The UN called on all countries to prioritize reopening their schools as soon as local transmission of the coronavirus is under control, warning that prolonged closures pose the risk of a “generational catastrophe.”
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“We are living in a watershed moment for children and young people around the world. The decisions that governments and partners make now will have a lasting effect on hundreds of millions of young people, as well as on the development prospects of countries for decades, ”said its Secretary General, António Guterres, in a video message.
Guterres presented a report prepared by the organization to analyze the impact of the closure of colleges, institutes and universities and offer recommendations to policy makers.
According to the analysis, the world was already suffering from an “education crisis” before the pandemic, with more than 250 million school-age children out of school and, in developing countries, with only a quarter of students high school finishing their studies with basic skills.
“We are now faced with a generational catastrophe that could squander untold human potential, undermine decades of progress and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,” Guterres warned.
THE LARGEST DISRUPTION IN HISTORY
The pandemic, he stressed, has caused “the greatest disruption that education has ever suffered.”
According to UN data, as of mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting more than 1 billion students, and more than a hundred nations have not yet announced dates for the reopening.
Among the things that most concern the organization, the time lost by millions of children in preschool education stands out, a stage considered key and which is “the great equalizer”, according to Stefania Giannini, the Deputy Director General for Education of UNESCO.
Distance education, with classes on radio, television and online, leaves many students behind, according to the UN, which highlights the special risk suffered by those with disabilities, from minority or disadvantaged communities, the displaced and refugees and those who they live in remote areas.
Thus, the pandemic is increasing educational inequalities and threatens to suddenly undo the progress made in recent decades.
WHAT TO DO?
Faced with this situation, the UN calls for measures in several areas, starting with the reopening of schools as soon as possible, an issue that is generating a strong debate in many countries.
“Once the local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, returning students to school and educational institutions in the safest possible way should be one of the top priorities,” Guterres explained.
For the UN, “it will be essential to find a balance between the risks to health and the risks to education and the protection of children, and also take into account the impact on the participation of women in the workforce.”
According to the report, in this process it is essential to consult parents, caregivers, teaching staff and the students themselves.
In addition, the United Nations asks to give priority to education in the distribution of funds, protecting and increasing educational budgets in public accounts, and calls for this area to be “at the center of international solidarity efforts.”
The UN also calls for paying special attention to students in more vulnerable situations and encourages taking advantage of the pandemic to transform educational systems through more digital infrastructure, revitalizing continuous learning or using more flexible teaching methods.
“We have a generational opportunity to reimagine education and teaching. We can take a leap and move towards progressive systems that provide quality education for all, as a springboard to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, ”said Guterres.
With information from EFE.