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MUMBAI : Two years of school closures have had a massive impact on children and sparked a global crisis in education, a top World Bank official said. Anxiety and depression have increased among children, and the crisis needs an “Indian solution", said Jaime Saavedra, the multilateral agency’s global director for education.

“We, at the World Bank, are worried about a global crisis; India accounts for one in every five children in the world. The global crisis won’t be solved without progress in India," Saavedra said in an interview. “The global crisis requires an Indian solution. It is critical on commitment needed from financial, technical and political perspective," he added.

The World Bank’s education portfolio in India stands at $2.1 billion.

Schools in India have reopened after two years of pandemic-led closure. However, the World Bank notes that many students have dropped out as they work to support their families. “The benefits are not clear of the school closures, but the costs are now very (clear). The costs for children are gigantic. Almost two years of learning losses is a gigantic impact," he added.

In a joint statement in March, the World Bank, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) warned that the interruption in learning could lead to the loss of a generation. “Less than half of countries are implementing learning recovery strategies at scale to help children catch up," it said.

According to World Bank data, a combined 2 trillion hours of in-person schooling were lost due to school closures since March 2020, and students in four out of five countries have fallen behind in their learning.

“We see small exposure of children to education; we see increased rate of anxiety and aggression, depression among children. Social space disappeared for children for a long time," Saavedra said.

The pandemic has particularly impacted children living below the poverty line and those with special abilities. The March statement cautioned that many children have forgotten how to read and write; some are unable to recognize letters. “Without urgent remedial action, this could carry serious lifelong consequences in terms of health and well-being, future learning and employment," the statement said.

In a report titled The State of Global Education Crisis, World Bank, Unicef and Unesco charted out the global disruption to education during covid. According to the report, in rural Karnataka, the share of grade three students in government schools able to perform simple subtraction fell from 24% in 2018 to only 16% in 2020. Saavedra pointed out that among remedial measures, one needs to adapt teaching methods and prioritize curriculum.

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