Hundreds of millions of children in Latin America and the Caribbean are now at risk of failing out of school due to COVID-19 school closures, according to the World Bank. Other organizations like the Inter-American Dialogue, UNICEF and UNESCO are also in agreement of the same. 

To show their dedication to education, the heads of state of Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Honduras attended the event titled “My Education, Our Future”. The objective was to express support for learning while discussing national educational recovery efforts and encouraging other leaders to do the same.

Students in the region have experienced some of the world’s longest, uninterrupted COVID-19 school closures. Students in Latin America and the Caribbean are still not all back in class despite it being more than two years after the epidemic began.

According to new World Bank statistics, children who return to school have fallen, on average, one to 1.8 years behind their peers in other regions since 2010. According to these estimates, the gap has remained at around that level for several years.

“The region’s education crisis is unprecedented,” said World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean Carlos Felipe Jaramillo. “We must act now to recoup learning deficits or a whole generation of youngsters and teenagers will be less productive in the future, with fewer chances for progress and well-being. According to our calculations, today’s pupils may lose as much as 12% of their lifetime earnings. This is the moment to act; it is time to prevent these losses and support the next generation’s future.”

At the event, all the participating organizations called for immediate and concerted action to ensure that every generation of children graduates from school properly prepared. They thus published a “Commitment to the recovery and protection of learning in Latin America and the Caribbean,” which emphasized four key activities:

• Make education recovery a priority in the public eye;

• Reintegrate all of the kids who dropped out and ensure they return to school;

• Retrace the path of your child’s learning and ensure their socio-emotional well-being;

• Provide teachers with opportunities for professional growth, help them develop necessary expertise and skills, and train them to deliver high-quality education;

“We urge all nations in Latin America and the Caribbean to make a commitment to educational recovery and transformation,” said Claudia Uribe, director of the Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago).

“Millions of children and young people suffered enormous damage to their learning and well-being as a result of the pandemic, putting their future and hope at risk. There is no time to lose in order to implement all necessary procedures to mend this harm and prevent its long-term ramifications from becoming permanent or irreversible.”

“The education trajectories, learning, and emotional well-being of kids are being harmed by school closures. There will be long-term consequences not only on education but also on countries’ productivity levels and employment prospects,” Ariel Fiszbein, the Director of the Education Program at the Inter-American Dialogue, said.

Although he acknowledged that the epidemic has taught everyone a valuable lesson about how to improve teaching methods, he also recognized that it presents possibilities for future improvement. In the end, Jean Gough, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, called on all South American nations to translate promises into action.

While many schools have reopened their doors, the learning crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean is by no means over; it’s simply less obvious than before. “In the end, there are millions of kids who are likely to fall behind. It will not be enough for small-scale learning recovery initiatives. To handle the problem, we’ll need to design and implement large-scale learning recovery systems. It is up to us to decide whether to invest now or leave an entire generation behind.”

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