Are children really learning? (Are children really learning?) is the new report by Unicef that explores the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the related school closures on children in 32 low- and middle-income countries, as well as offering an updated analysis of the state of children's learning before the pandemic.
"Children who do not go to school," reads the Unicef website, "are among the most vulnerable and marginalised in society. They are less likely to be able to read, write or do basic calculations, and are cut off from the safety net that is provided by schools, which puts them at greater risk of exploitation and a life of poverty and deprivation."
As the report shows, 23 countries have yet to fully reopen their schools and many students are at risk of dropping out; 147 million children have also missed more than half of their school attendance in the last two years.
Data from the publication reveal that many children did not return to school when classrooms were reopened: in Liberia, 43% of public school students did not return when schools reopened in December 2020; the number of children out of school in South Africa tripled from 250,000 to 750,000 between March 2020 and July 2021; In Uganda, about one in 10 students did not return to school in January 2022 after schools had been closed for two years, while the dropout rate among girls in secondary education in Malawi increased by 48%, from 6.4% to 9.5% between 2020 and 2021.
Pre-pandemic data show a very poor level of learning. In the 32 countries and regions evaluated, a quarter of schoolchildren aged around 14 years did not have basic reading skills and more than half did not have the numeracy skills expected of a student aged around 7 years.
The report is available on the UNICEF website, in the dedicated news item.