SDG target: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.

See data sources and methodology used in our 2020 report

Before the pandemic, the world already faced a learning crisis, with 53 percent of students in low- and middle-income countries—and 87 percent in sub-Saharan Africa—unable to read a simple text by the time they are 10 years old. Constrained finances and school closures are likely to exacerbate these inequalities, with girls at particular risk of not returning to school.

Distance learning can help, but remote learning opportunities are also beyond the reach of many students. While we don’t have exact numbers of students accessing ed tech, for instance, less than one-third of the population across Africa has access to broadband. So we need to focus on helping students catch up quickly when they return to their regular classrooms. That means a greater focus on helping build and rebuild basic skills like literacy and numeracy; tailoring instruction based on what students know and don’t know; and supporting teachers with structured lesson plans that are proven to work. We’ve needed these changes for a long time. Maybe COVID-19 presents an opportunity to adopt them at scale.