Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - The coronavirus pandemic could force around 9.7 million children out of school forever by the end of 2020, a children's welfare NGO warned on Monday.
Save the Children said deep budget cuts and rising poverty caused by the pandemic could force millions of children out of school in 12 most vulnerable countries.
The UK charity, with offices around the world, raised the alarm in a new report, observing that before the outbreak, 258 million children and adolescents were already out of school.
On Africa, a vulnerability Index in the report shows that in 12 countries, mainly in West and Central Africa, children are at extremely high risk of not returning to school after lockdown lifts.
In the same situation are children from Yemen and Afghanistan.
In another 28 countries children are at moderate or high risk of not going back to school and of the longer-term effects of widening inequalities, the organization.
It said millions are falling behind in their education, with girls likely to be much worse affected than boys, as many are forced into early marriage.
''As the impacts of the recession triggered by Covid-19 hits families, many children may be forced out of school and into labour markets'', the report said.
Save the Children has called on governments and donors to respond to the global education emergency by urgently investing in education as schools begin to reopen after months of lockdown.
The NGO is also urging commercial creditors to suspend debt repayments by low-income countries – a move that could free up $14bn for investment in education.
“It would be unconscionable to allow resources that are so desperately needed to keep alive the hope that comes with education to be diverted into debt repayments,” said Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children.
The NGO called for governments to use their budgets to ensure children have access to distance learning whilst lockdown measures remain; and to support children who have fallen behind.
The Save Our Education report reveals the devastating effects the COVID-19 outbreak is set to have on learning.
In a mid-range budget scenario, the agency estimates that the recession will leave a shortfall of $77 billion in education spending in some of the poorest countries in the world over the next 18 months.
In a worst-case scenario, under which governments shift resources from education to other coronavirus response areas, that figure could climb to an astonishing $192 billion by the end of 2021.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Save the Children is providing distance learning materials and home learning to children in need.
It makes sure children are safe at home and not missing out in menstrual hygiene kits.
Save the Children is also working with education authorities to help plan for the children's safe return to school.
-0- PANA DJ/AR 13July2020