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Pandemic ‘hit poorest countries’ education budgets hardest’

Image: Eugene Malaka [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Covid-19 could exacerbate global education inequality, says UN report

The novel coronavirus pandemic has eaten into the education budgets of the majority of the world’s poorest nations, a joint World Bank and Unesco report has warned. 

Two-thirds of low- and middle-income countries surveyed have cut their education budgets since the beginning of the pandemic, the 22 February report found. Only a third of richer countries did the same.

“These budget cuts have been relatively small thus far, but there is a danger that future cuts will be larger, as the pandemic continues to take its economic toll, and fiscal positions worsen. These differing trends imply a significant widening of the already large spending disparities seen between low- and high-income countries,” the report states.

The report examined the school and higher education budgets of 29 countries. Seven African countries were included: Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. 

The report says sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are expected to see the largest increases in poverty because of the pandemic, and that because education systems “rely heavily on household financial contributions”, further negative impacts will follow. 

“Unless these declines are actively addressed, they will most probably lead to higher school drop-out rates,” the report states.