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COVID-19 threatens $6.2b investment gap in Africa’s education ― Save the Children

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AS countries across the world continue to grapple with the effect of COVID-19 pandemic, the Save the Children warns that the pandemic could cause an additional gap of at least 6.2 billion dollars in investments in education in Sub-Saharan region over the next 18 months.

The group, in a statement signed by Mercy Gichuhi, its Nigerian Country Director and made available to The ICIR stated that the deep budget cuts to education combined with rising poverty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could force millions of children out of school forever, noting that girls are most likely going to be much affected than their male counterparts.

“Before the outbreak, 258 million children and adolescents were already out of school, a Vulnerability Index report  shows that in 12 countries, nine of which are in Africa, children are at extremely high risk of not returning to school after the lockdowns lift,” Gichuhi said.

Save the Children, however, called on governments and donors to respond to this global education emergency by urgently investing in education as schools begin to reopen after months of lockdown.

It also stated that the problem of African countries, particularly Nigeria that is already having over 10 million out of school children has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, adding that children are most likely going to be recruited into labour, abuse, violence etc.

“Even before the COVID-19 crisis, Nigeria is estimated to have over 10 million out of school children, one of the highest rates in the world. The impact of school closures extends beyond disruption to education – they also carry other risks to children,” she said.

“Children who are out of school are at greater risk of being recruited into labor, abuse, violence and exploitation, and for girls, they are more likely to never return to school when lessons re-commence.”

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Gichuhi added that as pressures mount on low-income families, children may need to work to bolster family incomes, while girls would face a disproportionately larger burden for caring for family members who contract the virus and taking care of younger children.

“Therefore, there is a tendency that the situation could add millions more into the existing caseload of out of school children in Nigeria.”

On his part, Eric Hazard, Save the Children’s Pan African Advocacy and Campaign Director commended African governments for the works done in ensuring children can continue their education, saying “we all cannot allow the pandemic to tamper the future of the children.”

“Save the Children commends all the work governments have done so far to ensure children can continue their education in these uncertain times. Many African countries have come up with innovative ways to continue children’s education including interactive radios, TV and distance learning programmes, but more than half of these activities were solely online,” Hazard said.

“If we allow this education crisis to unfold, the impact on children’s futures will be long lasting. The promise the world has made to ensure all children have access to a quality education by 2030, will be set back by years.”

Governments, Hazard noted need to help schools who are preparing to re-open, to ensure that children can return safely and make up for lost learning time.

“We have to protect a whole generation from losing out on their education. We must take action now.”

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Save the Children, however, called for increased funding of education, saying $35 billion should be made available by the World Bank to salvage the situation.

 

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'Niyi works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via noyedeji@icirnigeria.org. You can as well follow him on Twitter via @niyi_oyedeji.

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