discussions and, again, she’s talking about education globally, and education specifically for refugees. But I also feel like the general rule of thumb should be the same in every country, in every locale: the kids can’t go to school if the pandemic is raging.

Angelina Jolie at UN for a Speech on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Avalon Red.

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43 Responses to “Angelina Jolie: We need to provide a continuity of education for kids around the world”

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  1. Sierra says:

    I agree with her that school was a sanctuary for many abused children.

  2. Call_me_al says:

    Here’s my opinion.
    Schools should be open with accommodations unless the hospitals are overwhelmed and/or the community is in total shutdown.
    If people can still dine-in at IHOP, shop at Bass Pro Shop, get nails done, and go to the gym, kids can go to school.
    Being out of school increases child abuse and hunger, as AJ noted. Plus it hurts their development in other ways.
    All non-essentials should close before schools.

    • OriginalLeigh says:

      I agree that the schools are a wonderful sanctuary for so many children; however, opening schools is only going to exacerbate the current health crisis. The hospitals where I live and in many other states are already overwhelmed. The ICU at the hospital closest to my home is at 180% capacity.

      Kids should not have to go to school to seek refuge from abuse or get a hot meal. We should ideally be trying to figure out how to change that.

    • smcollins says:

      I think it was Desantos who used the “if people can go to Home Depot…” argument about schools being open and someone rightfully pointed out that people don’t go to Home Depot 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Even trying to implement these hybrid models of days off & on, half classroom/half remote learning just seems like it would be a giant mess. What about transportation? How would children even be safely bussed to school while maintaining social distancing? Are they going to double the amount of school busses to keep them at half capacity? There’s so much more to consider than just the school buildings themselves.

      • Laura says:

        Agreed. There is so much more to “going to school” thank going to a store to shop or a restaurant to eat. It’s not just about the children who attend school, it’s about the teachers, the teachers’ aids (if a school still has them), the office administrators, the janitorial staff, the maintenance staff, the lunch staff, the transportation staff, the coaches, and I’m sure I’m still missing someone’s job at a school.

        We closed down schools back in April when the daily infection rates were around 20K. Now we’re going to open schools when the daily infection rates are around 60k? That’s lunacy.

    • winosaurus says:

      It should not be on our underfunded schools to try to figure this out.

      Our teachers should not be the ones on the front lines risking everything. They already stand in front of bullets for our children, now we want them to come in with little to no PPE, no way to mandate masks be worn? School districts are literally telling teachers to make sure their wills are up to date, and some are developing templates for letters to send out for the inevitable deaths.

      If one student catches it and goes to school, you could most likely have to quarantine the ENTIRE school, Staff AND their families, it would be devastating. The people out there shopping and eating out? They are the most likely to spread the virus, the rest of us are doing our best to stay home, go out when necessary, and protect everyone.

      School via distance learning isn’t the best, but it’s a hell of a lot better than killing off our teachers and students enmass because someone needs a baby sitter for their kids 8 hours a day.

    • Ennie says:

      Where I live, going back to school would be a sanitary nightmare: full to the top buses, crowds at the entrance, crowded classrooms (more than 40 Per class), not enough money to fulfill sanitary conditions (soap, get, towels). I am scared as I am very allergic and have had some pulmonar scares last year.

    • Fiona says:

      Hurry up and get these kids back in school so we can go back to ignoring the 1,528 other ways the world is failing its children. Priorities, people …

      The systemic ills of child abuse, neglect, hunger, and poverty were NEVER THE SCHOOLS’ PROBLEMS TO FIX IN THE FIRST PLACE.

      I’m so tired of idealistic elites crowing about all these things that we MUST DO RIGHT NOW OR ELSE. The “let them eat cake” of it all is getting tiresome.

      Nearly 80% of the schools in my district (2nd largest in the state) are moderate to severely overcrowded. You can’t “social distance” that. Ain’t happening.

      (BTW, social distancing is irrelevant if the virus is airborne.)

      (PSSSST – the virus is airborne.)

      My district is also one of the wealthiest in the region, and happens to be chock full of entitled twatwaffles who proudly get their “news” from some drunk bohatchy wingnut on Fox. Anyone who would trust them to not send their plague rat spawn to school sick, possibly with a deadly disease they don’t “believe” exists, is an idiot.

