NEW YORK – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Tuesday that the world faces a global generational catastrophe because of school closures amid the coronavirus lockdown and said that getting students safely back to the classroom must be a top priority.
He stated that as of mid-July schools were closed in some 160 countries, affecting over 1 billion students, while at least 40 million children have missed out on pre-school, World News reported. This came on top of more than 250 million children already being out of school before the pandemic and only a quarter of secondary school students in developing countries leaving with basic skills, he announced in a video statement.
“Now we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress and exacerbate entrenched inequalities,” added Guterres as he launched a UN “Save our Future” campaign.
“We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people,” Guterres said in a video message and a 26-page policy briefing, adding, “The decisions that governments and partners take now will have a lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.”
Guterres called for the reopening of schools “once the local transmission of the virus is under control”.
“Once local transmission of COVID-19 is under control, getting students back into schools and learning institutions as safely as possible must be a top priority,” he stated, noting, “Consultation with parents, carers, teachers and young people is fundamental.”
The UN recommendations for getting global education back on track come as US President Donald Trump pushes for schools to reopen in the face of opposition from some teachers and parents while COVID-19 is surging in many parts of the country.
The coronavirus, which was first reported in China in December, has reportedly infected 4.7 million people in the US, while some 155,000 deaths are ascribed to it. Globally, the virus is said to have infected 18.28 million people, while it is said there have been over 692,000 deaths.