United Nations official cites high cost of schools’ closure

Published February 10, 2021, 10:23 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The United Nations office in Manila has expressed its readiness to work closely with the Philippine government on the required health protocols needed in the implementation of face-to-face learning amid the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.

UN Philippines Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez (UN Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Cost of closing schools in now much higher – from a social, health and economic viewpoint – than allowing children for ‘in-person-learning’. UN Philippines is ready to work hand-hand with the Philippines on the required protocols,” said UN Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzáles in a tweet.

Gonzales is not the only UN official who is batting for in-person learning, citing overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closures on children, as well as the increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had earlier stressed that children cannot afford another year of school disruption as the cost of closing schools due to the pandemic has been devastating.

“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 earlier said in a statement.

At the peak of pandemic lockdowns, the UNICEF official said the cost of closing schools affected 90 percent of students worldwide and left more than a third of schoolchildren with no access to remote education. 

According to Fore, the number of out-of-school children is set to increase by 24 million “to a level we have not seen in years and have fought so hard to overcome.”

Fore noted that the 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.

On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said some of his friends who are engaged in school business, especially Chinese schools, remain afraid of potential COVID-19 infection.

“It’s gonna take a lot of convincing and it won’t be the government that needs convincing,” Locsin said in a tweet.