Half of world’s student population not attending school due to Corona virus: UNESCO
By Standard Reporter
| March 20th 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has kept away more than 850 million children and youth from schools worldwide, a United Nations agency has said.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), this figure represents about half of the world’s student population staying away from schools and universities due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The UN agency says that countrywide closures are in force in 102 countries and local shut-downs in 11 others.
According to Unesco, the scale and speed of the school and university closures represent an unprecedented challenge for the education sector.
"Countries around the world are racing to fill the void with distance learning solutions, but the uncertain duration of the closures adds further complication to their efforts," said Unesco Director-General Audrey Azoulay.
As an immediate response to massive school closures, Unesco has established a Covid-19 task force to provide advice and technical assistance to governments working to provide education to students out of school.
"The organisation is also holding regular virtual meetings with education ministers from all over the world to share experiences and assess priority needs," said Azoulay.
She announced that Unesco is also launching a Global Covid-19 Education Coalition that brings together multilateral partners and the private sector, including Microsoft and the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), to help countries deploy remote learning systems to minimise educational disruptions and maintain social contact with learners.
“The current situation imposes immense challenges for countries to be able to provide uninterrupted learning for all children and youth in an equitable manner. We are stepping up on our global response by creating a coalition to ensure a fast and coordinated response," she said.
"Beyond meeting immediate needs, this effort is an opportunity to rethink education, scale-up distance learning and make education systems more resilient, open and innovative,” she said.
Stefania Giannini, Unesco’s Assistant Director-General for Education said difficulties rise exponentially when school closures are prolonged.
“Schools, however imperfectly, play an equalizing role in society and when they close, inequalities become far greater," Giannini said.
The UN agency will further host regular webinars (online educational and instructive sessions) and virtual meetings to allow country representatives opportunities to share information on the effectiveness of approaches used in different contexts.
This will build on the success of its ministerial video-conference on March 10, 2020, that brought together 73 countries.
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