Because of COVID-19 Pandemic, “More than 600 million children in countries not on academic leave are still affected by school closures,” James Elder, UNICEF Official Spokesperson at a press conference in Geneva for the United Nations.
In countries like Uganda, this has led to a “20 percent rise in the past 15 months in teenage pregnancies, or pregnancies for girls aged 10 to 24, who were seeking prenatal care,” Elder said: “All over the world and on all continents, we’ve seen helplines for children, which is a good introduction to understanding children who report violence, and we often see triple-digit increases.”
COVID-19 school closures
In nearly half of the countries in Asia and the Pacific, schools have been closed for about 200 days. Latin America and the Caribbean experienced some of the longest lockdowns ever with 18 countries and territories affected by either full or partial lockdowns.
As of today, the United Nations agency in Eastern and Southern Africa estimates that 40 percent of all children between the ages of 5 and 18 are currently out of school.
If these numbers “do not resonate with those in power, the World Bank report estimates a loss of $10 trillion in profits over time,” Elder added, to this generation of students.
Distance learning ‘out of reach’
Also alarming is the fact that a distance learning solution is “out of reach” for at least one third of the world’s schoolchildren, UNICEF The spokesperson continued. In East Asia and the Pacific, “80 million children have absolutely no access to any distance education.
In eastern and southern Africa, school children in Uganda have gone more than 300 days out of school, while internet connectivity at home is “the lowest on the planet at about 0.3%”.
‘The situation cannot continue’
In a call to action, UNICEF appealed for five key steps: Schools must reopen as soon as possible; Governments and donors must protect the education budget; Enrollment should be extended to children who were already out of school before-COVID-19 — by removing financial barriers and easing enrollment requirements — and cash transfers should be increased for the most vulnerable.
“Everything must be done to end the epidemic,” Mr. Elder said, starting with making vaccines available everywhere through sharing overdose and funding to support the rollout of vaccines.