NAPLES — Francesca Nardi never liked school, or thought she was particularly good at it, but with the help of teachers and classmates she had managed to stick around until 11th grade. When the pandemic hit, though, she found herself lost in online classes, unable to understand her teacher through the tablet the school gave her. She was failing, likely to get left back, and planning to drop out.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon she paused from chatting with two friends, who had already dropped out, near her house in the projects of Naples’ eastern outskirts.
“It’s better if I just work,” Ms. Nardi, 15, said. “And not waste another year.”
Even before the pandemic, Italy had among the worst dropout rates in the European Union, and the southern city of Naples was particularly troubled by high numbers. When the coronavirus hit, Italy shuttered its schools more than just about all the other European Union member states, with especially long closures in the Naples region, pushing students out in even higher numbers.
While it is too early for reliable statistics, principals, advocates and social workers say they have seen a sharp increase in the number of students falling out of the system. The impact on an entire generation may be one of the pandemic’s lasting tolls.
three times longer than France, and more than Spain or Germany.
And experts say that by doing so, the country, which has Europe’s oldest population and was already lagging behind in critical educational indicators, has risked leaving behind its youth, its greatest and rarest resource for a strong post-pandemic recovery.