COVID-19 has devastated communities all around the globe, continuing to result in long-term consequences for families and their wellbeing, especially for those in countries and communities already reeling from years of war and instability. In addition to the pandemic’s effect on families’ health, economic livelihoods, and more, COVID-19 will have a long-term impact on children’s education by taking them out of their regular learning environments. Worldwide, more than 90% of all  school-aged children are out of school, amounting to more than 1.5 billion who are missing out on critical time for learning, support, and social-emotional growth.

Refugee families and those living in communities affected by crisis and conflict are among the most vulnerable to losing access to quality education. Children in these contexts have suffered loss and trauma, and it’s crucial that they have predictable learning spaces and structured routines to build social-emotional skills and prepare themselves to re-enter school. As the global pandemic forces children and educators to adapt to remote-learning opportunities that rely on several resources and internet-access, children in crisis-affected communities without the same level of digital access will continue to get left behind.

With a $2 million grant to the IRC’s global education response for the COVID-19 pandemic, the LEGO Foundation is partnering with the IRC to address this critical need and provide quality, remote learning opportunities to the most vulnerable. The program, called Play Well, will adapt and create play-based social-emotional learning content to be delivered via radio and audio services, and other digital platforms where internet-access is limited, in addition to creating modular content for caregivers to support a nurturing learning space at home.

For children without any access to distance or in-person education, the content will provide critical support for social-emotional learning; for the children who are able to access some type of distance or in-person learning, the content will serve to complement standard academic learning provided by government services. The IRC’s education teams will be monitoring and collecting feedback, continuously improving content and delivery.

Play Well builds upon the IRC’s innovative approach and expertise in designing and implementing educational content for crisis settings. With a global team of education experts in 20 countries, the IRC has a wealth of content in social-emotional learning and caregiver support that is localized to each community. The LEGO Foundation’s research and leadership in learning through play has found that play supports children’s emotional development and helps their ability to cope with stress and adversity. By combining this expertise to create joyful, engaging distance learning content, Play Well will reach up to 1.5 million children and 350,000 caregivers in Latin America, East Africa, and the Middle East over the next year.