Deep budget cuts to education and rising poverty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could force at least 9.7 million children out of school forever by the end of this year, with millions more falling behind in learning, Save the Children warns in a new report launched on Sunday, July 12.
Girls are likely to be much worse affected than boys, with many forced into early marriage. As the impacts of the recession triggered by COVID-19 hits families, many children may be forced out of school and into labor markets.
In its report, Save the Children is calling for governments and donors to respond to this global education emergency by urgently investing in education as schools begin to reopen after months of lockdown.
The agency is also urging commercial creditors to suspend debt repayments by low-income countries—a move that could free up $14 billion for investment in education.
“It would be unconscionable to allow resources that are so desperately needed to keep alive the hope that comes with education to be diverted into debt repayments,” said Janti Soeripto, president and CEO of Save the Children.
The agency calls for governments to use their budgets to ensure children have access to distance learning while lockdown measures remain, and to support children who have fallen behind.
The Save our Education report reveals the devastating effects the COVID-19 outbreak is set to have on learning.
In a mid-range budget scenario, the agency estimates that the recession will leave a shortfall of US$77 billion in education spending in some of the poorest countries in the world over the next 18 months.
In a worst-case scenario, under which governments shift resources from education to other COVID-19 response areas, that figure could climb to an astonishing US$192 billion by the end of 2021.
The impending budget crunch comes after lockdown measures saw a peak of 1.6 billion children out of school, globally.
Before the outbreak, 258 million children and adolescents were already out of school.
Vulnerability Index in the report shows that in 12 countries, mainly in West and Central Africa but also including Yemen and Afghanistan, children are at extremely high risk of not returning to school after the lockdowns lift—especially girls.
In another 28 countries, children are at moderate or high risk of not going back to school and of the longer-term effects of widening inequalities.
In total, Save the Children estimates that some 9.7 million children could be forced out of school by the end of this year.
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