watkins20_ JOSEPH EIDAFP via Getty Images_child in school Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images

Preventing a Global Education Disaster

The education losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are invisible, but will leave millions of the world’s poorest children carrying the scars of diminished opportunity for the rest of their lives. The world can – and must – take immediate steps to mitigate the damage.

LONDON – “The beautiful thing about learning,” the great blues guitarist B.B. King once wrote, “is that no one can take it away from you.” Born and raised in poverty, King understood the value of education as a force for change. If only political leaders responding to the COVID-19 pandemic had an ounce of his insight.

COVID-19 is now mutating into a global education emergency. Millions of children, especially the poorest and young girls, stand to lose the learning opportunities that could transform their lives. Because education is so closely tied to future prosperity, job creation, and improved health, a setback on this scale would undermine countries’ progress, reinforcing already extreme inequalities. Yet this emergency has yet to register on the pandemic response agenda.

Lockdowns have shut more than one billion children out of school. For an estimated 500 million, that means receiving no education at all. A Save the Children survey in India found that two-thirds of children stopped all educational activity during lockdown. The danger now is that a perfect storm of lost schooling, increased child poverty, and deep budget cuts will lead to unprecedented reversals in education.

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