As cases of coronavirus disease continue to be identified in countries around the world, the effort to stem its spread has kept some 290 million students home from school.
According to the United Nations, as of Tuesday, 22 countries on three continents have closed schools because of the virus.
“We are working with countries to assure the continuity of learning for all, especially disadvantaged children and youth who tend to be the hardest hit by school closures,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.
“While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education.”
Thirteen countries have closed schools nationwide. China by far has the most students affected: more than 233 million.
Other large countries that have closed schools nationwide include Japan, Iran, Italy, Iraq and North Korea. Small countries have, too: Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Armenia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Mongolia and the United Arab Emirates have all shuttered their schools.
Nine other countries have localized school closings: France, Germany, Pakistan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.
When schools close, a cascade of adverse effects can follow. The missed lessons disproportionately affect poorer students, who often have fewer opportunities for learning outside of school. Many students rely on the free or discounted meals they eat at school for nutrition. Child care must be hastily arranged, which sometimes means that kids are left at home unattended. Dropout rates also can rise, particularly after protracted closures. And students might not have equal access to technology if their classes go online.
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