Covid-19: A Generation At Risk?
21 janvier 2022

For the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has not only become a global health crisis but also been an economic and social catastrophe, which has literally shaken the world and whose consequences have not yet befallen the world. The pandemic has deprived millions of young people of their right to education, exacerbated a creeping learning crisis, and today threatens the very future of generations. For the International Day of Education, Aide et Action predicts a pessimistic picture of the near future of education all over the world.

At the peak of the crisis, 1.6 billion children, of which 760 000 girls, found themselves deprived of education. States immediately put in place educational alternatives, but 4 out of 5 opted for digital technology, leaving aside nearly 465 million children[2] who did not have access to computers or the internet. Even today, more than 30,000,000 children are deprived of a « traditional » apprenticeship and suffer the total or partial closure of schools.

According to the World’s Bank Simulation Model, the Southeast Asia countries are categorised as ‘pessimistic scenario’ whereas schools were closed for more than three months out of the ten-month academic year, and effectiveness of the mitigation measures implemented by the governments, including remote learning, is low and have not been able to reach the majority and the most marginalised population. 

Learning Poverty Gap Growing Bigger

Long before the appearance of Covid-19, it was already estimated that more than 617 million children suffered from « learning poverty »: lack of qualified teachers, adequate materials, time dedicated to working due to the many domestic tasks, electricity sometimes to study at nightfall, 1 in 6 children could not read or write a simple sentence even after several years spent on school benches.

It was estimated that 53% of children in low- and middle-income countries could not read or understand a story in the last year of primary school, an already high rate that could rise to 80% in some schools.  According to UNICEF, learning poverty in Southeast Asia ranges from 3% (in Viet Nam and Singapore) to a third of children (in Indonesia) and over half of children (in Cambodia). Southeast Asian children in Grade 5 who are only able to read and write simple words and do basic mathematics ranges from 2%  to 50%, according to the South East Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) in 2020.

A Generation at Risk

Education loss will be difficult to make up for in view of the current education conditions. In many countries, most of which are deprived of vaccines, schools are still partially or totally closed, and there is not enough support for teachers to take care of children in a very challenging situation, and offer them remedial courses to bring them up to standard.

Studies have shown that the loss of learning opportunities even for a brief time, has significant impacts on future learning and career outcomes. The World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF now estimate that this generation of students stands at risk of losing $17 trillion in lifelong income in present terms, or about 14% of current global GDP, due to school closures linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond the economic consequences, such a loss of learning will deprive an entire generation of the ability to integrate socially, to become free and enlightened citizens capable of contributing to tomorrow’s world and to face the multiple crises that are sure to occur.

Aide et Action is now mobilizing and recommending governments:

– To reopen schools as quickly as possible while respecting sanitary conditions and barrier gestures and to develop educational alternatives that are truly accessible to all children

– Ensure that teachers receive adequate support and training to take care of the most vulnerable and traumatized children

More importantly, we call for the construction and implementation of free, inclusive and quality education systems in order to guarantee the right to quality education for all children, especially the most marginalized populations. It is also important to allocate to these education systems the means – both human and financial resources – adapted to ensure that no one is left behind. This is why we call on development aid donor countries to prioritize aid to education, particularly basic education. 

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