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Millions of Children in South Asia Deprived of Opportunities to Flourish Due to Pandemic

The World Bank’s latest report on the impact of COVID-19 on young people in South Asia has stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has left millions of youth idle, with up to 1.6 million in Pakistan alone. According to the first comprehensive analysis of post-pandemic global data, “Collapse and Recovery: How Covid Eroded Human Capital and What to Do About It,” school enrolment percentages in Pakistan have undergone a drastic change before and after the pandemic.

Pre-school enrolment in the country fell by over 15 percentage points by the end of 2021, and enrolment among Pakistani children between the ages of six and 14 dropped by six percentage points once schools reopened. The study finds that between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2022, schools were fully or partially closed for 83% of the time in South Asia, significantly longer than the global average of schools being closed for 52% of that same period.

For every 30 days of school closures, school-going children lost approximately 32 days of learning on average. This caused students to miss out on learning and forget what they had already learned, resulting in an increase in learning poverty. According to the report, learning poverty – already 60% before the pandemic – has increased further, with an estimated 78% of 10-year-olds in South Asia unable to read and understand a simple written text.

The report also quoted World Bank Vice President for South Asia Martin Raiser as saying: “The pandemic shut down schools, decimated jobs, and plunged vulnerable families into crisis, pushing millions of South Asia’s children and young people off-track and depriving them of opportunities to flourish.” The World Bank warned that COVID-19-like calamities can cause a decline in both human capital levels and subsequent rates of accumulation, and that lifetime earnings and economic growth will witness a decades-long downfall if the said losses are left unaddressed, ultimately causing a spike in inequality.