The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) will provide US$250 million to help developing countries mitigate both the immediate and long-term disruptions to education being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will help sustain learning for up to 355 million children, with a focus on ensuring that girls and poor children, who will be hit the hardest by school closures, can continue their education.
At least 630 million children are out of school in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Of the 67 countries eligible for the GPE funds, 63 have already closed schools nation-wide in response to the pandemic. This has already cut more than 350 million children off from learning, but also from other vital services provided through schools, including health care and nutritious meals.
Long-term school closures threaten hard-won development gains and could expose the world’s poorest children to increased risks. Evidence shows that girls who are excluded from school are more vulnerable to gender-based violence, early marriage and other forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. During the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, school closures were linked to 11,000 schoolgirls becoming pregnant and being unable to return to school. Boys are at increased risk of being recruited into armed groups. Teachers may be forced to find other sources of income and may not return once the pandemic is over.