Covid-19 Impact: One Third Of Children Shut Out From School Education

Empire Diaries Desk @empirediaries

September 17, 2020: Around 463 million children globally are unable to access remote learning as the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered their schools, according to a new Unicef study.

“For at least 463 million children, whose schools closed due to Covid-19, there was no such a thing as remote learning,” said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency. The repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come.”  

At the height of nationwide and local lockdowns, around 1.5 billion schoolchildren were affected by school closures. The report outlines the limitations of remote learning and exposes deep inequalities in access.

Children from rural areas are severely affected by lockdowns. (Photo: Empire Diaries)

The report uses a globally representative analysis on the availability of home-based technology and tools needed for remote learning among pre-primary, primary, lower-secondary and upper-secondary schoolchildren, with data from 100 countries.

Data include access to TV, radio and internet, and the availability of curriculum delivered across these platforms during school closures.

While the numbers in the report present a concerning picture on the lack of remote learning during school closures, Unicef warns the situation is likely even far worse.

Even when children have the technology and tools at home, they may not be able to learn remotely through those platforms due to competing factors in the home including pressure to do chores, being forced to work, a poor environment for learning and lack of support in using the online or broadcast curriculum.

The report highlights significant inequality across regions. Schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa are the most affected, where at least half of all students cannot be reached with remote learning.

Among them, 147 million children are from South Asian countries.

Education for rural kids, a long way to go. (Photo: Empire Diaries)

Schoolchildren from the poorest households and those living in rural areas are by far the most likely to miss out during closures, the report says. 

Globally, 72% of schoolchildren unable to access remote learning live in their countries’ poorest households. In upper-middle-income countries, schoolchildren from the poorest households account for up to 86% of students unable to access remote learning.

Globally, three quarters of schoolchildren without access live in rural areas.  

Unicef urged governments to prioritise the safe re-opening of schools when they begin easing lockdown restrictions. When reopening is not possible, Unicef urged governments to incorporate compensatory learning for lost time.

School opening practices must include expanding access to education, including remote learning, especially for marginalised groups. Education systems must also be adapted and built to withstand future crises.

This analysis does not count out-of-school children.

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