Children in Latin America and the Caribbean have been by far the most affected by school closures linked to the coronavirus pandemic, a situation that can have disastrous consequences for the future, a new UNICEF report warns.

The UN agency estimates that 3 out of 5 students who have missed an entire school year live in this region, where schools have been completely closed for an average of 158 days between March 2020 and February 2021.

“If the average of the school calendar is 190, we are talking about 83% of that school calendar was lost in face-to-face classes,” explains to Efe Ruth Custode, education specialist at the Unicef ​​Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean .

In contrast, on a global scale, the average number of days with classrooms closed is 95 days (approximately half of the school calendar), which clearly shows the seriousness of the closure of Latin American and Caribbean schools as the first anniversary of the outbreak approaches. of the pandemic globally.


Around the world there are 14 countries in which schools have been mostly closed during the last year and, of these, two thirds are Latin American and Caribbean.

Panama is the country that has had schools completely closed for the most days (211 days), followed by El Salvador (205) and Bangladesh (198).

The prolonged closures in Bolivia (192 days), Brazil (191), Costa Rica (189) and Mexico (180) also stand out.

According to Custode, the situation in Latin America has “multiple causes”, among them the fact that the educational systems in the region were especially vulnerable, with low budgets and many centers without basic hygiene conditions such as running water.

These difficulties have been aggravated by the pandemic, which has made “it is very difficult for governments to take the step of reopening schools thinking about how to guarantee that safety” of students and teachers, he explains.

Unicef ​​also points out that in the region most of the closures have been decreed in a generalized way, by the ministries, a “same recipe for all” that has not taken into account the situation of many areas where the virus has little presence and schools they could have stayed open.


In its report, Unicef ​​once again asks the authorities to give priority to the reopening of schools whenever the health situation allows it.

“We cannot conceive that a year after the pandemic and in a second school year we will continue with schools closed when bars have been opened, restaurants have been opened, shopping centers have been opened,” explains Custode.

The UNICEF expert defends that students have to return to schools “as soon as possible”, because the more time passes, the worse the consequences will be.

“We have already lost a year where we do not know what the children learned,” he emphasizes, adding that many students will probably never return to education.


According to Unicef, Latin America does not have the necessary conditions for all students to be able to study remotely, so these types of strategies are only “patch solutions”.

“We need solutions that really guarantee the right to everyone and especially to the most vulnerable. The only way for these children who have no connection, from rural places, migrants, is to return to face-to-face classes ”, insists Custode.

But the lack of learning in itself is not the only thing that worries the experts, who warn that without going to class, children are losing the socialization process that is essential at those ages and are already suffering the consequences.

“We are losing much more than education and this is going to have repercussions in the short, medium and long term,” says the UNICEF specialist in a videoconference interview.


In order to draw attention to the ongoing education crisis and the importance of reopening schools, Unicef ​​unveiled a large installation on Tuesday at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Under the title “Aula de pandemia”, the work is made up of 168 empty desks, one for every million children living in countries where schools have been mostly closed during the last year.

According to UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, the facility sends a clear message to governments: “We must prioritize reopening schools and we must prioritize reopening them better than they were before.”

“We do not want closed doors and empty buildings to hide the fact that our children’s futures are being put on an indefinite hiatus,” Fore said in a statement.

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