United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres toured the UNICEF installation to draw attention to the ongoing tragedy of school closures due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Schools for more than 168 million children globally have been completely closed for almost an entire year due to lockdowns, according to new data released today by UNICEF.

‘Pandemic Classroom’ is made up of 168 empty desks, with each desk representing one million children living in countries where schools have been almost entirely closed. According to UNICEF, children unable to access in-person schooling fall further and further behind, with the most marginalized paying the heaviest price.

UNICEF unveiled its installation Tuesday 3 March 2021 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to call attention to the need for governments to prioritize the reopening of schools.

Screenshot Credit:
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The Secretary-General said, “one of the most dramatic consequences of the COVID, has been the terrible suffering that children, families, because of children that cannot attend school. Many, fortunately, had a chance to do it at least with virtual means, but for the poorest populations without internet connection, just we have millions of people out of school. And that is a tragedy. A tragedy for them, a tragedy their countries, and a tragedy for the future of humankind.”

UNICEF’s analysis of school closure report notes that 14 countries worldwide have remained largely closed since March 2020 to February 2021. Two-thirds of those countries are in Latin America and the Caribbean, affecting nearly 98 million schoolchildren. Of the 14 countries, Panama has kept schools closed for the most days, followed by El Salvador, Bangladesh, and Bolivia.