Learning lost from COVID: 70 million children face reading crisis | News on the coronavirus pandemic

New analysis released by an anti-poverty group reveals that more than half of the world’s 10-year-olds may be unable to read by the end of this year.

More than half of the world’s 10-year-olds may be unable to read and understand a sentence by the end of the year, according to new analysis from the ONE campaign.

The anti-poverty organization warned on Monday that 70 million children could be affected in 2021, according to calculations based on figures released by the World Bank, UNESCO and UN population data.

According to the report, the pandemic has contributed to 17 percent of the total number of children affected by a global learning crisis that could hamper the potential of a generation.

Schools around the world have been closed for long periods of time over the past year, with governments imposing restrictions on populations in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus. According to UNESCO, the education of 1.7 billion children in 188 countries was severely disrupted in 2020.

Closures have forced online courses, but the rise of distance learning has been uneven across the world, with access to technology and a lack of infrastructure hampering some students’ ability to participate. The UN has estimated that nearly 500 million children, especially those in the poorest countries or rural areas, have been excluded from distance education.

A teacher instructs a primary school student in Indonesia according to COVID-19 health protocols. [File: Adi Weda/EPA]

According to the ONE campaign analysis, the learning crisis is likely to hit Africa and Asia particularly, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 40 percent of at-risk children.

Urgent action is needed

By 2030, the number of children without basic literacy by the time they turn 10 could reach 750 million, or about one in 10 people globally, the group warned.

David McNair, executive director of global policy at The ONE Campaign, told Al Jazeera that children’s ability to understand a sentence by the age of 10 is a milestone.

“[This] initiates a lifetime of self-directed learning and innovation and has implications for their ability to get an education, innovate, find a job, earn and so on, ”he said.

“Unless we take urgent action, the legacy of the pandemic could be that millions more children are denied the opportunity to understand the words on a page,” he said.

In response to this crisis and ahead of the G7 Sherpa meeting, the organization urged governments to commit at least $ 5 billion to fund the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), arguing that it will allow 175 million to girls and boys to learn between 2021-2025.

He also called on governments to support developing country finances with a stimulus package and extended repayment terms, so countries can use these resources to invest in schools and education.

“I think it’s the absolutely right thing to do,” McNair said. “It is unfair that if you were born in a particular part of the world, your options for realizing your potential are reduced simply by not receiving the right education early in life.

“If you don’t invest in these issues early on, they can become more expensive and more problematic. If we had, before this pandemic, fully implemented the pandemic preparedness protocols, if we had invested more in health systems around the world, then we would not be in this situation, ”he said. added.

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