The children of Maribel Sanchez spent the majority of the past two years in La Paz, Bolivia’s mountain metropolis, hunched over a tiny smartphone screen to take online lessons during a protracted lockdown because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Because the family lacked a computer, the two boys, who were 11 and 8 years old, regularly skipped classes when their schedules clashed. Many Bolivian students still do not attend school full-time, and in-person lessons did not resume until March of this year.
From Mexico to Brazil, the tale is widely circulated in the area.
According to a World Bank analysis, students in Latin America saw about 60 weeks of entirely or partially shuttered schools between March 2020 and March of this year, making it one of the regions with the worst records for school closures internationally.
That puts it twice as high as Europe, Central and East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, or the Pacific and second only to South Asia. While there were lengthy partial closures in North America, there were only seven weeks of full closures, compared to 29 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to some experts, this may potentially set the educational levels of a generation of young people in the area back 10 years, which would have an impact on their future employment opportunities and salaries.
“The young students learned nothing from their virtual lessons. They were preoccupied. First-grader my son hasn’t learned anything. Nothing!” Sanchez stated as she waited outside a La Paz school to pick up her kids.
According to Emanuela di Gropello, a researcher for the World Bank, the pandemic’s schooling disparities would cause a 12 percent drop in lifetime wages for Latin American schoolchildren.
The earnings of those young individuals entering the workforce will essentially fall over time, she said.
One million young people in Argentina who had been attending virtual school, according to Mercedes Porto of the youth-focused Fundacion Cimientos, had “lost” a cohort of pupils from the educational system.
The effects would be severe and long-lasting, according to Andres Uzin Pacheco, a La Paz-based academic director and specialist on education.
“This locked-up generation is going to bear the repercussions, not just for the next five years, but for the next twenty to thirty years,” he stated, implying their whole academic and professional careers, including their time in college.