COVID-19 has locked children out of their education

  • The impact of COVID-19 on children’s education has been profound.
  • Currently, 38 million children worldwide are completely out of school. The consequences of this lack of school education will be far-reaching for the most vulnerable.
  • To mobilize and support continuity of learning, UNESCO has established the Global Education Coalition for the ultimate goal of protecting the right to education.

Although the COVID-19 crisis largely deprived children of its devastating health effects, its impact on their education was profound. The consequences of school closures have been far-reaching, and for the most vulnerable children the negative consequences will be for life.

Interruptions caused by COVID-19 were costly. Currently, 38 million children worldwide are completely out of school. Since the start of the pandemic, children around the world have lost about 1.8 trillion hours of personal training.

One hundred and thirty-one million students, ranging from preschool (ages 3 to 6) to higher education (ages 14 to 18) in 11 countries, have completely missed at least three-quarters of the class time from March 2020 to September 2021 year.

As a result of the partial closure of schools and disruptions in home life, more than 100 million extra children will fall below the minimum level of reading proficiency.

Losses in learning at a young age go far. They can easily lead to lagging behind in school, it will be difficult for them to ever catch up and affect whether they continue their education.

Eleven million worrying girls may not return to school, turning back decades of progress toward gender equality, and moreover, exposing girls to greater risk of teenage pregnancy, early and forced marriages and violence. Seen through the prism of the floor, the picture is more horrible.

Uneven access to the Internet exacerbates existing inequalities

When the COVID-19 crisis began and schools closed, governments around the world responded to the call for solutions for distance learning. There are a number of tools for distance learning for children, including television, radio, recorded audio and video recordings, and live lessons on a mobile phone.

However, 2.2 billion people (two out of three children and young people under the age of 25 and under) do not have an internet connection at home. In low-income countries, Internet coverage is alarming: 6% coverage compared to 87% in high-income countries. Globally, three out of four students who cannot be covered by distance learning opportunities come from rural areas and / or poor families, which further exacerbates existing inequalities in access to education.

If countries find themselves unprepared for distance learning

UNICEF recently published a new summary indicator called the Distance Learning Readiness Index (RLRI), which measures countries’ readiness for distance learning.

While countries such as the Philippines, Barbados and Argentina have received high marks on the RLRI index, more than 31 countries are not ready to introduce distance learning in times of crisis – more than 200 million schoolchildren. The RLRI is also not a complete picture and is unable to measure issues that are not included in its assessment.

Poor access to connectivity has become a strong barrier that prevents children and young people from accessing effective and interactive forms of learning, and its consequences are long-term.

Impact outside of learning

The closure of schools affects not only education but also their mental health and well-being. A survey conducted by UNESCO found that children around the world are struggling with social exclusion, access to food and lack of exercise, which affects a child’s development.

The state of impact on India

In India, COVID-19 has had the greatest impact on rural and youth education. One in three children in grades I and II (grades 1 and 2) never attended private lessons during the pandemic, and the youngest students had “the least access to technology,” according to the 2021 Annual Education Report (ASER).

Almost a third of all children in grades I and II did not have a smartphone at home.

Children living in rural areas and in poor areas suffer from even greater learning isolation.

Of the 15 states and union territories, a survey conducted in August 2021 by schoolchildren online and offline learning (SCHOOL) found that only 8% of rural children regularly study online. Thirty-seven percent did not study at all.

Almost half of the children in the sample were illiterate.

Two-thirds of parents from the SCHOOL survey said their children, who cannot access school online, are lagging behind and reading and writing skills are declining.

Restoring education and capacity should be a priority

As the pandemic continues to unfold, school closures and distance learning will remain a challenge that will affect the learning, development and well-being of generations of children. Therefore, it is very important to make the restoration of education a priority to avoid the catastrophe of generations.

This will not be the last global health crisis we are facing, so we must give priority to strengthening the sustainability of education systems everywhere, starting with the countries most unprepared for mobile learning. Countries need to build capacity for distance learning quality education, focusing on vulnerable and marginalized children who are often left unattended.

To mobilize and support continuity of learning, UNESCO has established the Global Education Coalition for the ultimate goal of protecting the right to education.

We need to build on the lessons learned from this crisis, with education around the world, creating comprehensive preparedness plans and a strong national infrastructure to provide education in a variety of ways. Once the current crisis subsides, countries must continue to expand distance learning and incorporate aspects into everyday schooling for all children and young people so that our transition to the next crisis is smoother.

Vigilance is – and will be – very important to ensure that the training of the most vulnerable does not fall during current and future crises.

This article was originally published in The Daily Guardian.

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