A United Nations study finds 222 million children and adolescents worldwide have had their education disrupted by multiple crises.
Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, produced the study. When the organization was created in 2016, the number of crisis-affected children whose education had been disrupted stood at around 75 million.
ECW Director Yasmine Sherif says multiple crises over the past six years have boosted the number to 222 million among more than 40 countries.
"Conflicts are raging around the world — we know that, but they also are more and more protracted. But the growing record high number of refugees and internally displaced, as a result of conflicts and climate-induced disasters, have also contributed to this number, as have, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic," Sherif said.
The study finds 78.2 million children worldwide have dropped out of school entirely. Education experts say those children are unlikely to resume their education, resulting in a detrimental impact on their prospects and earning capacity.
Sherif says she has visited countries where most children currently are out of school, and she has seen what happens to children in crisis-ridden countries such as Mali, Chad, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
"When you do not go to school, you are very exposed to being — if you are a boy — forcibly recruited into armed groups, terrorist groups, militia, government groups," she said. "And, if you are a girl, you are exposed to becoming part of a gender-based violence at homes, sexual violence, trafficking, early marriages, and early childbirth."
Sherif says the new data must be a wake-up call for all leaders and policymakers as more children are being left behind due to crises. She says the international community must do more to support their educational needs, or there will be far-reaching negative impacts for human and economic development.