MANILA, Philippines — Children cannot afford another year of school disruption as the cost of closing schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating, the United Nations children’s agency said yesterday.
“As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as cases continue to soar around the world, no effort should be spared to keep schools open or prioritize them in reopening plans,” said United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) executive director Henrietta Fore in a statement.
“If children are faced with another year of school closures, the effects will be felt for generations to come,” she said.
She said that too many countries have opted to keep schools closed despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closures on children, and despite increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic.
UNICEF said the cost of closing schools which, at the peak of pandemic lockdowns, affected 90 percent of students worldwide and left more than a third of school children with no access to remote education, has been devastating.
Fore noted that the number of out-of-school children is set to increase by 24 million “to a level we have not seen in years and have fought so hard to overcome.”
“Children’s ability to read, write and do basic math has suffered, and the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy have diminished, Fore said.
“Their health, development, safety and well-being are at risk. The most vulnerable among them will bear the heaviest brunt,” she added.
Without daily interactions with their peers and a reduction in mobility, students are losing physical fitness and showing signs of mental distress.
UNICEF said that the students are also more vulnerable to abuse without the safety net that school often provides.