Story at a glance
- A report from One Campaign warned that 70 million 10-year-olds in 2021 alone could lack the basic literacy skills expected of a child of that age.
- Of that 70 million, nearly 12 million could be unable to read as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on education.
- The learning crisis is particularly dire in Africa and Asia, with sub-Saharan Africa making up 40 percent of children at risk.
A new analysis says more than half of the world’s 10-year-olds could be unable to read and understand a sentence by the end of 2021, a figure that’s been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The report released Monday from anti-poverty nonprofit One Campaign warned that 70 million 10-year-olds in 2021 alone could lack the basic literacy skills expected of a child of that age.
Of that 70 million, nearly 12 million could be unable to read as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on education. The analysis is based on official “learning poverty” figures from the World Bank and UNESCO, and population data from the United Nations.
The pandemic caused schools across the world to close for extended periods of time over the past year as governments imposed lockdown measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus. While schools in wealthier countries transitioned to online learning and hybrid models, children in some of the poorest countries have fallen behind in their education due to a lack of access to technology and infrastructure for remote education.
The learning crisis is particularly dire in Africa and Asia, with sub-Saharan Africa making up almost 40 percent of children at risk. Girls are also more seriously affected as the report estimates up to 20 million may never return to the classroom.
“This has real world implications. When children can’t read by the age of 10, this has a knock-on effect on their whole education, impacting on their ability to learn, earn, start businesses,” David McNair, executive director for global police at The One Campaign said.
“Governments must urgently step up and invest in the future of children around the world and ensure that budgets are spent efficiently and in a targeted manner. This virus has taken enough from us already, it must not take the futures of millions of children as well,” McNair added.
The number of children lacking basic literacy by the age of 10 could rise to 750 million by 2030 if current trends continue, the analysis warns.
The nonprofit urged governments to commit $5 billion for the Global Partnership for Education, which could enable 175 million children to learn over the next five years, as well as endorse two global targets on girls’ education set by the United Kingdom.
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