The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) underscored on Tuesday that if children faced another year of school closures, the effects will be felt for the next generation.
“As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as cases continue to soar around the world, no effort should be spared to keep schools open or prioritize them in reopening plans,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
Fore said that at the peak of pandemic lockdowns, these affected 90 percent of the students worldwide and left more than a third of school children with no access to remote education.
She added that the number of out-of-school children increased by 24 million.
“Children’s ability to read, write and do basic math has suffered, and the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy have diminished” UNICEF executive director said.
Fore said that despite the increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic, many countries have opted to keep schools closed, some for nearly a year.
“Without school meals, children are left hungry and their nutrition is worsening. Without daily interactions with their peers and a reduction in mobility, they are losing physical fitness and showing signs of mental distress. Without the safety net that school often provides, they are more vulnerable to abuse, child marriage and child labor,” she said.
Fore has called authorities that schools must be among the first to reopen once lifting lockdown restrictions.
“Catch-up classes should be prioritized to ensure that children who have been unable to learn remotely are not left behind,” she added.