Covid-19: About 11 mln children may not return to school ~UNESCO
New research from UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report shows that school closures due to COVID-19 are projected to increase the annual funding gap for education in poorer countries to as much as $200 billion per year.
The report also showed that an estimated 11 million children of primary and secondary school age may not return to school, but noted that investing now in re-enrolment and remediation programmes could reduce the additional funding gap by 75 percent.
UNESCO’s new estimates first show the striking increase in the annual funding gap to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 4 to ensure inclusive and quality education for all by 2030 in low and lower-middle-income countries.
With new annual spending requirements at $504 billion, the funding gap has increased from $39 billion annually projected in 2015 to $148 billion annually projected in 2020.
The now shorter span of reaching SDG4, slow progress before 2020, and improvements in data and quality standards are among the reasons for the increase.
The COVID-19 pandemic further aggravates education financing gaps. Under plausible school closure and GDP growth scenarios, COVID-19 adds up to one-third to the annual funding gap of $148 billion to reach as much as $200 billion.
“With less than a decade to go before the SDG deadline, the world is facing an education funding crisis that will be further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” declared UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay.
“Entire generations are at risk, disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable. While education is clearly a victim of the pandemic, it is also the solution to the longer-term recovery. I call on all actors to spare no effort in prioritizing investment in education as a global public good.”
School closures have led to loss of learning for millions of students. Distance teaching solutions are simply not an option for at least 580 million students in low and middle-income countries according to a UNESCO-UNICEF-World Bank survey.
Driving higher costs for countries since COVID-19 are the need to re-enrol students and to offer remediation programmes to help get the most marginalised back to school, support them to catch up and maximise their chances of staying in school.
Additional costs are needed to ensure children are safe when they return to classes, with access to hygiene facilities and extra classrooms to enable physical distancing. These programmes and actions will add $5 to $35 billion to the financing need. They are however far cheaper than having to roll out second chance programmes later down the line. Acting now rather than later could reduce the potential cost of COVID-19 on education by 75 percent.
UNESCO has warned that total aid to education is likely to decline by 12 percent by 2022 as a result of the economic consequences of COVID-19. This is a threat to the recovery of education from the disruption of the pandemic.