Mitigating impact of Covid-19 on education

Mitigating impact of Covid-19 on education

More than 90% of the student population affected by Covid-19 due to school closures

Representative Image. Credit: DH File Photo

Education is the fundamental right of every citizen of the county, and quality education is one of 17 global goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Education makes an essential contribution to building democratic societies, where differences of opinion can be freely expressed and where a wide range of voices can be heard. This will ultimately lead to eliminating the differences or discriminations in gender, region, religion, language, wealth, etc.

But does everyone have access to the quality of education? One in five children, adolescents, and youth has been entirely excluded from education. In developing countries, this is 1 in 4 for girls. The Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report 2020 report stated that more than 264 million school-age students do not have access to education. Is this the same for all the social classes? 

The GEM Report reveals that rich people have five times more access to early education than poor. It warns that education opportunities continue to be unequally distributed and barriers to quality education are still too high for many students. This is the situation before Covid-19, and it is even worst after that.

More than 90% of the student population affected by Covid-19 due to school closures. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “the pandemic has created the most severe disruption in the world’s education systems in history and is threatening a loss of learning that may stretch beyond one generation of students.” 

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Due to nationwide and local lockdowns, nearly 1.5 billion school children were affected by school closures. In response to the unprecedented educational challenges created by school closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 90% of countries have implemented some form of remote learning policy. The people who could afford and have access to online education and its resources are continuing with their education without any interruptions, but this is not the case for everyone. 

Globally, 72% of school children unable to access remote learning live in their countries’ poorest households. This is almost equal to three out of four children. For more than 463 million children whose schools closed due to Covid-19, “there was no such a thing as remote learning,” the head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in 2020 when the agency launched a new report outlining the limitations of remote learning and exposing the deep inequalities in access. 

It is important to understand the characteristics and number of children who could not benefit from these remote learning policies so that the policies can be improved. 

What can be done to make the situation better?

The GEM report supported the implementation of policies like mid-day meals in some counties that improved the enrollment of students in schools. So, the governments may explore the possibilities of offering similar benefits to the students to continue their education from homes in this situation.

If teachers and educated individuals can take the responsibility of teaching in their neighbourhood in tiny groups maintaining the social distance norms, this will have a more significant impact at a large scale over a long time.

The TV-based remote learning policies had the potential to reach the highest proportion of students (62%), which accounts for almost 930 million students worldwide. This suggests television has a significant role in delivering education during school closures, even though this medium may not reach every student and does not offer a convenient way to transmit course materials. 

It is very important to think about the future of the next generation. The governments and foreign direct investments should consider the need for urgent investment to bridge the digital divide. They should develop alternative learning tools or platforms to compensate every student. 

(The writer is the Country Coordinator for Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassador Network)

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