Empty desk array at UN spotlights lost learning in pandemic

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A set of empty chairs and desks at the U.N. headquarters is symbolizing the coronavirus pandemic’s toll on education …

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A set of empty chairs and desks at the U.N. headquarters is symbolizing the coronavirus pandemic’s toll on education

In front of the desks, a blackboard-like display will count the number of in-person class hours lost during the pandemic: over 1.8 trillion and growing, according to UNICEF, the U.N. children’s arm. It arranged the installation, unveiled Friday, on the headquarters grounds to urge leaders to prioritize reopening schools.

“Next week, the United Nations will open its doors to delegations from around the world. But in many countries, the doors of schools will remain closed to children and young people,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. “We are short-changing an entire generation.”

UNICEF says about 131 million children have missed out on three-quarters of their in-person instruction since March 2020, and nearly 77 million of them have missed almost all of it.

Schools are still fully or partially closed in about 27% of countries, according to the agency.

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