The importance of investing in the wellbeing of children to avert the learning crisis

UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Program (WFP) have called on global leaders to act now and invest in school health and nutrition, to address the current learning catastrophe and leave no one behind.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion school-age children in more than 190 countries. While many children will continue their education, current estimates indicate that 24 million children will never return to the classroom and among those, a disproportionate number of girls.

The findings were revealed in a joint position paper by UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO and WFP on the importance of investing in the wellbeing of children to safeguard education from the devastating impact of COVID-19. UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini, warned “the COVID-19 pandemic could undermine decades of progress, exacerbate entrenched inequalities and turn into a generational catastrophe”.

To avert this crisis, we need to reimagine how we deliver good quality and inclusive education to the world’s children. This starts by expanding the concept of education to include the wellbeing of children, which in turn calls for urgent and substantial investments in school health and nutrition services; the position paper highlights.

Heads of State and Government, high-level political leaders, policy makers, development partners and global education actors recently committed to reinforce global cooperation and investment in education, as outlined through the 2020 GEM Declaration. They committed to safely reopen schools, and strengthen and restore access to services such as school meals, health, WASH and social protection.

Further, to avert the risk of losing millions of children in the classroom and build back a better and inclusive education system, the #SaveOurFuture campaign White Paper also highlights the need to restore school health and nutrition programmes.

Through the joint position paper released today, UNESCO, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, urge governments and the international community to uphold these commitments and to consider school health and nutrition services as a critical part of national response and recovery plans and global recovery agendas. Leaders are asked to advance an equitable, inclusive and progressive approach to education that includes comprehensive, integrated school health and nutrition programmes, so as to ensure that all children and young people have the required conditions to learn and thrive.