The education of hundreds of millions of children is hanging by a thread as a result of an unprecedented intensity of threats including Covid 19 and the climate crisis, a report warned today.

As classrooms across much of the world prepare to reopen after the summer holidays, a quarter of countries – most of them in sub-Saharan Africa – have school systems that are at extreme or high risk of collapse, according to Save the Children.

The UN estimates that, for the first time in history, about 1.5 billion children were out of school during the pandemic, with at least a third unable to access remote learning.

Now, as much of the developing world faces a combination of interrelated crises including extreme poverty, Covid-19, climate breakdown and intercommunal violence, there are growing fears for a “lost generation of learners”.

In an analysis ranking countries according to their vulnerability, Save the Children found eight countries to have school systems at “extreme risk”, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Somalia deemed most vulnerable, with Afghanistan following closely behind.

The analysis calculated how vulnerable school systems were as a result of a range of factors including coronavirus vaccination coverage, the climate crisis, physical attacks, and the proportion of school-age children with a home internet connection.

It found that a further 40 countries, including Yemen, Burkina Faso, India, the Philippines and Bangladesh, were all at “high risk”.

Gwen Hines, chief executive of Save the Children UK, said: “We already know that it is the poorest children who have suffered the most as a result of Covid-19 school closures. But sadly Covid-19 is just one of the factors putting education – and children’s lives today and tomorrow – under threat.”

She added: “We need to learn from this dreadful experience and act now – but it is simply not good enough to build ‘back’ to how things were. We need to build ‘forward’ and differently, using this as an opportunity for hope and positive change.”

Ahmed Ali Muqbel Ali teaches his children in their tent in Al-Malika camp for displaced people in Taiz, Yemen, after the closure of the schools because of Covid-19.
Ahmed Ali Muqbel Ali teaches his children in their tent in Al-Malika camp for displaced people in Taiz, Yemen, after the closure of the schools because of Covid-19. Photograph: Khalid Al-Banna/NRC

As much of the developed world welcomes a return to more normal schooling this term, more than 100 million children remain out of the classroom in other parts of the world due to nationwide Covid closures in 16 countries, according to Unicef.

It is feared that between 10 and 16 million children are at risk of not returning to school at all, with girls most vulnerable.

Rob Jenkins, global director of education at Unicef, said that even before the pandemic, much of the world had been experiencing a global learning crisis.

“Now we are running a risk of a losing a generation of learners,” he warned. “It could have lifelong implications unless we move to catch-up programmes offering full, comprehensive support to children – not just for their learning but also for their mental health, nutritional support [and] a sense of protection.”

Contributor

Lizzy Davies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Their future could be destroyed’: the global struggle for schooling after Covid closures
Hundreds of millions of children fell behind around the world as schools closed during the pandemic. We look at four countries as pupils try to resume their education

06, Sep, 2021 @6:01 AM

Article image
The year's top development stories: 2017 in review
As Donald Trump cut funding for family planning and people from east Africa to Yemen went hungry, peace finally gained a foothold in Colombia

Lucy Lamble

25, Dec, 2017 @11:00 AM

Article image
Internal displacements reach 15m in 2020 with worst 'still to come' – report
Extreme weather, locust invasions and violence have forced people to flee their homes

Kate Hodal

23, Sep, 2020 @5:00 AM

Article image
Almost 30 million will need aid in Sahel this year as crisis worsens, UN warns
Armed conflicts, the climate crisis and Covid-19 are contributing to chronic risk of food insecurity in the region, says Unocha report

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

28, Apr, 2021 @3:34 PM

Article image
UK aid cut behind $284m fall in global humanitarian spending
Estimated UK cut of $900m offsets increases by other nations, according to annual Global Humanitarian Assistance Report

Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

21, Jun, 2021 @11:00 PM

Article image
Famine looms in four countries as aid system struggles to cope, experts warn
Campaigners say tens of millions in urgent need in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia are in hands of an overwhelmed, outdated humanitarian network

Karen McVeigh and Ben Quinn

12, Feb, 2017 @10:38 AM

Article image
Oxygen shortages threaten ‘total collapse’ of dozens of health systems
Data reveals Nepal, Iran and South Africa among 19 countries most at risk of running out as surging Covid cases push supplies to limit

Madlen Davies and Rosa Furneaux

25, May, 2021 @8:30 AM

Article image
‘I miss school’: 800m children still not fully back in classes
Rights groups warn that children across the world are being pushed into abusive situations, from early marriage to child labour

Harriet Grant, Sally Hayden, Ruchi Kumar, Luke Taylor

05, Apr, 2021 @7:00 AM