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Thousands of schools across the world are currently closed in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus. 

The decision has impacted millions of school-aged children — predominantly across China, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan, Italy, Iraq, Macao, Mongolia, Japan, Iran, and Vietnam.

In China alone, where the virus originated and has already killed almost 3,000 people, around 180 million students have been impacted. 

Countries have implemented a range of tools to help keep students learning during this time.

In China, many pupils are learning through intimate live video chats while others are tapping into the broadcast of primary school lessons on public television. China has also created a cloud learning program that teaches its national curriculum.

In other parts of Asia, students are using PowerPoint, Google Hangout, and one-on-one live video chats with teachers. 

For many students, school closures are having a detrimental effect.

Some pupils are reporting the remote learning experience means they are unmotivated, while others say the new method is interfering with their grades and college plans.

Reports also show school closures can have particularly devastating, long term effects on already vulnerable individuals.

For disadvantaged students, forced online education can mean an end to free school meals — often the only proper meal of the day and source of nutrition for many children. Without school, children in certain nations can also be at a heightened risk of child marriage and child labor. 

The inevitable economic loss as a result of parents taking time off to care for at-home children can also have a particularly dire impact on poorer families.

The World Health Organization has suggested that temporary restrictions on things like travel, public gatherings, and schools may be beneficial in some instances, but urged nations to perform a full risk analysis before making drastic changes.

"Restrictions may interrupt needed aid and technical support, may disrupt businesses, and may have negative social and economic effects on the affected countries,” the organization said in a statement. “However, in certain circumstances, measures that restrict the movement of people may prove temporarily useful, such as in settings with few international connections and limited response capacities.”

This is not the first time schools have been ordered to close amid disease outbreaks. 

In 2014, schools closed across Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone in an attempt to curb the spread of Ebola. The closures lasted up to eight months and impact five million children.

In 2015, 559 schools closed in Michigan in the United States to halt an Influenza A outbreak, while all schools closed in Hong Kong during the SARS outbreak of 2003.


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Schools Close Across the World to Curb Coronavirus Spread

By Madeleine Keck