Children have been the lowest-risk group affected by Covid-19, but have arguably suffered the most under Covid-19 policies imposed on them by hysteric adults. A recent joint report by the World Bank, UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund), presents some shocking data on how much learning loss children worldwide have suffered in the last two years due to school closures.
In March 2020, as the virus spread worldwide, fear and uncertainty led many governments to shut down schools to “slow the spread.” Only a few countries, including Taiwan, Nicaragua, and Sweden, decided not to close their schools. By April, UNESCO estimated that about 1.5 billion children worldwide had been forced to stay home due to school closure, and their regular education was disrupted.
Some did remote learning from home, but kids from disadvantaged backgrounds often didn’t get much online learning due to home instability, the low quality of online learning compared to in-person instruction, the lack of a computer, lack of a stable internet connection, lack of electricity, and lack of caregiver support.
It didn’t take long for scientists to learn that children are much less likely than adults to be harmed by Covid-19. As school closures extended from weeks to months, many parents and educators voiced concerns that remote learning had failed to provide kids the educational experience they needed.
Younger children and children with disabilities were especially struggling with online learning since those classes were often thrown together in a hurry without considering their unique needs. The prolonged school closures also affected children’s mental health and exasperated other social issues, including subjecting some children to physical or sexual abuse.
By June 2020, there was sufficient data to show that school closures caused more harm than good. So about 20 countries, including Denmark, Finland, and France, reopened their schools. But many countries, including the United States, kept schools closed, despite data recommending otherwise.
According to this joint report by the World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF, full and partial school closures lasted an average of 224 days globally. We now see just how significant the learning loss is, especially for younger and more marginalized children.
Students in São Paulo, Brazil “learned only 28 percent of what they would have in face-to-face classes, and the risk of dropout increased more than threefold.” In rural Karnataka, India, “the share of grade three students in government schools able to perform simple subtraction fell from 24 percent in 2018 to only 16 percent in 2020.”
Even in a developed nation such as the United States, youth face devastating learning loss. Research by Amplify, a curriculum and assessment company, shows, “In kindergarten, the percentage of students at greatest risk for not learning to read rose from 29 percent in the middle of 2019–20 to 37 percent in the middle of 2021–22.”
School closures also widened the education achievement gaps among racial groups. The same research demonstrates that, on reading, about “48 percent of Black grade 1 students are far behind, and 43 percent of Hispanic grade 1 students, compared to 27 percent of white grade 1 students.”
Students in higher grades didn’t fare much better. NWEA, a nonprofit testing company, reported that the median students in grades 3 to 8 were 9 to 11 percentile points behind in math, and 3 to 7 percentile points behind in reading. It estimated that “a 9 to 11 percentile point decline in math achievement (if allowed to become permanent) would represent a $43,800 loss in expected lifetime earnings. Spread across the 50 million public school students currently enrolled in grades K to 12 would be over $2 trillion.”
Besides learning loss, the joint report points out that school closures in the last two years have jeopardized children’s health and safety. Close to 400 million kids worldwide missed out on school meals during closures, which were the only reliable source of food and daily nutrition for many. The extended school closures also put “an estimated 10 million more girls at risk of early marriage in the next decade and at increased risk of dropping out of school.”
The report concludes that reopening schools should be every country’s “highest priority” because “the cost of keeping schools closed is steep and threatens to hamper a generation of children and youth while widening pre-pandemic disparities.” It recommends countries adopting learning recovery programs with mixed techniques, including extending instructional time and targeted instructions.
Even though there is indisputable evidence about the harm children have suffered due to extended school closures, teachers’ unions in the United States continue to prioritize their own interests at the expense of children. At the beginning of this year, the teachers union in Chicago voted to halt in-person instruction and shut down the nation’s third-largest school district.
Just this month, classes in Minneapolis public schools were canceled, and about 31,000 students were stuck at home when the teachers union went on strike. The union demanded a salary increase and more mental health support for students but said nothing about students’ learning loss.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief architect of many ruinous U.S. restrictions, recently warned that Americans must be ready to go back to Covid-19 lockdowns if there’s a surge of “Stealth Omicron” sub-variant. Teachers’ unions use any uptick as an excuse to keep schools closed.
American parents and other concerned citizens must stand up to the teachers’ unions, the Democrat politicians the unions support, and unelected public health officials like Fauci. We must let them know that we will never go back to failed Covid-19 restrictions, and we can never again close schools as we did last two years. Children have suffered enough.