A major advocate for social distancing is having second thoughts
This week The Guardian featured two articles funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) as part of its sponsorship of the paper’s Global Development coverage. One noted on Monday that hundreds of millions of children had fallen behind across the world during the last 18 months, and the other stated that Covid measures meant that education was at risk of collapse in one quarter of the world’s countries.
However, the articles did not mention that these outcomes were the direct result of the lockdowns enthusiastically supported by, er, Bill Gates. These results were entirely predictable — and were indeed predicted at the outset of the lockdowns by UNESCO.
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On 18 March 2020, UNESCO reported that half of the world’s schoolchildren were not attending school, and outlined the potential consequences. These included interrupted learning, decline in nutrition, erosion of child protection and childcare, and inequitable access to digital learning leading to multiple future inequities. But no one listened.
Nearly 18 months since the catastrophic global policy response to Covid-19 began, the evidence of the appalling harms caused to children and their education is staggering. The Guardian report noted the case of the Philippines, which had some of the “world’s toughest restrictions for children”, with schools still not being reopened after 18 months. Translation? It was illegal for children aged 5-15 to leave their homes between March 2020 and July 9th this year.
Does it require a multi-billion dollar philanthropist and teams of well-paid researchers to work out that children’s learning outcomes are going to be badly affected if they can’t go to school or leave their home? Add to that the fact they live in a seriously impoverished country with scant internet access too. Thanks, BMGF, for putting us straight on that one.
Other bleak predictions from UNICEF’s March 2020 report are now becoming visible. A UNICEF report back in January found that more than 39 billion in-school meals have been missed globally since the start of the Covid-19. A July report in South Africa’s Business Day found that half a million fewer children were in school than a year before. A World Bank study found that Covid-19 school lockdowns had increased dropouts across the board in Nigeria, especially in the 15-18 age group, increasing child marriage and child labour rates dramatically. And these impacts are not limited to poor countries — a recent study found that in the US, poor and minority children were much less likely to have had in-person lessons last year.
Why then has the BMGF suddenly sat up to take notice? Rather than an awakening of sanity — and humanity — it’s more likely to be a case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing. I’m sure that many people at BMGF are appalled at these prospects — but for many poor children, their realisation comes far too late. A future with millions of impoverished, ill-equipped, cruelly treated and angry young people looks to be the ultimate result of these global lockdowns, which should give mainstream media figures cause for reflection.