      I get it that people reeeeeeeeally want their free daycare back. But teachers don’t want to DIE. And teachers not wanting to DIE wins.

  3. tempest prognosticator says:

    The school opening debate is an interesting one. Both sides have compelling points. I am grateful I don’t have a school-aged child right now.

  4. Aang says:

    What I find interesting about the whole school debate is the response of the MAGA crowd. They hate teachers unions, taxes, and big government. But they love the subsidized childcare provided by schools. They’ve been screaming “I have to work who is going to watch my kids” since the schools here closed. And they think that anyone who wants the schools closed until it is safe must be on welfare. They claim that schools are indoctrinating children with “cultural Marxism” and they wack off to the idea of personal responsibility. But they will happily turn their children over to these “marxists” for 35+ hours a week because they can’t be bothered to educate them at home. I feel for parents in a tight spot and I know homeschooling isn’t easy. I also enjoy the inconveniencing of the MAGA hypocrites.

    • Also Ali says:

      But they will happily turn their children over to these “marxists” for 35+ hours a week because they can’t be bothered to educate them at home.


      I have two school age children and online schooling is not ideal, but this is a pandemic. Ideal is out the window for the time being.

      The lack of financial support at the federal level for local educational systems shows that the concern for the well being of kids as the reason for schools being re-opened is less than genuine.

      Gov Cuomo continues to impress me.

  5. Izzy says:

    If you need to have these “should we reopen” meetings on Zoom to keep everyone safe from COVID, then no, you shouldn’t reopen.

  6. ctop says:

    Managing 30 kids in a classroom and possibly 500-1500 3-18 year old students on a daily basis is in no way similar to dining at IHOP, going to Home Depot or a salon.

    This argument baffles me. We are talking about 8 hours in a classroom with the same kids crawling all over each other day after day! We are talking about situations where if a parent of one of the 30 kids tests positive, that the entire school will have to close. If a teacher gets sick what happens? What if the students live with elderly grandparents? Do the teachers get covid related sick days allocated or are the forced to burn through the BS amount they are given. These issues are real and not applicable to dining at IHOP. Other countries that are reopening have cases in the tens and hundreds after flattening their curves. Our country has thousands and counting;

  7. Slowdown says:

    In the UK universities are resorting to online teaching until January (I just had a chat with my supervisor about this). I have a feeling that many European countries (including the UK) are boasting about something they can’t control. We don’t know what will happen come September with the flu season. In Portugal for instance things are getting much worse and only a few classes were allowed back at school. Kids are spreaders and the school environment is particularly prone to the speeding of the virus.
    I mean what Jolie says is unfortunately by now a truism, but in the face of a pandemic there are a lot more parameters to this and it would be more useful for the moment to call for monitoring abuse and opening up safe shelters and food banks, and think of new solutions for an old problem in a new context.
    Sometimes I just feel that non-specialist advocates should leave the path open for professionals to talk.

    • Lady D says:

      You can’t monitor abuse you don’t know is taking place. It will probably help a lot of children, but a lot of children never talk about the abuse they’re enduring either. Add me to the I’m so damn glad I don’t have a child in school, list.

  8. Louisa says:

    Honestly I’d rather go back to full on lock down for a month again to get this under control before Sept and maybe then we’ll be in a better situation to open the schools. I know that is never going to happen so I’m torn. I have a 15 year old and we don’t live near any of his friends so he’s been pretty much alone with a few exceptions since March. If he can’t go back to school in Sept I know it’s going to start affecting him mentally. And at this point, I don’t believe as a country we will get this under control before there is a vaccine. So keep the schools closed until then? But obviously I understand and respect the argument for keeping them closed. I don’t know….. if everyone would just wear their damn mask and stop acting like fools!

    • FHMom says:

      I am with you. I have 1 leaving for college in month as well as a freshman and a senior. The freshman needs to be in school for geometry, biology, Spanish and socialization. He does not do social media and doesnt keep in touch with friends. The one leaving for college has depression and these last few months have been hell for her. I feel like they really, really need to be in school at least once a week for 3 or 4 hours. Not ideal, but better than nothing. Also, teachers need to get better at online teaching. Posting assignments is not teaching. The schools had since March to plan for this. I am in NJ and we worked so hard to get the Covid situation under control. States with raging virus, of course, are going to have to wait. Lock it down again, please.

