UNITED NATIONS, Sep 17 (APP):The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said the world is facing an education crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has left nearly 77 million children shut out of the classroom for the past 18 months.
The agency said that Bangladesh, the Philippines and Panama are among the countries that kept schools closed the longest. In total, an estimated 131 million students in 11 countries have missed more than three-quarters of their in-person learning. Around 27 per cent of countries worldwide continue to have schools fully or partially closed.
“As classes resume in many countries around the world, millions of students are heading into a third academic year without stepping foot in a classroom,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said. “The losses that students are incurring from not being in school may never be recovered.”
To call attention to the 18 months of lost learning, deferred potential and uncertain future, and to urge governments to reopen schools as soon as possible, UNICEF and partners will close down their digital channels today for 18 hours.
School closures have created a shadow crisis for children, UNICEF said. Beyond falling behind on their education, many children are missing out on school-based meals and routine vaccinations, experiencing social isolation and increased anxiety, and being exposed to abuse and violence.
For some, school closures have led to drop out, child labour and child marriage.
Many parents have been unable to continue with their employment while balancing their children’s care and learning needs.
Some have lost their jobs entirely, pushing their families into poverty and creating a deeper economic crisis.
While remote learning has been a lifeline for millions of schoolchildren, access to the technology and the quality of the curriculum have been uneven even within communities and school districts.
As experience shows that schools are not the main drivers of transmission and that it is possible to keep them open for in-person learning, UNICEF urged governments, local authorities and school administrations to reopen schools as soon as possible and take all possible steps to mitigate against transmission of the virus in schools.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is joining UNICEF, together with the World Bank, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission Humanitarian Aid operation, the LEGO Foundation and the WEF Global Shapers community of world youth.
UNICEF said the right to go to school is central to every child’s development, safety and well-being, it said. Yet in too many countries, classrooms remain closed while social gatherings continue to take place in restaurants, salons and gyms.
The agency believes “this generation of children and youth, cannot afford any more disruptions to their education.”
New numbers from UNESCO, released this Thursday, show that schools are now fully open in 117 countries, with 539 million students back in class, ranging from pre-primary to secondary levels.
This represents 35 per cent of the total student population across the world, compared to 16% who returned to school in September 2020, when schools were only open, or partially-open, in 94 countries.
Around 117 million students, representing 7.5 per cent of the total, are still affected by complete school closures in 18 countries. The number of countries with partly open schools, has declined from 52 to 41 over the same period.
In all countries that had prolonged full school closures, education was provided through a combination of online classes, printed modules, as well as tuition through TV and radio networks.