The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says the world faces an education crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left nearly 77 million children shut out of the classroom for the past 18 months.
UNICEF is closing down its social media channels on Thursday for the next 18 hours to send one message to the world: #ReopenSchools for in-person learning as soon as possible.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is joining UNICEF, the World Bank, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission for Humanitarian Aid operation, the LEGO Foundation, and the WEF Global Shapers community of world youth.
For UNICEF, the right to go to school is central to every child’s development, safety, and well-being. Yet, in too many countries, classrooms remain closed, while social gatherings continue to hold in restaurants, salons, and gyms.
The agency believed “this generation of children and youth, cannot afford any more disruptions to their education.”
New numbers from UNESCO, released on Thursday, showed that schools are now fully open in 117 countries, with 539 million students back in class, ranging from pre-primary to secondary levels.
This represents 35 per cent of the total student population across the world, compared to 16 per cent who returned to school in September 2020, when schools were only open, or partially open, in 94 countries.
Around 117 million students, representing 7.5 per cent of the total, are still affected by complete school closures in 18 countries. The number of countries with partly opened schools has declined from 52 to 41 over the same period.
In all countries that had prolonged full school closures, education was provided through a combination of online classes, printed modules, as well as tuition through TV and radio networks.
UNESCO and its Global Education Coalition partners have been advocating for the safe reopening of schools, urging full closures to be used as a measure of last resort.
Since the onset of the pandemic, schools have been completely closed for an average of 18 weeks (4.5 months) worldwide.
If partial closures are accounted for, the average duration of closures represents 34 weeks (8.5 months) worldwide, or nearly a full academic year.