Imperial College London

New project to explore how the pandemic is affecting Ghanaian children

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children in Ghana

A Business School academic has secured funding to analyse the impact of the coronavirus on children’s learning and development in Ghana.

Dr Elisabetta Aurino, an Imperial College Research Fellow, has been awarded funding by UK Research and Innovation through the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund for a project which looks at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s education and broader development in Ghana.

The project examines how the coronavirus has undermined children’s education through school closures, unequal access to remote learning activities, lack of access to food and healthcare and the impact of economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. The study will be conducted with children aged 10-12 through phone interviews, along with their parents and teachers.

Dr Aurino’s project is among twenty new projects to be awarded by the UKRI that focus on understanding and developing solutions to mitigate the short and long-term health, social and economic consequences of COVID-19 for some of the world’s most disadvantaged people.

“Information and robust data about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting children’s learning, health and food security in developing countries is scarce." Dr Elisabetta Aurino Imperial College Research Fellow

These new awards are the first tranche to be announced by UKRI funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund and will directly address the negative impacts of COVID-19 across developing countries where communities are already vulnerable due to long-term conflict, food and water shortages and crowded living conditions.

Dr Elisabetta Aurino said: “Information and robust data about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting children’s learning, health and food security in developing countries is scarce. This funding will go a long way to help us gather the data that is urgently needed to help governments and international organisations implement measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on this vulnerable group.” 

Supporting vulnerable children

Ghana’s schools have been closed due to the pandemic crisis since March and will remain closed until 2021. Remote learning has started, but its effectiveness will ultimately vary by children’s access to technology and parental support. Learning levels are already staggeringly low and the pandemic has further highlighted the inequalities that exist between children of different socioeconomic status and between boys and girls.

Ghana

With schools closed, children’s education is likely to deteriorate further and they are at greater risk from other issues caused by the pandemic such as reduced household income and lack of food due to the suspension of school meals. The gaps in their learning may also continue after they leave school, ultimately undermining the country’s overall development path.  

Girls are disproportionately affected by major health and economic crises, further widening the gender gaps in Ghana’s education system. They are also at higher risk of sexual exploitation, being forced into early marriages and childbearing and dropping out of school.

Dr Aurino’s project, which is supported by Innovations for Poverty Action, Ghana, will provide the Ghanaian government with unique, much-needed data to inform remote learning efforts, back-to-school campaigns and social protection, not in only in Ghana, but also in broader Sub-Saharan Africa.  

The results of the project will provide new academic and policy insights for Ghana and broader global educational efforts in the wake of the pandemic. The project is supported by two international partners - the University of Pennsylvania and New York University.

Professor Francisco Veloso, Dean of Imperial College Business School said: "Congratulations to Elisabetta for this remarkable achievement. This prestigious award reflects the important work Elisabetta and her colleagues from across the Business School are doing to address major societal challenges especially in developing countries such as Africa. Social enterprise, health and education are key areas within our research mission, which are even more relevant in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic."

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Laura Singleton

Laura Singleton
Communications and Public Affairs

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