Pandemic created largest disruption of education in history: UN

Press Trust of India United Nations | Updated on August 04, 2020 Published on August 04, 2020

The Covid pandemic has created the largest disruption of education in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion students in all countries and continents, and an additional 23.8 million children and youth could drop out or not have access to school next year due to its economic impact alone, said the UN Secretary General’s policy brief on education.

Education is the key to personal development and the future of societies. It unlocks opportunities and narrows inequalities. It is the bedrock of informed, tolerant societies, and a primary driver of sustainable development. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education ever, Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a video statement launching his policy brief on ‘Education and Covid-19’ on Tuesday.

He said that in mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting over 1 billion students, and at least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on education in their critical pre-school year.

The policy brief said that the pandemic has exacerbated education disparities and learning losses due to prolonged school closures threaten to erase progress made in recent decades, not least for girls and young women.

Some 23.8 million additional children and youth (from pre-primary to tertiary) could drop out or not have access to school next year due to the pandemic’s economic impact alone, the brief said.

The great equaliser

Guterres said as the world faces unsustainable levels of inequality, we need education — the great equaliser — more than ever. We must take bold steps now, to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.

Guterres voiced concern that parents, especially women, have been forced to assume heavy care burdens in the home and despite the delivery of lessons by radio, television and online and the best efforts of teachers and parents, many students remain out of reach.

Learners with disabilities, those in minority or disadvantaged communities, displaced and refugee students and those in remote areas, are at highest risk of being left behind, he said.

The UN chief underlined that the world already faced a learning crisis before the pandemic as more than 250 million school-age children were out of school and only a quarter of secondary school children in developing countries were leaving school with basic skills.

Now, we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities. The knock-on effects on child nutrition, child marriage and gender equality, among others, are deeply concerning, he said.

Launching the policy brief, he said it focuses on a new campaign with education partners and United Nations agencies called ‘Save our Future’ and decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.

The campaign will amplify the voices of children and young people and urge governments worldwide to recognise investment in education as critical to Covid-19 recovery.

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Published on August 04, 2020
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