Coronavirus: Millions out of school, jeopardizing the future of children

(UNICEF/John Mokwetsi/2020)

Almost all countries have introduced nation-wide school and university closures so far to contain the COVID-19 virus – the number is expected to rise as the virus looks set to spread further.

While the focus of the COVID 19 response is mainly on health systems, the pandemic is already having a devastating impact on children beyond that. In an attempt to maintain the COVID 19 pandemic, governments are closing schools across the world. This situation could further worsen the vulnerabilities of marginalized children.

With COVID-19 pushing governments to confine populations and close schools, Save the children is concerned about the limited mechanisms in place to ensure children can follow an education from their homes. With their education interrupted and not being in a safe place such as a school, children are at a higher risk of abuse, neglect, violence, and exploitation, and they, especially girls are more likely of dropping out of school completely.

While some countries are better prepared to provide ‘learning at a distance’ for children during school closures, the most marginalized girls and boys living in rural areas or the suburb of the main cities will struggle to access distance learning. This includes children from low-income households, those with disabilities and children already affected by conflict and humanitarian crises.
Education needs to be integrated into the current response of the COVID-19 outbreak, as the future of millions of children is at stake. The disease may disappear over time, but children will continue to suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives.

Managing the health crisis and containing the virus must be a priority of course, but so is ensuring that children can continue their education from home. So far, limited opportunities have been put into place to ensure the continuity of education for children at home. This is a challenge that governments will have to respond to, with the help of the international community. If we relegate this continuity of education to the background, many children, especially girls may drop out of school altogether.