The repercussions of school suspension “could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come,” said UNICEF executive director.
“At least a third of the world’s schoolchildren—463 million children globally—were unable to access remote learning when COVID-19 shuttered their schools,” said a press release UNICEF issued on August 26.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said the repercussions of the coronavirus-related suspension of schools “could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come.”
The UN organization highlighted the limitations of remote learning, stressing that children from the poorest households and those living in rural areas cannot benefit from remote education.
According to UNICEF, children in sub-Saharan Africa are the most affected, where at least half the students cannot have access to remote learning.
The Middle East and North Africa region also boasts a significant number of students who are unable to benefit from remote education. UNICEF estimates the number to exceed 37 million, representing over 40% of schoolchildren in the region.
To combat the inequalities relating to remote learning, UNICEF launched the “Reimagine” campaign. The initiative “calls for urgent investment to bridge the digital divide, reach every child with remote learning, and, most critically, prioritize the safe reopening of schools.”
UNICEF stressed the need for reopening schools. However, if reopening is not possible, the organization urged governments to incorporate compensatory learning for the lost time in school.
“School opening policies and practices must include expanding access to education, including remote learning, especially for marginalized groups. Education systems must also be adapted and built to withstand future crises,” UNICEF said.
The document offers practical advice for national and local authorities, based on policy reform, financing requirements, safe operations, compensatory learning, and wellness and protection of children.