Education of 37 million Bangladeshi children disrupted by Covid: UNICEF
Education of 37 million children in Bangladesh has been disrupted due to school closures since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, according to a report by UNICEF and UNESCO.
The report titled "Situation Analysis on the Effects and Responses to COVID-19 on the Education Sector in Asia" (SitAn Report) was released today.
According to the report, the number of children who experienced disruption in education in Asia, including South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, is about 800 million.
The report urges the governments to reopen schools as soon as it is safe to do so.
The associated consequences of such continuous school closures are staggering and include learning loss; mental distress; missed school meals and routine vaccinations; heightened risk of dropout; increased child labour; and increased child marriage, the report mentioned, adding, "Many of these dire consequences are already affecting countless children, and many will continue to be felt in the years to come."
"We cannot overlook the impact that the disruption of education services has had on children, particularly the most vulnerable. When schools remain closed, children miss out on the biggest opportunity to learn and develop to their full potential. The future of an entire generation is at stake; therefore, we need every effort to ensure a safe reopening of schools as soon as possible. Otherwise, the learning loss will be difficult to overcome," stated Marcoluigi Corsi, UNICEF Regional Director a.i. for East Asia and Pacific.
While countries across Asia are taking actions to provide students with distance learning, a UNICEF-supported study by the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) showed that two out of three pre-primary to upper secondary students in Bangladesh were not reached through remote education during pandemic school closures.
In addition to the lack of material assets and support to access technology, other significant obstacles that prevent disadvantaged children, including many girls, from accessing distance learning during these difficult times include a generally poor learning environment, an increase in pressure to take up domestic household chores and being forced to work outside the home, the report said.
The report underscores the importance of delivering equitable and inclusive distance learning at scale to reach all children during full or partial school closures, while providing a package of support to ensure children's health, nutrition and wellbeing. It also calls on governments and partners to strengthen teaching and teacher support, so as to address current low levels of learning and help narrow the learning divide, and protect and preserve education funding.
"With schools now open in Bangladesh after an 18-month closure, we must spare no effort to rapidly put in place mechanisms that help children catch-up, keeping a particular focus on the most disadvantaged children. Now is the time to invest, to strengthen the education system, and to bridge digital inequalities," said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh.
According to the report, unless mitigation measures are swiftly implemented, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates an economic loss of USD $1.25 trillion for Asia, which is equivalent to 5.4 percent of the region's 2020 gross domestic product (GDP).
"Governments, partners and the private sector will need to work together, not only to get the strategies and levels of investment right, but to build more resilient, effective and inclusive systems that are able to deliver on the promise of education as a fundamental human right for all children, whether schools are open or closed," said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia.
According to the Report, education budgets in the region will need to increase by an average of 10 per cent to catch up with such losses if Asia is to reach the education targets of the UN 2030 Agenda's Sustainable Development Goals in the next nine years.
"While major efforts are needed to mitigate the learning loss of those children who return to school in the post-COVID-19 recovery phase, we must also remember that 128 million children in Asia were already out of school at the onset of the pandemic; this figure represents roughly half of all out-of-school children globally. This is a learning crisis which needs to be addressed," said Shigeru Aoyagi, Director of UNESCO Bangkok.