The Transformative Role of Education in Times of COVID-19 and Beyond – Challenges and Opportunities

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94% of the world’s student population, up to 99% in low and lower-middle-income countries.[1]

The ability to respond to school closures changes dramatically with the level of development: for instance, during the second quarter of 2020, 86% of children in primary education have been out of school in low-income countries compared with just 20% in countries with high-income. [2]

There is a need for the education sector to reflect on the transformative potential of education for both the learners and society and ensure that going forward we proactively leverage on the call for change that the pandemic contexts highlights, without defaulting to business as usual. We must ensure that our educational interventions will not remain at the level of covering the basics of access and miss out on the opportunity to pursue transformations.  While delivering the basics of education is essential, especially for those in vulnerable situations, this approach might not be sufficient to address the persisting inequalities and may continue to marginalize groups of the population from the dividend of quality education.

Therefore, the big question is how do we ensure that we have robust educational policies, and take approaches that leverages on the opportunity for change in the current context to ensure that we deliver on the transformative nature of education that can foster interconnectedness, address inequalities and promote social justice? 


  • Discuss the current context amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on education
  • Reflect on the role of education in fostering interconnectedness, strengthening children’s agency, and addressing inequalities and promoting social justice in the times of COVID-19 and beyond
  • Identify policies and approaches to drive the transformative role of education in the current context and going forward.


  • Steven, child from GNRC Peace Clubs in Tanzania
  • Emira, child from GNRC Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director and Representative, UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa
  • Dr. Scherto Gill, Senior Fellow and Executive Secretary, Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace
  • Dr. Anantha Duraiappah, Director, UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development
  • Dr. Kezevino Aram, President Shanti Ashram, India, and Co-chair, Arigatou International Advisory Group, and Co-moderator, Religions for Peace
  • Prof. Mohamed Abu-Nimer, Professor, School of International Service, American University, and Senior Advisor, KAICIID Dialogue Centre

Ms. Maria Lucia Uribe, Executive Director, Arigatou International Geneva

Tuesday 17, November 2020, at 11:30 – 13:00 GMT / 12:30 – 14:00 CET

2_The Transformative Role of Education in Times of COVID-19 and Beyond – Challenges and Opportunities.

[1] Policy Brief: Education during COVID-19 and beyond, United Nations, August 2020

[2] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). COVID-19 and human development: Assessing the crisis, envisioning the recovery. 2020 Human Development Perspectives, 2020, New York: UNDP, available at

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