LONDON (AFP) – The coronavirus pandemic has caused an “unprecedented education emergency” with up to 9.7 million children affected by school closures at risk of never going back to class, Save the Children warned yesterday.
The British charity cited UNESCO data showing that in April, 1.6 billion young people were shut out of school and university due to measures to contain COVID-19 – about 90 per cent of the world’s entire student population.
“For the first time in human history, an entire generation of children globally have had their education disrupted,” it said in a new report, Save our Education.
It said the economic fall-out of the crisis could force an extra 90 to 117 million children into poverty, with a knock-on effect on school admissions.
With many young people required to work or girls forced into early marriage to support their families, this could see between seven and 9.7 million children dropping out of school permanently.
At the same time, the charity warned the crisis could leave a shortfall of USD77 billion in education budgets in low and middle income countries by the end of 2021.
“Around 10 million children may never return to school – this is an unprecedented education emergency and governments must urgently invest in learning,” Save the Children Chief Executive Inger Ashing said.
“Instead 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.”
The charity urged governments and donors to invest more funds behind a new global education plan to help children back into school when it is safe and until then support distance learning.