Ten mil­lion kids ‘may never re­turn to school’ af­ter virus

Published July 13, 2020, 7:52 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

LON­DON, United King­dom – The coro­n­avirus pan­demic has caused an “un­prece­dented ed­u­ca­tion emer­gency” with up to 9.7 mil­lion chil­dren af­fected by school clo­sures at risk of never go­ing back to class, Save the Chil­dren warned Monday.

The Bri­tish char­ity cited UNESCO data show­ing that in April, 1.6 bil­lion young peo­ple were shut out of school and univer­sity due to mea­sures to con­tain COVID-19 – about 90 per­cent of the world’s en­tire stu­dent pop­u­la­tion.

“For the first time in hu­man his­tory, an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren glob­ally has had their ed­u­ca­tion dis­rupted,” it said in a new re­port, Save our Ed­u­ca­tion.

It said the eco­nomic fallout of the cri­sis could force an ex­tra 90 to 117 mil­lion chil­dren into poverty, with a knock-on effect on school ad­mis­sions.

With many young peo­ple re­quired to work or girls forced into early mar­riage to sup­port their fam­i­lies, this could see between seven and 9.7 mil­lion chil­dren drop­ping out of school per­ma­nently.

At the same time, the char­ity warned the cri­sis could leave a short­fall of $77 bil­lion in ed­u­ca­tion bud­gets in low and mid­dle in­come coun­tries by the end of 2021.

“Around 10 mil­lion chil­dren may never re­turn to school — this is an un­prece­dented ed­u­ca­tion emer­gency and gov­ern­ments must ur­gently in­vest in learn­ing,” Save the Chil­dren chief ex­ec­u­tive Inger Ash­ing said.

“In­stead we are at risk of un­par­al­leled bud­get cuts which will see ex­ist­ing in­equal­ity ex­plode be­tween the rich and the poor, and be­tween boys and girls.”

The char­ity urged gov­ern­ments and donors to in­vest more funds be­hind a new global ed­u­ca­tion plan to help chil­dren back into school when it is safe and un­til then sup­port dis­tance learn­ing.

“We know the poor­est, most marginal­ized chil­dren who were al­ready the fur­thest be­hind have suf­fered the great­est loss, with no ac­cess to dis­tance learn­ing – or any kind of ed­u­ca­tion – for half an aca­demic year,” Ash­ing said.

Save the Chil­dren also urged com­mer­cial cred­i­tors to sus­pend debt re­pay­ments for low-in­come coun­tries – a move it said could free up $14 bil­lion for ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams.

“If we al­low this ed­u­ca­tion cri­sis to un­fold, the im­pact on chil­dren’s fu­tures will be long last­ing,” Ash­ing said.

“The prom­ise the world has made to en­sure all chil­dren have ac­cess to a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion by 2030, will be set back by years,”’ she said, cit­ing the United Na­tions goal.

The re­port listed 12 coun­tries where chil­dren are most at risk of fall­ing be­hind: Niger, Mali, Chad, Liberia, Afghanistan, Guinea, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Ye­men, Nige­ria, Pak­istan, Sene­gal and Ivory Coast.

Be­fore the cri­sis, an es­ti­mated 258 mil­lion chil­dren and ado­les­cents were al­ready miss­ing out on school, the char­ity said.