We live in unprecedented times. At the time of writing almost 2.5 million people around the world have lost their lives to COVID-19 and face the worst economic global crisis since the Great Depression.
The health and economic emergency caused by the pandemic has also exacerbated the global learning crisis, affecting both the funding and the delivery of education globally, and hitting the world’s poorest countries and most vulnerable learners the hardest.
The pandemic has laid bare the disparities that children and young people face in accessing a quality education: shining a light on the 258 million children who were out of school before the outbreak of COVID-19 and the millions more who were going to school, but not learning the basics, including how to read.
Tens of millions more children are now at risk of joining them.
A cocktail of devastating shocks to education financing
The disruption to already overstretched education systems combined with economic shocks and increased pressure on public finances create a potentially fatal cocktail for education funding.
Low-income and lower-middle-income countries were already facing a growing annual education financing gap of almost US$150 billion. To make matters worse additional costs due to COVID-19 related school closures risk increasing the gap by up to a third.
These costs along with slow or negative growth mean education budgets risk being squeezed by falling government expenditure and the pressure to allocate funds elsewhere. These same pressures are expected to have a similar effect on aid budgets.
These developments at the national level will be mirrored in households, which will see a reduction in personal income and remittances and therefore the money families spend on their children’s education will fall.