More than 800 million Asian children are “at risk” due to COVID-19-related school closures, UNICEF and UNESCO say.
“We cannot overlook the impact that the disruption of education services has had on children, particularly the most vulnerable. When schools remain closed, children miss out on the biggest opportunity to learn and develop to their full potential,” said Marcoluigi Corsi, UNICEF regional director for East Asia and the Pacific.
“The future of an entire generation is at stake; therefore, we need every effort to ensure a safe reopening of schools as soon as possible. Otherwise, the learning loss will be difficult to overcome.”
UNICEF and UNESCO say that on average, schools in the region were fully closed for 50% of teaching days as the pandemic spread in 2020.
In the Philippines, schools have been closed the entire time, which has left around 27 million students without any in-person learning. Schools in Bangladesh were closed until September.
“The associated consequences of such continuous school closures are staggering and include learning loss; mental distress; missed school meals and routine vaccinations; heightened risk of drop out of structured education; increased child labor; and increased child marriage,” UNICEF and UNESCO wrote in a press release.
While distance learning was available for some students, UNICEF and UNESCO say 220 million children had no access to it. They call on countries to ensure all students have access in the future.
The school closures and loss of education could cost the region $1.25 trillion in GDP, the Asian Development Bank estimated.