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ShareJuly 13, 2020 For the first time in the history of humanity, an entire generation of children globally had to stop their education: the closure of schools to contain the spread of Coronavirus in the most acute phase of the emergency left 1.6 billion of children and adolescents out of school - about 90% of the entire student population. To date, 1.2 billion students have been affected by the closure of schools, before the emergency they were much less than a quarter, 258 million. The profound cuts in the education budget and the growing poverty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic could force at least 9.7 million children to leave school forever by the end of this year, while millions of other children will have serious delays in learning.
Appeal to governments: "Responding to a global educational emergency by investing in education"
The path to ensuring that all children can go to school by 2030 was already at risk, and had not made significant progress, but the Covid-19 emergency it risks handing over a generation of poverty to a generation of children. This is the dramatic complaint contained in the new global report of Save the Children, the international organization that for over 100 years has been struggling to save children at risk and guarantee them a future, entitled "Save our education - Save our education" released today , with which governments and donors of the international community are asked to respond to this global educational emergency by urgently investing in education.
Before the outbreak of the emergency, 258 million children were already out of school.
Before the outbreak of the emergency, 258 million children and adolescents were already out of school. The Save the Children report analyzes, through an index of vulnerability, the risk that children in many middle and low-income countries run the risk of not returning to school after closure due to Covid-19. The index takes three parameters into consideration: the pre-emergence school dropout rate, gender and income inequalities among children leaving school and the number of years of school attendance. The analysis of this index highlights how in 12 countries - Niger, Mali, Chad, Liberia, Afghanistan, Guinea, Mauritania, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal and Ivory Coast - the risk of increasing early school leaving is extremely high. However, in 28 other countries the risk is high or moderate. A danger that is even more concrete for girls than boys, many of whom may be forced into early marriage.
Even with respect to the risk of dropping out of school to enter the job market due to the recession triggered by the pandemic which aggravates the condition of families, girls are much more exposed. In fact, 9 million girls of primary school age are at risk of never setting foot in a classroom, compared to 3 million children.
Countries' ability to maintain investment in education in an emergency period
The report also analyzes the devastating effects that the Covid-19 epidemic could have on education, also due to the shift in budgetary resources that governments could devote to responding to the emergency rather than investment in education. Taking into consideration a series of economic scenarios as a consequence of the recession caused by the Covid-19 emergency and their possible impact on the GDP of the middle and low income countries, it was estimated the ability of these countries to maintain the expected investments in education .
In the worst case scenario, where governments were forced to drain 10% of the resources now allocated to education to cover other emergency response related expenses, $ 192 billion would be missing by the end of 2021 for education in low-income countries. "About 10 million children may never go back to school: this is an unprecedented educational emergency. This is why governments must urgently invest in learning, while on the contrary we are at risk of unparalleled budget cuts, which will see them explode the disparities between rich and poor and between boys and girls. We know that the poorest and most marginalized children who were already the most at risk have the greatest damage, without access to distance learning or any other type of education, for half the "academic year," said Inger Ashing, Save the Children CEO.
500 million children have not had access to distance learning
I am in Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, due to the pandemic, 22 to 33 million children could be added to those who live below the poverty line, living with less than $ 1.90 a day. Despite efforts by governments and organizations, some 500 million children have not had access to distance learning and many of the poorest and most vulnerable children may not have literate parents who can help them. Having lost months of learning, many will struggle to recover lost skills or lack of learning, increasing the likelihood of dropping out.
The closure of schools - underlines the Organization - goes far beyond the loss of education for many children: it has left them far from those safe places where they could play with friends, eat and access health services, including those for mental health . Indeed, teachers are very often at the forefront and protecting children who could be abused at home. With the closure of schools, these protective measures have ceased. Suffice it to say that 352 million children around the world (47% of whom are girls) are not having access to school-guaranteed meals.
Reducing investment in education, in addition to the Covis-19 epidemic, could be a serious blow to millions of children. Taking into account the latest economic growth projections since June 2020, the Save the Children estimate predicts that without urgent action to protect families, the number of children living in poor families could rise between 90 and 117 million in 2020, with an average estimate of 105 million. This increase in poverty would result in the number of children dropping out of school growing between 7 and 9.7 million. In many of the 12 main high risk countries analyzed by the report index, there were already high dropout rates and a clear division in school attendance resulting from economic and gender inequality.
Poorer children run the risk of being forced into child labor
Exclusion factors that risk being exacerbated due to the consequences of the pandemic: it is precisely the poorest children, in fact, who run the most risk of being forced into child labor. Gender-based violence, marriage and early pregnancy are phenomena that increase when girls are forced to stay out of school. According to UNFPA estimates due to the pandemic, 2 million more girls worldwide could suffer from genital mutilation in the next decade, interrupting global efforts to end this practice. The question of the resources available to invest in education is fundamental, especially in a time of recession risk. Debt repayments still occupy a sizable portion of the revenue that developing countries owe to creditor governments. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, 34 out of 73 low-income countries were crushed by this spending and the risk is that this scenario may worsen when the recession will cause a significant drop in revenue. Instead, it is money that could be used to respond and counter the health and economic crisis, thus not going to affect investments in education to cover other budget items.
An increase in funding for education is needed
In many countries, Save the Children has provided distance learning materials such as books and home learning kits to support students during the block, working closely with governments and teachers to provide lessons and support via radio, television, telephone, social media and messaging apps. Save the Children urges governments and donors to ensure that children out of school have access to distance learning and protection services. Save the Children also calls for an increase in funding for education, in addition to the $ 35 billion that will have to be made available by the World Bank.