A group of 275 former world leaders, economists and educationalists have called on G20 nations and other countries to take action to prevent the global health crisis creating a ‘COVID generation’ – tens of millions of children with no hope of an education.


The leaders – including many presidents and prime ministers – say urgent measures are now required and as country lockdowns come to an end, an immediate priority is the fate of 30 million children who, according to a UNESCO report, may never return to school.

In a letter to G20 heads, national governments and global financial institutions, the former leaders also warn that the world’s poorest children have been locked out of learning, denied internet access and, with the loss of free school meals – once a lifeline for 300 million boys and girls – hunger is growing.

The letter states: “We cannot stand by and allow these young people to be robbed of their education and a fair chance in life.”

Carol Szeto, CEO of Save the Children Hong Kong, said: “COVID-19 is a global public health crisis that has left the world facing an unprecedented education emergency. That emergency threatens to rob millions of children of their right to education, exacerbating inequalities linked to wealth and gender – and trapping entire countries in a downward spiral of slow growth, rising poverty, and shrinking opportunity. Governments should be investing in learning, instead we’re facing unparalleled budget cuts. The international community is sleepwalking into an avoidable education disaster that will scar an entire generation.”

Leaders are also urging the G20 to ramp up funding and ‘rebuild education better’, stating: “The World Bank now estimates that over the next year overall education spending in low and middle-income countries could be $100-150 billion lower than previously planned.”

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ban Ki-Moon, former UN Secretary General, Graca Machel, Helen Clark former New Zealand Prime Minister and Gordon Brown former United Kingdom Prime Minister and UN Global Education Envoy said: “We call on the G20, the IMF, World Bank and regional development banks and all countries to recognise the scale of the crisis and support three emergency initiatives.”