The myth that children aren’t being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic urgently needs to be dispelled, say actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
During a TIME 100 Talks discussion, Chopra and Fore spoke with TIME Senior Health Correspondent Alice Park about the challenges that children around the world, especially in developing countries, are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is an extraordinary generation of children, but this is an extraordinary crisis against them,” Fore said.
One problem that both Jonas and Fore placed particular emphasis on is the lack of access to education that many children are currently experiencing. “No matter what their circumstances are, even if they’re in refugee camps where they don’t have access to formal educational papers, the one thing that [children] want is their right to an education,” said Jonas, who became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2016 after working with UNICEF to promote children’s rights for nearly a decade.
However, Fore said that she’s hopeful that the coronavirus crisis will bring attention to the issues plaguing children’s education on a global scale—and even result in a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to create a more equal playing field for young people everywhere.
“We have seen a renewed urgency and commitment from a number of countries, and it usually centers around education. Often there are children in these countries, maybe half or more, who do not have connectivity. So when the schools closed and the teachers were no longer there, children’s learning simply stopped,” she said. “Investing in connecting every school to the internet—and every learner and every teacher—is starting to pick up a lot of interest around the world and we think it can mean that our world can emerge from COVID stronger and more forward-thinking.”
Jonas also discussed how there’s something that everyone can learn from the passion that children across the globe have for learning and taking charge of their lives when they have the resources to do so.
“The generation right now is kicking and raring to go. With information being at the palm of their hands with the internet, these kids are informing themselves,” she said. “They are ready to make sure that they change the world for the better, that they leave it better than they found it—and I hear so many kids saying that to me. So I feel like it’s such a hopeful time that the planet is going to be inherited by a generation of spirited, amazing children.”