      • E says:

        @FHMOM Teacher are trying. Many of them, like me, had 24 hours to adapt their classes to online learning. Some districts had rules about how many assignments teachers could assign, whether or not teachers could hold “class” (because not everyone student could be expected to log on at the same time due to access, family situations, etc.), and if assignments could be graded. They did this in the middle of the pandemic, when nothing was certain and they, like you, were trying to care for their own families. The classroom dynamic, whether virtual or online, relies on student interaction and if students aren’t participating or interacting, there is not much we (as teachers) can do. Online learning, by its nature, places more emphasis on student initiative, and most teachers understand that students’ minds may have been elsewhere due to the pandemic or they have more distractions at home and did their best to work with them. I wish you would extend this same consideration to teachers. Posting assignments online isn’t ideal but assignments can be meaningful and instructional (provided the kid does them), but it is still teaching. Who do you think creates the assignment? Who knows the standards, skills, and content to emphasize? Who grades the assignments and offers feedback? I think online teaching should go beyond posting assignments, but if the kids won’t check their email or do the assignment or mute you in your Zoom lecture, what can you do? So, please, be a little more understanding of what teachers are up against and realize that there are many more factors/people involved than just a teacher and a computer.

      • FHMom says:

        Oh, I do understand. I taught for 15 years in an inner city high school. I am pro teacher. I blame the administrators for lack of planning and leadership. They need to do better. There has to be a better model to follow. Some of my kids’ teachers met with them as a class and individually. Most did not. Let’s face it. Many teachers are out of the loop with technology. The schools were not prepared for this. I fear it’s going to last another 10 months or so. The schools have to do better for the children.

      • Alexandria says:

        I would say teachers worldwide are trying to get the hang of virtual class and this is really testing them. My country is developed, schools are well budgeted and teachers earn a lot. But they will still struggle because I don’t think any ministry of education is fully prepared for online or home based learning. For example some needy students did not have laptops or web cameras. This pandemic has tested the continuity plans of businesses and institutions like religious places and schools. If we get a vaccine, I think schools in my country would proceed to accelerate online learning tools or cloud adoption and practise home based learning maybe once a quarter, as a drill.

        But of course, if the ministry of education in the US does not support their teachers it’s tragic.

  9. Mireille says:

    It’s disheartening to think that millions of children, including refugees, do not have the luxury of online schooling, homeschooling, or access to laptops and Internet. Millions of children live in impoverished conditions where the traditional classroom setting is the only means of getting an education. Even here in the U.S., there are many regions that don’t have the infrastructure or the funding to do online schooling. Refugees and those living in impoverished areas are the most vulnerable to this pandemic — loss of education, opportunities, and safety. I have lost my job and I am quarantining here in NYC apt, but my worries are nothing compared to a refugee family living in a camp, in a makeshift home, dependent on countries and charity to help them not just live, but survive. When does it ever get back to “normal” for them, especially for the kids? Education was always a safe outlet for children. Not now, not anymore with the pandemic. I have made donations when I can — whatever I am going through cannot compare to people who have less than nothing.

    As for Betsy DeVos, she and the Trump admin, needless to say, should be fired. They want schools to reopen in the Fall without providing any federal-level guidance AND ON TOP OF THAT, with the threat of cutting funding if they don’t reopen. Many schools are underfunded as it is, how can they reopen with security measures being implemented to ensure the health and safety of all those attend school?

    Trump and et all want the schools to reopen, show some effing leadership and increase the funding and establish a team to set up protocols on the best measure to ensure a safe reopening. Otherwise, shut the eff and go back to your McDonalds meal in your bunker and let the grown-ups talk.

  10. Jerusha says:

    I worked as a high school librarian for forty years. I cannot count how many of my colleagues-teachers, administrators, office staff, cafeteria and cleaning staff-suffered from cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and other afflictions. School workers shouldn’t have to risk their lives either. I am the healthiest person you could ever meet and I still wouldn’t go back. So glad I retired five years ago.

