It’s now nearly two years since the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and education systems all over the world are still not up to par. Education in its self is on the brink of collapse! For hundreds of millions of children in 48 out of the 196 countries in the world, learning is at extreme risk of collapsing, with up to 16 million children unable to resume. This is due to factors such as a lack of COVID-19 vaccines, climate change, displacement, a lack of digital connectivity, and attacks on schools. According to an analysis done by Save the Children, a humanitarian aid organization for children, the education systems in the DRC, Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan, Libya, and Mali are at ‘extreme risk’, with Syria and Yemen following closely behind.
With each passing day, it becomes harder for children who are out of school to catch up on lost learning, and they become more vulnerable to hunger, abuse, violence, exploitation, child marriage, and child labor – especially girls and children in low-income countries, refugee camps and warzones. This news comes as academic school years are re-starting in many parts of the world, with millions of children still not able to go to class due to COVID-19 safety measures, the pandemic’s economic impacts, and continued attacks on the education system.
Before the pandemic hit, 258 million children from all over the world were already out of school, with the situation deteriorating even further now. Save the Children urges leaders to learn from the COVID-19 education crisis, which has disrupted learning for over 90% of the world’s learners. They need to shock-proof education systems to make sure that the futures of children in a quarter of the world’s countries don’t get stripped from them. The child rights organization has been rehabilitating schools in Yemen, therefore taking children a step closer to achieving their dreams. The economic impacts of the pandemic alone deem an estimated 10-16 million children at risk of not resuming studies, which may trigger parents to pull children out of school to go work or get forced into early marriage.
Another crisis exacerbating the already huge risk is the climate change crisis. Schools have been damaged by extreme weather conditions, and a growing number of children will likely have to flee their homes, leaving behind their education. The international community, with the inclusion of donors, should step up and solve some of the issues that have endangered these education systems, such as climate change, conflict, and vaccine inequity. The charity blames the recent Global Education Summit, for failing to raise the $5 billion target for global education, and brands it for its weak commitment to the world’s poorest children.
The new data from the recent Save the Children research found that on average, compared to children in middle-income countries, children in low-income countries have lost 66% more of their lifetime schooldays during the pandemic. In low-income countries, girls missed 22 percent more schooldays than boys. The organization calls on global leaders to place education spending as a priority and send children safely back to school. Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children, stated that it is well known that the poorest children are the ones who have suffered the most from the closure of schools due to COVID-19.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is just one of the factors threatening education and children’s lives today and tomorrow. Nearly 50% of the 75 million children whose education is disrupted each year do so from climate and environmental threats such as floods, cyclones, and drought. Such climate and environmental events have already contributed to more than 50 million children being forced from their homes. Repugnant attacks on schools are still ongoing in countries like Yemen and Nigeria. These attacks, in addition to the continuing huge youth unemployment, little primary school education, and the digital divide in accessing remote learning, are creating a perfect storm for the next generation.
In order to save the education of children and prepare for the future, donors and Ministries of Education must work to deal with these threats to schooling. The affected countries require much more additional investment in their education systems from international donors. Ashing further stated that since children have suffered so much from this pandemic, this dreadful experience calls for immediate action to build ‘forward’, taking this opportunity to build hope and positive change, rather than build ‘back’ to how things were.