London (CNN)The headmaster of Eton College, the UK’s most elite private school, has said the coronavirus pandemic will trigger major societal change similar to that which followed the two world wars due to anger about inequality.
“Years from now, when historians look back at the events of 2020, they are likely to identify Covid-19 as the trigger for profound change,” Simon Henderson, headmaster of the £42,500 ($53,000) a year school told The Times newspaper in an interview published Saturday.
“It may well precipitate rapid social and economic transformation similar to that which followed two world wars,” he added.
Many of the UK’s prime ministers — including Boris Johnson and former leader David Cameron — attended the independent boarding school for boys, along with Prince Harry and Prince William.
Numerous public figures, actors and celebrities, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, also attended the school, which this week announced a £100 million fund to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As the coronavirus outbreak continues to keep schools and educational institutions closed, experts say the inequality gap between rich and poor is being exacerbated by school closures worldwide.
Across the globe more than 1.5 billion students — more than 90% of the world’s learners — are stuck at home due to school closures in about 190 countries, according to UNESCO estimates.
Poorer students are facing increased obstacles to achieving good grades as they contend with a lack of space to work, problems reaching online resources and psychological challenges.
Meanwhile, the virus is having a profound impact on economies. In the United States, the world’s wealthiest nation, more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment, millions of small businesses have requested forgivable loans to stay alive.
Meanwhile, the UN warned last week that the coronavirus pandemic will push an additional 130 million people to the brink of starvation in some three dozen countries already ravaged by poverty or war.
“The unfairness will become transparent, as it was in the Blitz when it was noted that houses in Belgravia were empty while the East End suffered. Coronavirus hasn’t been a great leveller, it’s much harder if you are poor,” Henderson said.
CNN’s Matt Egan, Tara John, Nectar Gan, Swati Gupta and Rob Picheta contributed to this report.