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14 September 2020 - News

AFGHANISTAN: Eight in ten children say they’ve learnt little or nothing during COVID-19 lockdown

Children from the poorest households have suffered greatest loss of family income, missed out most on education and faced the highest risk of violence at home

KABUL, 14 September The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the education of children from poorer backgrounds and is widening the gap between rich and poor and boys and girls, a new global survey by Save the Children revealed today. In the six months since the pandemic was announced, the most vulnerable children have disproportionately missed out on access to education, healthcare, food, and suffered the greatest protection risks.

In Afghanistan, Save the Children surveyed 351 children and their caregivers as well as 129 respondents from the general public via social media, as part of a wider global survey on the impact of COVID-19 on children’s lives. The Afghanistan data broadly reflects the global survey data

The Afghanistan survey revealed:

  • Two-thirds (64%) of the children surveyed had no contact with teachers at all, during lockdown.
  • Eight in ten children believed they had learned little or nothing since schools closed.
  • Less than 1 in every 20 children (4.6%) had at least one daily check-in with a teacher.
  • 3 in every 10 (30%) children reported some violence at home during COVD19 lockdowns while for caregivers it was 1 in every 4 caregivers (26%)
  • One in three households in rural areas had difficulties accessing learning materials compared to one in five households in the urban areas.

Afghan children and their families have already been facing the impacts of decades of conflict. The pandemic has only made life harder and more dangerous. This is especially true for Afghan girls. Meena, an 11-year-old girl in Nangarhar province said:

“COVID-19 has changed my life. I am again not able to go to school. I had gotten a chance to go to school for the first time and then COVID-19 changed everything.. The  impact of COVID-19 is huge in our life, we live under a tough situation. There is no proper food and medicine to survive. Since the outbreak, we haven’t had three meals in a day because my father can’t make enough money to provide us with enough food. Whenever we get sick we can’t visit doctors due to poverty.”

The global survey revealed, among other things:

  • More than 8 in 10 (83%) of children reported an increase in negative feelings
  • Almost two thirds of the households (62%) found it difficult to provide their families with varied, nutritious food during the pandemic.
  • Violence at home doubled when schools were closed. The reported rate was 17% compared to 8% when schools were open and the child was able to attend in person.

The findings were launched on September 10th in a new report, Protect A Generation: The Impact of COVID-19 on Children’s Lives. The report is based on the largest ever global survey of its kind since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared six months ago. Some 25,000 children and their caregivers shared their experiences, fears and hopes during this unprecedented global crisis.

Save the Children is urgently calling for investment in education, health and nutrition, child protection services, mental health services and social safety nets like cash transfers for the most vulnerable.

Education has suffered greatly in Afghanistan due to conflict. While some progress has been made in recent years, such as the passing of a new law last year which guarantees children equal access to education, many challenges remain. Before COVID-19, 3.7 million children were already out-of-school and when schools closed due to the pandemic, nearly 10 million more lost access to education. The situation isn’t helped by inadequate public investment in schooling. Across public schools, a mere $196 is spent per primary-school-aged child, which is 78% below the average for the South Asia region.

Christopher Nyamandi, Save the Children’s Afghanistan Country Director, said:

“To protect an entire generation of children from losing out on a healthy and stable future, the world needs to urgently step up with support for Afghanistan. Without education Afghan children will be denied the opportunity to help rebuild their country.

“The needs of children and their opinions need to be at the centre of any plans to build back what Afghanistan has lost over the past months, to ensure they don’t pay the heaviest price.”

Save the Children’s research shows that across six Afghan provinces, just 28.6% of children can access distance learning programmes through TV, 13.8% through radio programming, and 0.2% through the internet.

Girls have been more heavily impacted than boys by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the 3.7 million children that were already out-of-school, 60% are girls.


To support Save the Children’s global COVID-19 emergency appeal, click here.

Notes to editors:

-        Save the Children held the largest global survey of its kind since the pandemic was announced, to generate evidence about the impact of COVID-19 on children.

-        Save the Children interviewed 8,069 children between 11 and 17 years old and 17,565 adults across 37 countries, all beneficiaries of Save the Children. Most of the interviewed children were in Asia (45%), followed by East and southern Africa (20%), Latin America (14%), the Middle East (10%) and West and Central Africa (8%). The surveys were done online and over the phone. 

-        Additional findings from the global survey include:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has in fact widened global inequalities along wealth and gender lines, the survey found – with poorer households more likely to suffer income losses (82%) than those not classified as poor (70%).
  • When it comes to health, the survey showed the same concerning divide along wealth lines. Nine in ten households that lost over half of their income due to the pandemic reported difficulties in accessing health services. 45% of respondents from poor households reported having trouble paying for medical supplies during the pandemic.

-        Issues preventing girls’ from realising their right to education include a mix of impediments, such as a lack of female teachers, lack of gender-appropriate facilities in schools, and the adoption of negative coping mechanisms, such as the promotion of child marriage by families in response to widespread poverty which prevent them from going to school.