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The fall-out from the pandemic

A lot has been written about how the pandemic is having a profound impact on the world’s poorest people on just about every level.

A global recession, the scale of which has not been seen since World War Two, has been triggered, plunging already fragile communities further into deep poverty.

At World Villages for Children we are hearing first-hand just how desperate life has become through the eyes and ears of our partners, the Sisters of Mary. Working on the ground every day they experience the negative fall-out from COVID-19, the impact on extremely vulnerable and disadvantaged children in the countries where we work and their need for our care.

New students sitting outside wearing masks
New Boys in Guadalajara, Mexico

Expert witness

The Sisters tell us the harrowing stories shared by the younger children who have joined our schools in the past twelve months. They say as a result of Covid that there is:

  • increase in hunger
  • significant unemployment
  • more violence
  • an increase in early forced marriage for girls
  • a total lack of educational opportunities.

 

Here in the West there has been some continuity in education, albeit limited to those who have their own devices for virtual classes but in the countries where we work schools have been closed and there has been no education for the poorest children who have no access to infrastructure like the internet.

 

Boy sitting on a rubbish heap

Education levels for poor children have never been lower

When the Sisters receive new children at the schools they now find that their basic numeracy and literacy skills are significantly lower than they’ve ever seen before. This adds yet another burden to our programmes as these children require additional remedial teaching to bring them up to the level they need to acquire employment. They also tell us that they are seeing more severe cases of malnutrition and stunting.

In Honduras in particular, teachers have been hit hard by the prolonged lockdown in the country and many have lost their jobs. A recent vacancy for a biology teacher at our boys’ school in Amarateca attracted 75 applications when in the past they would have received around 7-10.

Reinery in class wearing a mask

We need to act now

The inequalities in education and living standards in low to middle-income countries are set to get considerably worse as the world emerges from the pandemic unless immediate action is taken now. If we don’t generations of children will lose out on having healthier, more productive lives to lift them out of poverty.

The recent, regrettable cuts in overseas funding by the UK Government will sadly undermine efforts to address the problem and could set back the UN Sustainable Goals by decades. The timing of the cuts could not be any worse.

We are helping around 20,000 boys and girls from the poorest backgrounds imaginable to access safe shelter and a quality education but this only scratches the surface. Millions of vulnerable children remain out of school, living in abject poverty, subjected to violence, experiencing severe hunger and possessing no means of making a better life for themselves.

Education is a route out of that despair. As John Dewey, an American education reformer said:

 “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”