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Many countries have been kept their schools closed for nearly a year even though educational institutions are not the drivers of COVID-19 transmission.

Urging to open schools, UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said this in a statement on Tuesday.

She said, “As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as cases continue to soar around the world, no effort should be spared to keep schools open or prioritize them in reopening plans.”

“Despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of schools closure on children, many countries have been kept their schools closed for nearly a year," Fore said.

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Terming the cost of schools closure as devastating, the executive director said, the pandemic lockdowns have affected around 90 per cent students’ lives worldwide as well as left more than a third of school goers with no access to remote education.

“The number of out-of-school children is set to increase by 24 million --a level we have not seen in years and have fought so hard to overcome."

Fore said, children’s ability to read, write and fix basic math has suffered and the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy have diminished.

“Their health, development, safety and well-being are at risk. The most vulnerable among them will bear the heaviest brunt," she said.

“Without school meals, children are left hungry and their nutrition is being worsened. They are losing physical fitness and showing signs of mental distress for not having interactions with their peers. The lack of safety net programmes are making them more vulnerable to abuse, child marriage and child labour," Fore added.

That is why closing schools must be a measure of last resort, after all other options have been considered. Nationwide school closures must be avoided whenever possible, she said.

Schools must be among the first to reopen once authorities start lifting restrictions, Fore said. "Catch-up classes should be prioritised to ensure that underprivileged children are not left behind anyway."

She said if the children are to face with another year of school closures, then the effects will be fell on upcoming generation.

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