“The social impacts that the pandemic has brought about have not subsided and the region has not been able to resume the path of growth,” the Santiago-based Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said in a report.
“Secondly, the impact of the pandemic on the education sector is highlighted -a silent crisis as a consequence of the very prolonged interruption of face-to-face education in the region and its repercussions on learning loss- that was not addressed as part of the immediate response to the crisis,” he added.
Citing data compiled by UNESCO, between February 2020 and March 2022, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean completely or partially interrupted face-to-face classes for an average of 70 weeks, far exceeding what happened in other regions of the world.
“The impact of the prolonged interruption of face-to-face education is devastating,” ECLAC said.
Early childhood and the pre-primary level are the most affected in the short term by the weaknesses in access and quality of distance education, where inequality weighed on various issues such as the availability of the Internet, overcrowding in homes or being under the responsibility of adults with low educational achievements.
All of this, in turn, led to gaps in skill development, missed learning opportunities, and increased risk of dropping out of school.
Along with the deteriorating educational outlook, the region’s children and youth will also see their development threatened due to nutritional problems caused by rising food prices, which will bring with them increases in malnutrition, overweight, and obesity in the region.
The educational crisis “along with the critical privations that children face and the risks of increased food insecurity, puts the development and well-being of an entire generation of girls, boys, adolescents and young people at risk and produces a ‘scar effect’ that undermines development opportunities in the region,” he said.
With an external scenario marked by inflationary pressures pushed by the war in Ukraine, ECLAC estimates that the region will grow 1.4% in 2023, below the 3.2% forecast for 2022 according to recently revised figures compared to those it delivered last August.
In addition, poverty will reach 45.4% of people under 18 years of age in 2022, 13.3 percentage points above the average for the total population, he added.