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COVID-19 Has Robbed The World's Poorest Children Of Nearly 4 Months Of Schooling

NEW DELHI, INDIA - MARCH 13: An employee adjusts desks in an empty class room after schools were shut since India reported first Covid-19 death on March 13, 2020 in New Delhi, India. More than 10 states in India have shut schools since India reported first Covid-19 death on Thursday. The schools have been shut till the end of March but examinations will continue as per schedule in most states. On Friday, the Indian Health Minsitry said 81 people infected with the novel coronavirus are being treated at various facilities across the country. On Thursday, the local government in southern state of Karnataka confirmed first death due to Covid-19. A day earlier on Wednesday India cancelled most visas, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that none of his ministers will travel abroad in the upcoming days and asked people to ensure safety by avoiding large gatherings. (Photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)
An employee adjusts desks in an empty classroom in New Delhi after schools there were closed in March. A new report finds 1 in 4 countries have either missed their planned school reopening date, or not yet set one.

In April, 9 in 10 of the world's children were out of school in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Several months later, a new reportfrom UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank finds the return to learning has been much slower in the world's poorer countries.

Researchers looked at nearly 150 countries and found:

  • Schoolchildren in low- and lower-middle-income countries have lost almost four months of learning since the start of the pandemic, compared to six weeks of learning loss in high-income countries.
  • One in 4 countries, most of which are low- and lower-middle-income, have either missed their planned reopening date or not yet set a date for reopening.
  • Almost all countries have offered some form of remote learning during closures, whether online, by broadcast (radio or TV) or through paper packets. However, while 3 out of 4 countries overall count remote learning days as school days, only 1 in 5 low-income countries do so, in recognition of how few children are actually able to access these resources.
  • Half of low-income countries reported not having enough money to pay for things like handwashing facilities and protective equipment for students and teachers. Only 5% of high-income countries said the same.

These findings are in line with another recent analysisby the foundation Insights for Education, which estimated that nearly half of the world's 1.6 billion primary and secondary students would not return to school before the end of 2020. According to that analysis, 84% of the students who won't return to school live in low-income countries.

For decades, the development community has been working to get more children into schools. Formal learning is seen as key to economic progressand political freedom, and the education of girls and women has even been identified as a major building block in the fight against climate change.

In recent years, according to the United Nations, the world was moving in the right direction, with more and more children in school. Now that progress seems to have reversed, at least temporarily. According to UNESCO, more than 250 million children were out of school just before the pandemic, a number they say is likely to jump nearly 10 percent this year.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.