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School Reopening Can’t Wait

As if the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been bad enough, some of the biggest costs will become visible only much later, particularly those stemming from lengthy school closures. With ample evidence showing that schools are not high-risk settings, they must be reopened without delay.

MANILA/BANGKOK – With the COVID-19 pandemic now well into its second year, safely reopening schools has become an urgent priority. School attendance is critical for children’s education and lifetime prospects. The long-term costs of closures – both for individual children and society – are simply too large to justify on a continuing basis.

Evidence since the start of the pandemic shows that COVID-19 does not pose a high risk to children, and that schools are not drivers of transmission within the surrounding community. We have also amassed a large body of knowledge about how to reduce the risks to children, teachers, and their families. Using this knowledge, we all need to urgently work toward reopening schools safely to protect our children’s future.

Prolonged school closures have a significant impact not just on children’s skills attainment and earning prospects, but also on their physical and mental health. While online education can guarantee some continuity of learning for some children, these services are no substitute for in-person attendance. Moreover, access to online learning remains woefully uneven, with disadvantaged children – including those with disabilities, those affected by migration, and excluded minorities – bearing the brunt of the shortcomings of digital education.

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