“Years don’t wait for them”: increased inequality in children’s right to education due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Author(s): Sheppard, Bede; Jung Han, Hye; Martínez, Elin

Organisation(s): Human Rights Watch

Publisher(s): Human Rights Watch

Date: 2021

Pages: 134 p.


The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the education of an estimated 90 percent of the world’s schoolaged children. This report is based on over 470 interviews with students, parents, and teachers in 60 countries between April 2020 and April 2021. It documents how Covid-related school closures did not affect all children equally, as governments failed to provide all children with the opportunity, tools, or access needed to keep learning during the pandemic. Students from groups already facing discrimination and exclusion from education even before the pandemic were disproportionately adversely affected. Governments’ long-term failures to remedy discrimination and inequalities in their education systems, and often to ensure basic government services, such as affordable, reliable electricity in homes, or facilitate affordable internet access, meant schools entered the pandemic ill-prepared to deliver remote education to all students equally. Children from low-income families were more likely to be excluded from online learning because they did not have reliable electricity or sufficient access to the internet or devices. Historically under-resourced schools particularly struggled to reach their students. Education should be at the core of all governments’ recovery plans: governments should address both the impact of the pandemic on children’s education and pre-existing problems. In light of profound financial pressures on national economies from the pandemic, governments should protect and prioritize funding for public education.

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