Even as the countries are looking forward to reopen schools, the World Economic Forum has cautioned that reopening schools significantly increases the risk of spreading COVID-19 in developing countries.
In developing countries, adults and the elderly generally have more contact with children than those in advanced economies because of crowded living conditions and bigger households. These could lead to more transmission of the disease, the Forum said.
They said that the common justification for re opening schools is that children are very unlikely to die from COVID-19. However, the chances of spreading the virus to their parents and other adults are relatively higher, the World Economic Forum said.
They said that as per the data of the United Nations, the proportion of elderly people who live with at least one child under 20 is more than 10 per cent in most African countries, compared to less than 1 per cent in European countries and the United States. The Forum said that this increased the risk that children might contract the virus at school and transmit it to their parents and elders at home.
They said that delaying school openings could be a potent force for saving lives, by reducing the risk of children getting infected at school, and in turn, spreading the virus within their households.
They also pointed out that any policy decision about delaying school openings must weigh the potential lives saved against the negative impacts of keeping children out of school for a long period. They remarked that the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone showed an increase in out-of-wedlock pregnancies and a drop in school enrolment after the crisis among young women in villages. On the other hand, some families could not afford to send their children back to school after losing their livelihoods, indicating an important link between protecting livelihoods and access to education, they said.
Other major issues of concern in developing countries around keeping schools closed for long periods include losses in learning, missed midday meals, availability of childcare for working parents, and limited resources for online learning, the World Economic Forum said.
The World Economic Forum opined that evidence on household spread of the virus needs to be considered by governments when deciding to reopen schools.