COVID-19 is double jeopardy for the hardest-to-reach out-of-school children.
The figures are stark. In the 15 countries where Educate A Child (EAC) operates, close to 144 million primary school children are not in school1 ; the majority (103 million) are in Asia.
Luckily, most will be back as soon as school doors open. Those who were already out of school aren’t counted in these numbers.
Marginalized children fare worst during crises
The negative impact of COVID-19, while horrendous across the globe, will be absolutely devastating to marginalized out-of-school children and their families. Accessing potable water to wash their hands once a day is already a serious struggle, let alone several times a day!
Their meager meals were dependent on parents’ daily labor, which is no longer possible. Their governments are unlikely to be able to provide essential safety nets; for example, the World Bank asserts that sub-Saharan Africa has been significantly impacted and growth forecasts have been revised downward from 2.4% in 2019 to -2.1% to -5.1% in 2020”. The World Economic Forum predicts that the pandemic could push an additional half a billion people into poverty.
For children who were not in school to begin with, this is, indeed, double jeopardy. They will undoubtedly become even more impoverished, their nutrition will likely be compromised and they may be subjected to increased violence and exploitation.
A crisis of global scale
Calls for more investment, especially in education, are needed, but may not be sufficient in many instances.
This global crisis, of which education is a part, has forced many to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of our society; it has led us to consider what really matters and why.
The economic consequences are not yet fully understood, but we know they will be grave and that each government and almost every establishment will be looking for funds to cover the most basic of its needs.
When it comes to funding to support already weakened education systems, our sector will have to clamor along with all the others for resource allocation. Development partners may have to tighten their belts. Frankly, the chances of significant increases to education ministries across the globe are minimal unless we can justify their importance, which is both essential and possible.