Save the Children, an international agency, has said that the coronavirus pandemic has caused the largest education emergency in history, with 9.7 million children globally not returning to school in 2020.
It also said that less than one per cent of the poorer children interviewed had access to the internet for distance learning while households that classified themselves as non-poor have 19 per cent.
In a global survey report which was launched today (Thursday), the agency said children who fall behind in their education run a greater risk of dropping out completely and falling victim to child labour, child marriage and other forms of exploitation.
Currently, there are 258 million children out of school globally according to data from UNESCO. The total includes 59 million children of primary school age, 62 million of lower secondary school age and 138 million of upper secondary age globally.
The new report, which is titled “Protect A Generation”, pointed out how children from the poorest households across the globe have suffered the greatest loss of family income, missed out most on education and faced the highest risk of violence at home
In a statement on Thursday, the Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria, Mercy Gichuhi, said that COVID-19 pandemic has widened inequalities along with wealth and gender lines,
“The survey found out that poorer households are more likely to suffer income losses than those not classified as poor,” she said
Effect on health
Ms Gichuhi said the survey showed the division along wealth line, stressing that “ nine in ten households that lost over half of their income due to the pandemic reported difficulties in accessing health services.”
She said 45 per cent of respondents from poor households reported having trouble paying for medical supplies during the pandemic.
“Children from poorest households across the globe have suffered the greatest loss of family income, missed out most on education and faced the highest risk of violence at home,” she said.
According to her, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the education of children from poorer backgrounds and is widening the gap between rich and poor, and boys and girls, “Save the Children conducts largest global survey of its kind among some 25,000 children and adults on the impact of the pandemic”.
She said it is necessary for the government to think about how to build a resilient education system to withstand future shocks, as it plans to re-open schools after closures.
“To prevent shocks from future pandemics, governments need to build social safety nets and strong health and nutrition systems, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised households,” she said.
The Save the Children International global survey revealed that two-thirds of the children during the lockdown had no contact with teachers at all, while eight in ten children said they learned little or nothing since schools closed.
The survey also showed 93 per cent of households that lost over half of their income due to the pandemic reported difficulties in accessing health services.
According to the survey, violence at home doubled when schools were closed,” when schools were closed, the reported rate was 17 per cent compared to 8 per cent when schools were open and the child was able to attend in person.
“ 63 per cent of girls are more often tasked to do more chores around the house, compared to 43 per cent of boys. Investment in education, health and nutrition, child protection services, mental health services and safety nets are urgently needed,” she said.
Also speaking, the Save the Children International Nigeria Girl Champion, Purity Oriaifo, said children can no longer retain what they learnt in their previous classes
“Even when the schools finally re-open, there will not be sufficient time for revision of what we have learnt and missed in the curriculum. That’s a big challenge for us as children,” she said.
The Save the Children survey also found that “ more than 8 in 10 (83 per cent) of children reported an increase in negative feelings while almost two-thirds of the households (62 per cent) found it difficult to provide their families with varied, nutritious food during the pandemic;
The agency appealed to governments at all levels to ensure children who are out of school have access to quality distance learning materials.
The respiratory disease caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) was first detected in Wuhan, China, before going global
Apart from the healths problem caused by the virus, it has also led to school closures, lockdowns and travel restrictions declared by governments to curb the spread.
In Nigeria, schools have remained shut since March 19, leaving the school management to adopt alternative modes of learning for students at all levels.
However, children from poor homes are unable to have access to online classes due to lack of internet facilities and infrastructures.