New Delhi: Schools for more than 168 million children worldwide have been completely closed for almost a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
And about 214 million children around the world, or one in seven, have missed more than three-quarters of their in-person learning, new data released by UNICEF showed.
Also, data released by UNESCO showed that more than 888 million children globally continue to face disruptions to their education because of full and partial school closures.
As the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic approaches, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore reminded about the catastrophic education emergency worldwide lockdowns have created.
“With every day that goes by, children unable to access in-person schooling fall further and further behind, with the most marginalized paying the heaviest price,” said Fore.
“We cannot afford to move into year two of limited or even no in-school learning for these children. No effort should be spared to keep schools open, or prioritize them in reopening plans,” added Fore.
An UNICEF report on school closures shows that 14 countries globally have remained largely closed from March 2020 to February 2021, two thirds of which are in Latin America and the Caribbean, affecting nearly 98 million schoolchildren.
On Tuesday, UNICEF unveiled “Pandemic Classroom,” a model classroom made up of 168 empty desks, to call attention to the education emergency and raise governments’ awareness to keep schools open.
Each of the 168 empty desks represents one million children living in countries where schools have been almost entirely closed.
“We do not want shuttered doors and closed buildings to obscure the fact that our children’s futures are being put on indefinite pause,” said Fore. “This installation is a message to governments: We must prioritise reopening schools, and we must prioritise reopening them better than they were before.”
UNICEF urges governments to prioritize every student’s unique needs, with comprehensive services covering remedial learning, health and nutrition, mental health and protection measures in schools.