Two new reports by the World Bank raise alarming issues, brought on by COVID-19, about today’s school age population in the Caribbean and across the world. The reports say more girls around the world could be led into teen pregnancies and early marriage. At the same time, the squeeze on family incomes could increase dropouts.
According to CMC the main report from the Washington-based financial institution, said school closures due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic risk pushing an additional 72 million primary school aged children, including those in the Caribbean, into “learning poverty”. That is taken to mean that they are unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10.
The reports said the COVID-19 pandemic is amplifying the global learning crisis that already existed.
The bank said the pandemic could increase the percentage of primary school-age children in low- and middle-income countries, such as those in the Caribbean, living in learning poverty to 63 per cent from 53 per cent.
That prospect comes with a cost, putting this generation of students at risk of losing about US$10 trillion in future life-time earnings, an amount equivalent to almost 10 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP).
The report, “Realising the Future of Learning: From Learning Poverty to Learning for Everyone, Everywhere,” lays out a vision for the future of learning that can guide countries today in their investments and policy reforms, “so that they can build more equitable, effective and resilient education systems, and ensure that all children learn with joy, rigour and purpose in school and beyond the school walls.”
World Bank Vice President for Human Development, Mamta Murthi, in launching the reports, said “without urgent action, this generation of students may never achieve their full capabilities and earnings potential, and countries will lose essential human capital to sustain long-term economic growth.”
It said some countries to battle the problems had expanded remote learning combined with television and radio and delivery of printed learning material. “However, the huge digital divides – from connectivity to digital skills – and inequalities in the quality of parental support and home learning environments is amplifying learning inequality,” the World Bank said.