  11. Melissai says:

    I think we have to acknowledge our privilege. I absolutely believe kids should not go back to school during a pandemic. But millions of kids don’t have access to online learning. My sister is a 2nd grade teacher in an inner city school. She only had 4 out of 29 kids get online. The others either didn’t have a laptop, wifi or home structure. Those kids are moving to 3rd grade, whether their ready or not. We are going to have a serious gap of educated students. It boggles my mind that Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos (to name a few)will not commit their wealth to help rural & inner city schools. That’s not to say these are the only communities struggling.

    • Mireille says:

      Jeff Bezos cares only for his pocketed trillions. Amazon is making a concerted effort in doing TV commercials showing how much their employees “love” working at Amazon after being blasted by the public for how they fired warehouse employees protesting unsafe work environment due to Covid. He — and others like him — could use a better PR strategy like donating a billion dollars to schools, so children could have access to tools that will allow them to be safe and learning from home. The lack of investment into the U.S. school system over the years — whether by government or philanthropy — has been beyond pathetic.

  12. Bavarian says:

    We are not really going back to normal in Europe, especially concerning the Schools. My state in Germany already announced that ist not a full opening…most likely every Kids goes every second week like we do here right now. We will get an additional payment from 300 Euro per child from the goverment and most of us will buy Laptops and Printers.

  13. Noodle says:

    I am a former high school teacher, and now I am a professor of teacher education and teach 100% online now (my university went 100% online in March when the first closures began). I am also a mom to three kids, 15, 12, and 5. I would love nothing more than to send my kids to school. I love and adore them, but seriously, they need to GTFO as soon as possible or I’m going to lose my mind. That said… there is no way I’m sending them to school in September, in my area of Southern California. The risks they face in school are far too great. Even with a death rate of .02% (which is really low), that still equates to 10-15,000 children across the nation. And what happens when one kid tests positive in a school? The entire school will have to close down before everyone gets sick and that will happen on day one. We already have a teacher shortage in America, and now we want to kill off a percentage of that population? Who would want to become a teacher in these circumstances? We have lower numbers in recruiting, and have an incredibly difficult time retaining teachers. The average length of a teaching career is about 5 years, and that is without a pandemic looming over their heads. These people work their butts off, for low pay, poor benefits, Incredible stress and trauma, and we expect them to risk their lives NOW? Nope.

    The alternative isn’t great. Distance learning sucks for the most part, especially when it’s organized and planned with no time to really do it correctly. But we have to protect the physical first, because without physical safety, nothing else can happen. Maslow’s hierarchy is 100% true and relevant here. Protect the kids. Protect the teachers. Protect the families.

  14. Dani says:

    I get not sending the kids to schools etc but what happens to families who don’t have alternative child care and depend on two incomes? I already lost my job after having to be home with my kids from mid March to current day and probably well in to the rest of the year. My family is struggling without my paycheck. Not everyone has a savings to pay for additional childcare (some people don’t even make enough to make it worth going to work and paying for a nanny) or a relative to depend on in such situations. I understand not sending the kids back full time but they also need to offer us some other ideas or help on what to do with the other say, 2-3 days. It’s also a huge disaster in New York City because we have a Mayor who just does what’s good for him and a Governor who wants to be a dictator and they are constantly going at each other and disputing what the other says and at the end of the day the only people suffering here are our kids.

  15. Dazed and Confused says:

    I am a teacher. I live in a very red state. Our Covid positives are above 10%. My district wants us to be back in less than a month. Apparently only 15% of parents around here plan on keeping their kids home.

    All of the schools in my area are putting out their reopening plans this week. Last night, my district had a board meeting to discuss the options. During the meeting, one of the board members said they wanted to have teachers sign a waiver so if we contract Covid while teaching we can’t apply for workman’s comp.

    It’s amazing to see how “teachers are so important — I can’t do what they do” from April/May has morphed into “get back to school and babysit my child — we don’t care if you die!” It’s very disconcerting.

