Aug 4, 2020 - Health

UN head says global school closures could cause "generational catastrophe"

Students wear masks and face shields at school in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Sai Aung Main/AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the largest disruption of education in history, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday, AP reports.

Why it matters: Over 1 billion students were affected by closures in more than 160 countries in mid-July. Guterres warned the situation could lead to "a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities."

  • He added that at least 40 million more children around the world have missed out on education "in their critical preschool year."

The big picture: The pandemic has exacerbated what Guterres called the world's "learning crisis."

  • More than 250 million children were already out of school before the pandemic, and only a quarter of people in developing countries left school "with basic skills."

What he's saying: "We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people," Guterres said.

  • "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."
  • Guterres added that "getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority" for localities that have contained the spread of the virus.
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