This generation of students now risks losing $17 trillion in lifetime earnings in present value, or about 14 percent of today’s global GDP, as a result of COVID-19 pandemic-related school closures, says a new report published by the World Bank, UNESCO, and UNICEF on December 6.

The new projection reveals that the impact is more severe than previously thought, and far exceeds the US$10 trillion estimates released in 2020.

In addition, The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery report shows that in low- and middle-income countries, the share of children living in Learning Poverty – already 53 percent before the pandemic – could potentially reach 70 percent given the long school closures and the ineffectiveness of remote learning to ensure full learning continuity during school closures.

Simulations estimating that school closures resulted in significant learning losses are now being corroborated by real data, according to the report.     

Children from low-income households, children with disabilities, and girls were less likely to access remote learning than their peers.  This was often due to lack of accessible technologies and the availability of electricity, connectivity, and devices, as well as discrimination and gender norms.

Younger students had less access to remote learning and were more affected by learning loss than older students, especially among pre-school age children in pivotal learning and development stages.

The detrimental impact on learning has disproportionately affected the most marginalized or vulnerable.

Initial evidence points to larger losses among girls, as they are quickly losing the protection that schools and learning offers to their well-being and life chances.

The report highlights that, to date, less than 3 percent of governments’ stimulus packages have been allocated to education.  The report notes that more than 200 million learners live in low- and lower middle-income countries that are unprepared to deploy remote learning during emergency school closures. 

Reopening schools must remain a top and urgent priority globally to stem and reverse learning losses. Countries should put in place Learning Recovery Programs with the objective of assuring that students of this generation attain at least the same competencies of the previous generation

As far as Tajikistan is concerned, the situation in its high school sector is becoming critical.  Eurasianet notes that Tajik officials meanwhile freely admit that schools, which were already straining to deliver an acceptable education, are being decimated by the teacher exodus.

The top education official in the southern province of Khatlon, Ashourali Olimi, said in September that 750 teachers in that region had quit their jobs this year.  He pinpointed their “difficult financial position” as the cause.

Deputy Education Minister Nourali Sobirzoda acknowledged later the same month that the situation was becoming critical across the country.

Many teachers in Tajikistan reportedly quit over the summer to search for work in Russia, and Tajik schools are currently experiencing an acute shortage of teachers.

Teachers’ salaries were always horribly low in Tajikistan but living costs have soared since the pandemic began.

Thus, Eurasianet notes that Irosfil (his real name is not used) worked for 10 years as a teacher in Vahdat Township before finding that his salary could no longer stretch to feed his family of six.  He now works as a street cleaner and delivery worker in Moscow.  Menial work in Moscow reportedly can reap up to $800 per month.  Irosfil shares a two-room flat in the Russian capital with nine other Tajiks, which allows him to keep his monthly living costs to around 15,000 rubles ($210).  He sends roughly the same amount home and can save any money left over for the future.

As a deputy school director in Vahdat, Irosfil was paid $180 per month – almost twice as much as most of his colleagues, whose salaries hover closer to the $100 mark, according to Eurasianet.

Irosfil reportedly estimates that he was one of seven teachers that quit his school the same month out of a total teaching staff of 56. 

According to official statistics, there are over 98,000 teachers in Tajikistan with higher-education qualifications, a further 30,000 with vocational training and a further 1,800 who took up their posts immediately after leaving high school.

Experts fear a rapid deterioration in standards if the trend continues.