Starting last April, 1.6 billion young people were shut out of schools due to measures taken by their governments to contain COVID-19, Save the Children said, citing UNESCO data. This is about 90 percent of the world’s entire student population.
“For the first time in history, an entire generation of children globally had their education disrupted,” Save our Education Executive Director Inger Ashing said. Many young people have been required to work and many girls have been forced into early marriage to help support their families, Around 10 million of these children may never return to school, he said.
“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…. We know the poorest, most marginalized children who were already the farthest behind have suffered the greatest loss, with no access to distance learning – or any kind of education –for half an academic year.”
The report listed 12 countries where children are most at risk, nine are in Africa – Niger, Mali, Chad, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Mauritania. One is the Middle East – Yemen. Two are in Asia –Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Philippines has had its own problems in its educational system because of the pandemic. We are fortunate that only a few weeks were left in the last school year, and so our schools were able io make quick adjustments, including holding virtual graduation ceremonies.
For the incoming school year 2020-21, the Department of Education has announced that it has now enrolled over 19.5 million — 19,534,836 for kindergarten to Grade 12, Of this total, 18,543,788 are in public schools while 968,154 are in private schools.
But this number of enrollees for school year 2020-21 is only about 80 percent of last school year’s 27 million students. There are some 7 million students whose families have chosen to skip this school year because of the health risks posed by COVID-19 and possibly economic reasons related to job losses due to the lockdowns.
Our problem this coming school year may not be as big as those of the 12 countries listed by Save Our Education, but it is a substantial one. It will call for big budgets which the government now has difficulty raising because of the losses incurred by business shutdowns and the millions spent on government aid for the millions who lost their incomes because of the lockdowns.
The impact on education here and around the world is looming large as nations struggle to meet the many problems involved in reopening schools this coming school year. We trust that our own education officials are equal to this critical task.