As the Covid-19 epidemic enters its third year and 23 countries have not yet fully opened their schools, education is at risk of becoming the “biggest divider”.

New York, March 30, 2022 – With the Covid-19 epidemic entering its third year, 23 countries, with about 405 million school-age children, still have not fully opened their schools and many school-age children are at risk of dropping out, according to a new report from UNICEF today. Published report.

Do children really learn? The report provides headlines, country-level information on the effects of COVID-19 outbreaks on children and school closures. It also includes an updated analysis of children’s pre-epidemic learning situations. The report states that about 147 million children have been deprived of face-to-face education in more than half of the last two years. This number is equivalent to 2 trillion hours of face-to-face learning rate worldwide.

Katherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF, says: “When children are unable to communicate directly with their teachers and peers, their learning is damaged. When they are unable to communicate with their teachers and peers in any way, their learning loss can be permanent. Increasing inequality in access to learning means the risk of education becoming the biggest divider, not the biggest equalizer. It is our problem that the world cannot educate its children. “

In addition to data on learning disabilities, the report points to new evidence that many children do not return to school after reopening. Liberian data show that 43 percent of public school students did not return when schools reopened in December 2020. Between March 2020 and July 2021, the number of out-of-school children in South Africa tripled from 250,000 to 750,000. In Uganda, after two years of school closure, about 1 in 10 school-age children did not return to school in January 2022. In Malawi, the dropout rate among girls in secondary education increased by 48 percent between 2020 and 2021, from 6.4 percent to 9.5 percent. In Kenya, a survey of 4,000 adolescents aged 10-19 found that 16 percent of girls and 8 percent of boys did not return to reopened school.

Some out-of-school children are the most vulnerable and marginalized children in society. Children in this group have minimum basic literacy or math skills and are isolated from the safety net provided by the school. This puts them at risk of exploitation and lifelong poverty and deprivation.

The report highlights that out-of-school children are most affected, with pre-epidemic data from 32 countries and regions, where the level of learning is quite poor. This situation is probably exacerbated by the level of learning lost due to the epidemic. The current education rate in the analyzed countries is very slow; It is predicted that most school-age children will take seven years to learn the basic reading skills they should have acquired in two years and 11 years to learn basic math skills.

In most cases, there is no guarantee that school-going children will learn the basics. Studied in 32 countries and territories, a quarter of 8th graders under the age of 14 have basic reading skills; More than half of the people do not have the math skills that are expected from 7-year-olds in the second year.

Russell went on to say: “Even before the epidemic, the most marginalized children were left behind. As the epidemic enters its third year, it does not seem possible for us to return to normal. We need a new normal: children need to enter the classroom, evaluate where they are in their learning time, give them the support they need to make up for what they have missed, and provide teachers with the necessary educational and learning resources. There are so many types it’s hard to say. “


Editor’s note:

Source: UNESCO UIS, Uganda National Examination Board Study

Out-of-school children are defined as children who are not enrolled in school despite being of primary and secondary school age. The situation is different from the situation of school-age children whose schools are partially or completely closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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