Ten million kids 'may never return to school' after coronavirus

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The Covid-19 pandemic has caused “the biggest global education of our lifetime" with nearly 10 million children affected by school closures at risk of never going back to class, a leading charity warned on Monday.

Save the Children cited UNESCO data showing that in April, 1.6 billion young people were shut out of school and university due to social measures – around 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.

The British charity warned 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.

The charity warned the pandemic could leave a $77 billion shortfall 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 unparallelled budget cuts which will see existing inequality explode between the rich and the poor, and between boys and girls."

Students wearing protective face masks during a class at a reopened school amid an easing of coronavirus restrictions in Dili, Timor Leste, also known as East Timor, June 29, 2020. The government reopened some qualified schools with cover-19 protocol. EPA

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.

It also called for children to continue to learn while schools are closed, through inclusions distance learning. In response to the school closures, In response to school closures, UNESCO has recommended the use of distance learning programs and open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education.

Save the Children also urged commercial creditors to suspend debt repayments for low-income countries -- which it said could free up $14 billion for education programmes.

"If we allow this education crisis to unfold, the impact on children's futures will be long lasting," Ms Ashing said.

"The promise the world has made to ensure all children have access to a quality education by 2030, will be set back by years, " she said, referring to a United Nations sustainable development goal.

The report said Niger, Mali, Chad, Liberia, Afghanistan, Guinea, Mauritania, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal and Ivory Coast were the countries most at risk of mass school attrition.

“Children who live in low-income countries, in refugee camps and war-zones may never return to school – especially girls. Each day that passes, they grow more vulnerable to hunger, violence, child labour or child marriage. Their future hangs in the balance,” the report said.

“Schools not only provide children with a space to learn. For many children school is also a safe place where they can receive meals, access healthcare, including mental health services, and play with their friends. Teachers can be children’s frontline responders and protectors. But with school closures, children are missing out on these essentials the school environment can offer,” it added.

Before the crisis, an estimated 258 million children and adolescents were already missing out on school, the charity said.

Updated: July 13, 2020 04:25 AM

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