UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic has brought the largest disruption of education ever, with schools closed in more than 160 countries in mid-July, affecting over one billion students.
Also, the UN chief said at least 40 million children worldwide have neglected out on schooling “of their important preschool year.”
Therefore, Guterres cautioned that the world faces “a generational catastrophe that could squander untold human potential, sabotage many years of progress, and fuel settled in imbalances.”
Even before the pandemic, Guterres said, the world faced “a learning crisis,” with more than 250 million children out of school, and only a quarter of secondary school youngsters in developing countries leaving school “with basic skills.”
According to a global projection covering 180 countries by the UN education agency UNESCO and partner organizations, some 23.8 million additional children and youths from pre-primary school to university level are at risk of dropping out or not having access to school next year due to the pandemic’s economic impact.
“We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people,” Guterres said in a video message and a 26-page policy briefing. “The 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.”
According to the policy briefing, “the unparalleled education disruption” from the pandemic is far from over and as many as 100 countries have not yet announced a date for schools to reopen.
UNESCO’s assistant director general for education Stefania Giannini told reporters the Paris-based agency plans to hold a high-level virtual meeting in the fall, likely during the second half of October, to secure commitments from world leaders and the international community to place education at the forefront of recovery agendas from the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, low- and middle-income countries faced an education funding gap of $1.5 trillion annually, Guterres said, and the gap in education financing globally could increase by 30 per cent because of the pandemic.
News source: The Associated Press