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Over 1bn school children worldwide affected by COVID-19, says Guterres

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted the largest educational disruption in history that has affected more than 1 billion school students worldwide, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday, August 4, 2020.

António Guterres
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. Photo credit: UN /Mark Garten

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education ever.

“In mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting over 1 billion students,” Guterres said in a video address, marking the launch of a new global policy brief on Education and COVID-19.

It is true that the schooling crisis existed long before the pandemic, as around 250 million children were out of school worldwide, but COVID-19 amplified it and brought the world to the edge of what Guterres described as a “generational catastrophe.”

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While commending efforts to keep up education via distant learning, the UN chief said that many students stayed out of reach, for example, learners with disabilities, those in minority of disadvantaged communities, displaced and refugee students.

The schooling crisis has, in turn, had a knock-on effect on child nutrition, child marriage, gender equality and fair distribution of unpaid care work, among other things.

As elaborated by Guterres, the proposed brief addresses the crisis management through four steps, including the reopening of schools, increase of education funding, expansion of outreach, and modernisation of education through boost of investments in digital literacy and infrastructure.

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