Almost two years into the coronavirus pandemic, more than 635 million children globally remain affected by full or partial school closures, the United Nations said Monday in a report that called the setbacks to education “nearly insurmountable.”
The report from the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said that many of these children had lost basic numeracy and literacy skills from the prolonged loss of classroom learning.
UNICEF reported that 70 percent of 10-year-olds in low- and medium-income countries could not comprehend simple text. This is an increase from 53 percent prior to the coronavirus pandemic, which began in March 2020.
Notable data points included Brazil, where 75 per cent of second graders are behind in reading in some states, as opposed to 50 percent prepandemic; South Africa, where children are up to a year behind what they should be in reading.
According to the report, two-thirds of third graders in the United States scored below grade level in mathematics in 2018, compared to half of those who scored below grade in 2019.
“Quite simply, we are looking at a nearly insurmountable scale of loss to children’s schooling,” Robert Jenkins, the chief of education at UNICEF, said in the report. “While the disruptions to learning must end, just reopening schools is not enough. Students need intensive support to recover lost education.”
Globally, the report said, “disruption to education has meant millions of children have significantly missed out on the academic learning they would have acquired if they had been in the classroom, with younger and more marginalized children facing the greatest loss.”
Although remote learning is being used to reduce the impact of school closings, it is not possible or practical in areas where there is no internet access. Many students from low-income countries don’t return to school even when schools reopen.
In Uganda, schools reopened earlier this month for the first time since the pandemic. However, educators estimate that as many as one-third of students who took jobs to support their families might not return.
Education is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, benchmarks established by the United Nations to help measure basic improvements in people’s lives. According to the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which monitors each goal on its website, the coronavirus has “wiped out 20 years of education gains.”
Source: NY Times