At the peak of the global lockdowns imposed to counter the spread of COVID-19, 1.6 billion children were out of school. A staggering number, but if they all return to school as society begins to adjust to a new normal, then it’s just a few months of lost learning. Teachers will be able to help them catch up, and the long-term effects will be manageable.
Only not all of them will. Even before this crisis, 250 million children were already out of school, and now many more are unlikely to return. Parents may not feel safe in sending children back, the cost of fees may be too great as the economic crisis tightens its grip, or children may need to work to recover family incomes lost during the crisis. And too many of those who do return may not be learning. Prior to COVID-19, nearly half of the world’s children were “learning poor”; unlikely to reach adulthood with basic numeracy and literacy skills. An additional 10% have already joined them due to the pandemic – and as school closures drag on, it’s only going to get worse.