Maximpact Blog

Coronavirus: School Closures Elevate Online Learning



The novel coronavirus COVID-19 March 3, 2020 (Photo by Prachatai)

By Sunny Lewis for Maximpact

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 12, 2020 ( News) – It began just 11 weeks ago. A pneumonia of unknown cause detected in the city of Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei province, was first reported to the country office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in China on December 31, 2019.

Just 11 weeks later, on March 11, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the disease now known as the novel coronavirus COVID-19 “a pandemic.”

At a news conference, Dr. Tedros said there are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives. Thousands more are fighting to recover in hospitals across the globe.

“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” said Dr. Tedros. “WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death,” Dr. Tedros told media from around the world.

“This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus, and we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time,” he explained.

The international community has asked for US$675 million to help protect states with weaker health systems as part of its Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan. To date, approximately $44 million has been donated.

“This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector – so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight,” warned Dr. Tedros.

“I have said from the beginning that countries must take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimize impact,” he urged.

He summarized what countries must do in four key areas:

  • First, prepare and be ready.
  • Second, detect, protect and treat.
  • Third, reduce transmission.
  • Fourth, innovate and learn.

To reduce transmission, health officials in many countries have advised people to avoid large gatherings, a strategy known as social distancing. As a result, 39 countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and South America have announced or implemented school and university closures, according to UNESCO, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization based in Paris.

Twenty-two countries have shut schools nationwide, impacting almost 372.3 million children and youth.

A further 17 countries have implemented localized school closures to prevent or contain the spread of COVID-19. Should these countries also order nationwide school and university closures, it would disrupt the education of more than 500 million additional children and youth.

Countries affected by COVID-19 are putting in place national responses in the form of learning platforms and other tools. UNESCO is providing immediate support to countries, including solutions for inclusive distance learning.

School closures, even when temporary, carry high social and economic costs, and their impact is severe for disadvantaged boys and girls and their families, especially difficult for refugees and migrants.

In the United Kingdom, there are now 486 confirmed cases – 387 in England, 60 in Scotland, 20 in Northern Ireland and 19 in Wales, according to health officials.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, “We don’t think schools should be closing” during the coronavirus outbreak, which has already claimed the lives of eight people in the UK.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a joint press conference with Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Chris Whitty and the Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance on the coronavirus at No 10 Downing Street, London, UK. March 9, 2020 (Photo by Andrew Parsons courtesy No 10 Downing Street)

Public Health England in February advised, “There is no need to advise any of these pupils, student or staff to avoid normal activities or educational settings unless they have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.”

But some schools have already shut their doors over concerns that students and staff could have been infected with COVID-19 while off school premises during their half-term holidays.

Top independent school Cransley School in Northwich, Cheshire, has already closed after some students and staff who went to northern Italy over half-term began to show flu-like symptoms.

And schools across Britain could close within the next few days. The UK is currently in the “containment” phase – the first stage of the government’s four-part plan:

Containment, Delay, Mitigation, and Research, which runs alongside the other three phases.

Prime Minister Johnson is poised to move Britain to the Delay phase of his coronavirus action plan on Thursday, which means social distancing. The measures come the day after the UK recorded the biggest single-day increase in coronavirus cases, and the number of deaths rose to eight.

At a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee today, Johnson is expected to approve a decision that will require most UK residents to work from home, close schools, and place limits on large gatherings.

The Republic of Ireland went on coronavirus lockdown Wednesday evening, with schools, colleges and child care facilities closed as of today until March 29. Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made the announcement hours after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled from next week, the Scottish government is advising, according to BBC reports. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said this strategy will free up emergency services, including police and ambulance crews, to deal with coronavirus.

Sturgeon said it is not necessary to close schools and universities yet, but that possibility will remain under review.

Refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria who are trying to rebuild their lives are deeply disrupted when their attempts to learn English so they might find jobs in their adopted country are halted as schools close their doors.

Those who are learning online in courses like the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) offered by the global consulting group Maximpact are the fortunate ones. They can carry on their ESOL learning whether schools close their doors or not.

Meanwhile, with Maximpact courses, online live training for ESOL can still continue without any disturbance in the comfort of students’ homes, whether they are refugees or others who need to learn English.

Maximpact’s pre-entry ESOL classes are delivered live online allowing refugees to attend the English classes from anywhere, overcoming difficulties such as potential exposure to COVID-19. Maximpact applies traditional learning methods with new approaches, to create an adult-learning environment that is relevant and effective.

Maximpact’s Employment, Education and Migrant Advisor in Northern Ireland, Caroline Kennedy, says of beginner ESOL students, “Most are very simple people who have never used technology before.”

Online learning is the perfect solution for the continuation of learning even during potential school closures.

The end goal of the Maximpact online ESOL programme is to increase the number of refugees entering employment and further develop the programme throughout the rest of the UK.

To find out more about Maximpact’s online ESOL courses, contact