UN-supported Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises – described the pandemic as a “risk-multiplier”, which has not only created new challenges but also amplified existing risks for the most vulnerable groups, particularly girls, children and adolescents with disabilities.
“For the millions of marginalized youth already caught up in crises, COVID-19 further impacted their lives as a ‘crisis within a crisis’”, Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and the Chair of ECW High-Level Steering Group, said at the report launch.
‘Uniquely challenging year’
Learning losses also threaten future generations as well as decades of progress.
The UN education agency, UNESCO, estimated that globally, 1.5 billion students, from pre-primary to upper-secondary level, had experience some sort of learning interruption as a result of school closures in early 2020.
“2020 will be remembered as a uniquely challenging year”, said the Special Envoy.
According to the ECW report, this will aggravate the pre-pandemic rate of learning poverty, affecting 53 per cent of children in low and middle-income countries who by 10 years of age could not read or understand a simple text.
Combatting irreversible loss
To stem irreversible loss, ECW said it had stepped in to ensure every child has access to a safe, inclusive learning environment by adapting their response to supporting quality education for students caught in armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate change-induced disasters and protracted crises.
Shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global pandemic in March 2020, ECW initiated a substantive package of grants targeting all countries with ongoing investments. $23 million was allocated from the First Emergency Funding (FER) reserve within 21 days, and a further $22.4 million was sent in July 2020.
The funds were distributed across 85 grants in 32 countries and emergency contexts, to minimize the impact on education in crisis-affected areas and ensure children and adolescents were able to continue learning.
“ECW’s COVID-19 emergency grants reached over 29 million children and adolescents – including 51 per cent girls – in 32 crisis-affected countries and contexts”, said Mr. Brown.