  16. crogirl says:

    Maybe I am reading this wrong, she says:
    “We must find ways to try to ensure access to continuity of education for young people across the world”

    I don’t see where she is asking for schools to reopen, she’s asking for access to education.

    • Tasz says:

      I agree with your interpretation of her comments. She seems to be advocating for discussion, awareness and action regarding the plight of refugee children and their access to education resources.

    • MarJo says:

      Yes, she is only advocating for access to education.

  17. Thinking says:

    Everyone is very concerned about the how the US is doing but ur deaths per million are still lower than quite a few European countries. So you should take a bit of heart. Things arent the worst there in terms of Covid. As for schools. Less than 30 per cent of children (and that is being generous) are doing online learning. The rest of the kids are in situations of staying home alone or sitting in cars all day while their parents work on site (i see it all the time) . Children being abused is at an all time high because there are no “unexplained” absences. There will have to be a reckoning when this is all over. It is a total mess. I dont know if schools will open where we are. No cases of Covid here in over a month and we are still shut down. Businesses are all closed here. Malls all have ‘for lease’ signs everywhere. Economy is finished so I dont suppose it matters if we ever open up again. Really nothing to open !

  18. Faithmobile says:

    She is speaking to access for refugees not reopening American Schools. I like what Denmark is doing. They are moving their classes outdoors. Here in the Bay Area the plan for elementary schools is three hour days, 3 days a week, mandatory masks, no recess, no eating onsite(they have been given out prepackaged meals).

  19. MarJo says:

    We’ll have to reopen schools gradually, It is too dangerous to do otherwise.

  20. Ennie says:

    As a Middle aged teacher, I am thinKing of checking up my will before going back to work. That’s how I feel. Scared.

  21. Ennie says:

    My irresponsible cousin has COVID with milder symptoms and he was at a party yesterday because “it is not really that bad”, while deaths and illness spike in different areas of the state. He is lucky, older people I knew have died already. And a friend of miNe is in risk for blood clots if/when she Catches it.

  22. Tami says:

    I don’t mean this disrespectfully to the teachers on here, but many of us have stayed in the workplace since the pandemic started as we are essential workers. I worked more in March and April then I ever have in my life. My kids did ok with on line learning but they suffered academically, mentally and emotionally. It’s hard on kids. You teachers are essential workers too. Our kids need you. Yes, it is scary especially at first to go out, but I wear a mask and stay clean and I’ve been safe in the workplace out of the house. Obviously if you’re medically high risk (which I’m not- just middle aged) it’s different. I want to encourage you teachers that it can be safe to return to work. I think some of the fear is that you’ve been home for so long and it is hard and scary to leave. I understand schools are more germ infected but you can refuse hugs, keep your work station clean, and eat alone. If schools cause outbreaks then that’s different, but I’m not sure we know that yet.

    • Ennie says:

      Many kids live with their grandparents, at least in the poverty -struck areas where I work.

    • E says:

      @ TAMI You do know that teachers kept working, right? We didn’t all go home and bake bread. Most teachers worked more than they ever had in March and April too…personally, I worked from 5 am to 7 or 8 pm M-F and 10 am to 8 pm on Sundays. You say you don’t want to be disrespectful but then say teachers are scared because they’ve been home for so long like we were hiding out or on an extended snow day. You also say you know schools are germ infected, but totally brush it off with “don’t hug kids.” We don’t have PPE, we don’t even have our own work stations…we’re in a room with 30 kids for hours and many schools/districts have no plan for masks or social distancing. Has it occurred to you that many teachers also have children at home, so we don’t need to be told how online learning affects kids? Your comment was disrespectful and patronizing.

  23. NeoCleo says:

    I don’t have children so I don’t have to go through this agony. But if I did, I would probably be opposed to them returning while the epidemic is raging. We need to be VERY cautious about reopening schools.

  24. LadySwampwitchGivsNeauxFux says:

    I think all Betsy DuVos needs is to have the camera trained on her face to make an ass of herself. Talk about walking talking privileged stupid Karenvirus

  25. Notafan says:

    Here is a link to a calculator for estimating risk by county of social gatherings. Note that it’s not a risk of getting the disease (that depends on distance, masks, hand washing, etc). Just the likelihood that someone will be infected.