UNDP warns that school closures to stem COVID-19 have left many children without an education

UNDP warns that school closures to stem COVID-19 have left many children without an education

Thursday, May 21, 2020

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NEW YORK, United States (CMC)— The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Wednesday called on the international community to rapidly invest in the ability of developing countries to tackle the complexities of the coronavirus (COVID-19), as it warned that school closures to stem the spread of the virus have left an estimated 60 per cent of the world's children without an education.

In its latest publication titled “Human Development Perspectives COVID-19: Assessing the impact, envisioning the recovery,” the UNDP estimates the percentage of primary school-age children who are not getting any schooling, adjusted to reflect those without Internet access, is now at “global levels not seen since the 1980s”.

It said with classrooms shuttered and stark divides in access to online learning, its assessments show that 86 per cent of children in primary education are now effectively out-of-school in countries with low human development, compared with just 20 per cent in countries with very high levels of development.

But it said, hope is within reach for countries to close the yawning education gap, by providing more equitable Internet access.

The UNDP said education is just one of the measurements used to assess global human development, combined with health and living standards and that for the first time since the concept was introduced in 1990, the world teeters on the verge of going backwards, during the course of this year.

Noting that “the world has seen many crises over the past 30 years, including the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09”, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, said that “each has hit human development hard but, overall, development gains accrued globally year-on-year.

“COVID-19, with its triple hit to health, education, and income, may change this trend”, he warned.

The UNDP said that declines in fundamental areas of human development are being felt across most countries, rich and poor, in every region.

The global death toll of the coronavirus has exceeded 300,000, while the global per capita income this year is expected to fall by around four per cent.

“The combined impact of these shocks could signify the largest reversal in human development on record. Moreover, this does not include other significant effects, such as progress towards gender equality, where negative impacts on women and girls span economic, reproductive health, unpaid care work and gender-based violence,” the UNDP said.

It said the coronavirus crisis not only magnifies inequalities in education and that the drop in human development is expected to be much higher in developing countries that are less able to cope with the pandemic's social and economic fallout than richer nations.

“This crisis shows that if we fail to bring equity into the policy toolkit, many will fall further behind”, said Pedro Conceição, UNDP Director of the Human Development Report Office.

“This is particularly important for the 'new necessities' of the 21st century, such as access to the Internet, which is helping us to benefit from tele-education, tele-medicine, and to work from home”.

But the UNDP report noted that implementing equity-focused approaches, is possible and affordable,  flagging that it would cost just one per cent of the extraordinary COVID-19 fiscal support packages, which countries have already committed to, in order to close the Internet gap for low and middle-income countries.




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