Schools worldwide hit hard by coronavirus

Published July 16, 2020, 10:28 PM

by Manila Bulletin

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.