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A locked fence outside a school in Los Angeles, California closed due to COVID-19
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/R. Vogel
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UN warns of 'generational catastrophe' over school closures

August 4, 2020

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the pandemic caused the largest disruption of education in history. Over 160 countries have closed schools, pushing more than 1 billion students out of the classroom.


United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Tuesday of a "generational catastrophe" following the largest disruption of education in history, due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The closure of schools in more than 160 countries has affected more than 1 billion students, according to UN figures. 

Read more: COVID-19: Africa's education dilemma

Additionally, at least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on education "in their critical pre-school year," said Guterres

Inequality likely to grow

As a result, the world is facing a "generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress and exacerbate entrenched inequalities," he said, as he launched the UN "Save our Future" campaign.

"Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority," he said. "Consultation with parents, carers, teachers and young people is fundamental."

German pupils return to school

Weak education systems hit while down

On top of the new education figures, 250 million children were already out of school before the pandemic and only a quarter of secondary school students in developing countries were leaving the education system with basic skills, Guterres added. 

The UN leader said the present situation was a "defining moment" for the world's young people. He also called for the reopening of schools once the virus is under control.

"The decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come."

Read more:Coronavirus: How are the 4 biggest economies trying to stem insolvencies?

The UN recommendations come amid a controversial push in the United States to reopen schools while the number of new infections in the country continues to surge. So far, nearly 694,000 have died worldwide, while over 18 million have been infected.

lc/rc (AP, Reuters)

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