As a result, Guterres warned that the world faces “a generational catastrophe that could squander untold human potential, undermine decades of progress and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.”Even before the pandemic, Guterres said, the world faced a “learning crisis”, with more than 250 million children out of school and only a quarter of high school youth in developing countries leaving school “with basic skills ”.
According to a global projection covering 180 countries by the United Nations education agency, UNESCO and partner organizations, some 23.8 million additional children and young people from preschool to university level are at risk of drop out or not have access to school next year due to the economic impact of the pandemic.
“We are at a watershed moment for the children and young people of the world,” Guterres said in a 26-page video message and policy briefing. “The decisions governments and partners make now will have a lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people and on countries’ development prospects for decades to come. “
The policy brief “deals broadly with education around the world. It is not specific to the United States or to any particular country, ”Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for the secretary general told CBS News on Tuesday.
Schools are especially vital in developing countries in particular, where the provision of food is an essential part of the school system, CBS News’s Pamela Falk reported. Hunger andhave increased in parts of Latin America and Africa as the pandemic wreaks havoc.
According to the policy briefing, “the unprecedented disruption to education” caused by the pandemic is far from over and as many as 100 countries have yet to announce a date for the reopening of schools.
Guterres called for action in four key areas, the first being the reopening of schools.
“Once the local transmission of COVID-19 is under control,” he said, “getting students back to schools and educational institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority”.
UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini told reporters that the Paris-based agency is planning to hold a high-level virtual meeting in the fall, possibly in the second half of the year. October, to secure commitments from world leaders and the international community for education. at the forefront of post-pandemic recovery programs.
“There may be economic tradeoffs, but the longer schools remain closed, the more devastating the impact, especially on the poorest and most vulnerable children,” Giannini warned.
She stressed that schools are not only for learning, but provide social protection and nutrition, especially for vulnerable young people.
The coronavirus crisis has amplified digital, social and gender inequalities, said Giannini, with girls, refugees, people with disabilities, displaced people and young people in rural areas being the most vulnerable and facing limited opportunities to continue. their learning.
Guterres said increasing funding for education must be a priority.
Before the pandemic, low- and middle-income countries faced an education funding gap of $ 1.5 trillion per year, he said, and the education funding gap in the country. world could increase by 30% due to the pandemic.
The secretary-general said education initiatives must target “those most at risk of being left behind,” including young people in crisis, minorities, displaced people and people with disabilities. And these initiatives should urgently seek to bridge the digital divide that has become even more evident during the COVID-19 crisis, he said.
On a positive note, Mr Guterres said the pandemic offered “a generational opportunity to reinvent education” and to take a leap forward towards systems that deliver quality education.
To achieve this, he called for investments in “digital literacy and infrastructure” and more flexible, equitable and inclusive education systems.
UNESCO’s Giannini said the innovations made so far during the pandemic, including online learning and education on radio and television, “prove that change can happen quickly.”
She said a coalition of global organizations launched a campaign on Tuesday called “Save Our Future” to amplify the voices of children and youth and urge governments around the world to recognize that investing in education is essential the resumption of COVID-19 and the future of the world. .