West indian countries

23 countries have yet to fully reopen schools after Covid closures: UNICEF : The Tribune India

United Nations, March 31

As the Covid-19 pandemic enters its third year, 23 countries – home to an estimated 405 million school children – have yet to fully reopen schools, and many school children are at risk of dropping out, the UN Fund has said. childhood (UNICEF).

Over the past two years, nearly 147 million children have missed more than half of their in-person schooling, representing 2 trillion hours of lost learning, UNICEF said in a report titled ” Are children really learning?” Xinhua news agency reported.

“When children are unable to interact directly with their teachers and peers, their learning suffers. When they are unable to interact with their teachers and peers at all, their learning loss can become permanent,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said in a press release.

“This growing inequality in access to learning means that education risks becoming the greatest divider, not the greatest equalizer. When the world fails to educate its children, we all suffer.” Along with data on learning loss, the report highlights new evidence that shows many children did not return to school when their classrooms reopened.

Data from Liberia shows that 43% of public school students did not return when schools reopened in December 2020. The number of out-of-school children in South Africa tripled from 250,000 to 750,000 between March 2020 and July 2021.

“In Uganda, around 1 in 10 school children did not return to school in January 2022 after schools were closed for two years. In Malawi, the dropout rate for girls in secondary education increased by 48% between 2020 and 2021. In Kenya, a survey of 4,000 adolescents aged 10-19 found that 16% of girls and 8 % of boys did not return when schools reopened,” the report said.

“Children out of school are among the most vulnerable and marginalized children in society. They are the least likely to be able to read, write or do basic math, and are cut off from the safety net that schools provide, which which puts them at increased risk of exploitation and a life of poverty and deprivation.”

The report highlights that while out-of-school children suffer the greatest losses, pre-pandemic data from 32 countries and territories show a desperately low level of learning, a situation likely exacerbated by the scale of learning lost due to of the pandemic.

In the countries analysed, the current pace of learning is so slow that it would take most schoolchildren seven years to acquire the basic reading skills that should have been acquired in two years, and 11 years to acquire the skills of basis in calculation, says the report.

In many cases, there is no guarantee that school children have learned the basics. Across the 32 countries and territories surveyed, a quarter of grade 8 students lacked basic reading skills and more than half lacked the numeracy skills expected of a grade 2 student, the report says. .

“Even before the pandemic, the most marginalized children were being left behind. As the pandemic enters its third year, we cannot afford to return to “normal”. We need a new normal: bringing children into classrooms, assessing where they are in their learning, providing them with the intensive support they need to recover what they have missed, and ensuring that teachers have the training and learning resources they need. are too high to do less,” Russell said. IANS

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