United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that about seven million persons across the globe could drop out of school as a result of the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic otherwise referred to as ‘COVID-19’.
Executive Director Henrietta Fore who made this during a virtual meeting with UNICEF board members noted that if nothing was done to savage the situation, it could lead to a loss of at least $10 trillion.
Emphasizing the importance of collaboration, UNICEF Executive Director Fore highlighted UNICEF’s work with its partners to devise innovative solutions in education.
She stressed the importance of both responding to the disruptions caused by COVID-19 and addressing the global learning crisis that predates it. She said, ‘’Even before the pandemic shuttered schools across the world, 250 million children were out of school, and half of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries were unable to read.
“The pandemic underscored that we need nothing short of a revolution in learning, education and skills training. Without urgent, large-scale action, nearly 7 million students could drop out as a result of the pandemic’s economic impacts, leading to a loss in earnings for this cohort amounting to US$10 trillion, according to World Bank estimates.
“A generation of young people needs our support to shape their minds and skills for the future. We will not let them down”.
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Recalling a joint visit to Lebanon with High Commissioner Grandi in 2018, Fore considered the ways in which the refugee children they had met there, along with millions of others worldwide, miss out on their rights to grow, prosper and develop.
‘’The needs of refugee children have become even more acute with the rapid spread of COVID-19 and meeting those needs is key to safeguarding their well-being and future potential.
Earlier in her remarks at the opening of the virtual meeting, UNICEF Executive Board President Ms. Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Bangladesh stressed the need for a collaborative spirit with which UNICEF and its Board members had navigated the unprecedented circumstances created by COVID-19.
“The pandemic has upended lives everywhere and children’s lives have been deeply impacted.
‘’Focusing on the pandemic’s heavy toll on education, she noted the serious impacts of learning disruptions on child protection, nutrition and mental health, and the particular risks to girls.
“It is imperative that we get the maximum number of children back into a learning environment, and soon.
With more than one billion students still affected by school closures, this is no easy task.
‘’UNICEF is involved in many promising initiatives aimed at mitigating the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and helping Governments and communities to build back better.”
She urged that the Member States continue their support to UNICEF, so that the achievements made thus far towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are not threatened.
The session offered Executive Board members insight into how UNICEF works to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 on education systems, and to help them recover and enhance their resilience while seizing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform learning, and ensuring that marginalized children are not left behind as schools reopen in some contexts and alternative learning measures continue in others.
Since the onset of the pandemic, UNICEF has scaled up a diverse range of high- and low-tech solutions, including digital learning tools like the Learning Passport.
Through initiatives like Generation Unlimited and GIGA, which aims to expand Internet access to every child, every community and every school by 2030, UNICEF has deepened its engagement with partners ranging from sister United Nations agencies to mobile phone companies, to spark innovative thinking and adapt education programmes to reach the most vulnerable children.
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