LONDON: British charity Save the Children has bracketed Pakistan among a group of 12 countries where nearly 10 million school going children are most at risk of falling behind or even may never return to school, as a result of increasing poverty and budget cuts incurred by coronavirus pandemic.
To address an education emergency, Save the Children, which has 29 national members worldwide, has urged governments and donors to increase funding of education, with $35 billion to be made available by the World Bank.
In its latest report on Monday, Save the Children cited Unesco data, showing that in April, 1.6 billion young people were shut out of school and university due to measures to contain Covid-19 – about 90% of the world’s entire student population.
The pandemic has caused an “unprecedented education emergency” with up to 9.7 million children affected by school closures at risk of never going back to class, it warned. “For the first time in human history, an entire generation of children globally have had their education disrupted,” it added.
The report titled ‘Save our Education’ listed 12 countries where children are most at risk of falling behind: Niger, Mali, Chad, Liberia, Afghanistan, Guinea, Mauritania, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal and Ivory Coast.
It said the economic fall-out of the crisis could force an extra 90 to 117 million children into poverty, with a knock-on effect on school admissions. With many young people required to work or girls forced into early marriage to support their families, this could see between 7 and 9.7 million children dropping out of school permanently.
At the same time, the charity warned the crisis could leave a shortfall of $77 billion in education budgets in low and middle income countries by the end of 2021. The charity urged governments and donors to invest more funds behind a new global education plan to help children back into school when it is safe and until then support distance learning.
“We are at risk of unparalleled budget cuts which will see existing inequality explode between the rich and the poor, and between boys and girls,” Save the Children chief executive Inger Ashing said. “If we allow this education crisis to unfold, the impact on children’s futures will be long lasting,” she added.
Before the crisis, an estimated 258 million children and adolescents were already missing out on school, the charity said. The charity also urged commercial creditors to suspend debt repayments for low-income countries—a move it said could free up $14 billion for education programmes.
The charity’ call for debt relief came as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) urged the Group of 20 major economies to extend and expand a freeze in debt service payments to help not just the poorest, but also middle-income countries, weather the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.
The ICC – a global trade union and civil society groups, along with the International Trade Union Confederation, and the Global Citizen – a group pushing to end extreme poverty by 2030 – also called on G20 finance ministers to take additional steps to further engage private creditors.
In an open letter published on Monday ahead of the G20 finance ministers’ online meeting on July 18, the groups said further steps were needed since the global economy was facing an even deeper downturn than projected in April, when the G20 and Paris Club of creditors announced a freeze in debt service payments for the world’s 73 poorest countries through year-end.
So far, 41 countries have applied for relief from debt servicing under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), and the Paris Club has signed agreements with 20 countries ranging from Ivory Coast to Ethiopia and Pakistan. But many countries not eligible for the moratorium are also at risk of debt distress given the shocks caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak, the group said.