Over half the world’s 10-year-olds won’t have adequate literacy by year-end: Report

The learning poverty will substantially diminish global recruitment pool for skilled health workers by 2030

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Wednesday 31 March 2021
Over half the world’s 10-year-olds will not have adequate literacy by the end of this year: Report

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic increased the number of children lacking basic literacy at the age of 10 by nearly 17 per cent, according to a new analysis. This means 70 million children — over half the world’s 10-year-olds — will not have literacy expected at that age.

If the trend continues, the number of children lacking basic literacy when they turn 10 could rise to 750 million between 2020 and 2030. Moreover, this “learning poverty” will substantially diminish the global recruitment pool for skilled health workers by 2030, the report added.

“This global learning crisis will hit Africa and Asia particularly hard, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 40 percent of children at risk,” said the report published by ONE campaign, an anti-poverty organisation, March 22, 2021. 

Girls are at greater risk, with an estimated 20 million never returning to school, the authors of the report estimated.

The calculations are based on figures released by the World Bank, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and United Nations population data.

Worldwide, schools have been closed for months last year to check the spread of the virus, affecting 1.5 billion children and youth in 195 countries, according to UNESCO.  

Classrooms have moved online but due to the digital divide, many children fell through the cracks and were unable to make academic progress.

The learning loss in childhood will harm their ability to start businesses, get well-paid jobs as adults and also have huge impact on societies.  

The organisation has urged governments to commit at least $5 billion to fund the Global Partnership for Education, arguing that it will enable 175 million girls and boys to learn in 2021-25.

It has also called on governments to support finances of developing countries with a stimulus package and an extension of repayment deadlines, so countries can use those resources to invest in education.

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