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One billion students impacted by pandemic, UN Secretary-General says

In mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, Antonio Guterres said

TASS, August 4. The coronavirus pandemic has affected the educational process of more than one billion students around the world, but developed countries partially managed to mitigate these problems by introducing distance learning, while developing ones did not always have capabilities to do the same, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video address published on his Twitter page Tuesday.

"In mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting over one billion students," he noted. "We already faced a learning crisis before the pandemic. More than 250 million school-age children were out of school. And only a quarter of secondary school children in developing countries were leaving school with basic skills. Now, we face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities."

Guterres added that the current state of affairs could also have a knock-on effect on gender inequality, child marriage and child nutrition that many kids get in schools.

The UN chief also informed that the organization had prepared a list of recommendations for governments to overcome the educational crisis caused by the pandemic. These pieces of advice have to do with keeping balance between urgent reopening of schools and the need to protect well-being of students, propose prioritizing education when drafting budgets and paying special attention to children living in hard-to-reach places or difficult conditions and also set out and introduce new approaches in this sphere. A new global campaign called Save our Future, introduced by Guterres, is meant to facilitate cooperation between national governments and relevant UN agencies.

"We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people. The decisions that governments and partners take you now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come," he added.

In late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus - named COVID-19 by the WHO - have been reported in every corner of the globe. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Since the pandemic broke out, more than 18 million people contracted the virus around the world and almost 700,000 died.