Children in Latin America have lost four times as many school days than children in the rest of the world, according to a UNICEF report released Monday.
UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen, said in the report that millions of vulnerable children in this region may not return to school.
“For those without computers, without internet or even without a place to study, learning from home has become a daunting challenge,” he said.
According to the report, 97 percent of children in Latin America and the Caribbean have missed out on 174 days of learning on average and are at risk of losing an entire year of their education. This has affected about 137 million children in total. The report refers to this as a “generational catastrophe.”
As NBC News notes, Latin America has been hard-hit by the coronavirus. The region has reported more than 11.6 million cases so far and more than 400,000 deaths.
In the long run, continued school closings could cost the region up to $1.2 trillion in lost potential earnings, according to the report. More than the economic consequences, the social and civic benefits the children receive are also lost when school attendance drops.
Children who stay out of school lose opportunities to socialize with their friends as well as feeding programs. The report warns that children without school are at risk of being exposed to malnutrition, abuse and violence.
In response to these troubling numbers, UNICEF says it has partnered with countries’ governments through its 24 offices in the region to help develop “multi-sectoral responses.”
More than 42 million students have received socially distanced, home-based learning through TV, the internet, radio and other platforms. UNICEF notes that TV and radio have become part of this plan due to many students lacking access to the internet.