The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic hit the poorest children the hardest - a lost generation of children is threatening to grow up. But just 330 Francs per child would be enough to enable the poorest to go back to school - this is what our calculations show.

Fears of a lost generation in the world’s poorest countries can be quashed by investing $50 billion to ensure 136 million children can return to school safely, Save the Children said today.

Icon Information

136 million Children are currently out of school

Icon Information

50 billion dollars – or 370 dollars per child Would be enough to help them go back to school again.

Analysis published today by the child rights organisation found that it will cost an average of $370 per child to safely open schools again and get learning back on track in 59 of the world’s poorest countries. These new figures follow research from Save the Children last year, which suggested that almost 10 million children may never return to school – while noting that this is likely to be a significant underestimate.

“Without education, we would not have the success of the COVID-19 vaccines and the prospect of a safer world. Children who are currently out of school are our future doctors, scientists, truck drivers, and plumbers,” said Adrian Förster, CEO of Save the Children Switzerland. “If 2020 was the year of finding the vaccine, 2021 needs to be the year of investing in children’s future.

As many countries cannot afford the cost, particularly as governments prioritise healthcare to tackle the second wave of the virus, international donors need to work with national governments to fully fund a plan to safely return all children back to school. The priority should be the poorest and most marginalised like girls, refugees and displaced children and children with disabilities, the organisation said.

Refugee children drop out of school more often

Save the Children research has found that refugees are dropping out of school at a higher rate than other children due to economic hardship and because refugees are being left out of national education responses. In a recent survey of Al Hol, Roj and Areesha camps in North-East Syria, where at least 5,500 children have stopped going to school, 79% of teachers said this was due to pressure to work in order to support their families financially. Even before the pandemic, UNHCR estimated that in the countries where they had rigorous enough data, almost half of school-age refugee students were out of school.

As well as missing out on an education, children out of school are also vulnerable to child labour, child marriage and other forms of abuse. As a result of the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, Save the Children warned of a dramatic surge in child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, with up to an additional 2.5 million girls at risk of child marriage over five years and adolescent pregnancies expected to rise by up to one million in 2020.

In Uganda despite some schools having re-opened, more than 13 million children remain out of school since the end of March last year, including 600,000 refugee children. In Nwoya district in northern Uganda, figures from the police and Ministry of Health (HMIS) show that cases of both teenage pregnancies and child marriage doubled, and rates of child labour tripled between April and June last year, while children were out of school. Due to difficulties in reporting these issues, the real picture is likely to be far more serious.

Mazen (12) and his family had to flee their home in north-west Syria due to a bad air attack. The father is unable to work after the attack as he suffered severe injuries. Mazen had to drop out of school in order to work and support the family financially.

Save the Children staff have been distributing learning kits in refugee settlements in Uganda since May last year due to school closures. The learning kits include learning materials, story books and child-friendly information on how to stay safe and healthy and reduce stress.

Save the Children urges governments and donors to take five urgent steps to ensure that children who were in school prior to COVID-19 closures can safely return:

  • Financial support for the world’s poorest families, so they can send their children to school and keep them healthy;
  • Catch-up classes for students who re-enter the formal education system;
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools, to make them COVID-19 safe for students, teachers and their families;
  • National back to school communications campaigns to inform communities that it is safe for children to return;
  • Effective training for teachers to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Help now!

Take action now for a better future for the world's most deprived children!

Yes, I make a sustainable donation for children in need