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Education crisis deepens amidst pandemic due to inequality: UNICEF

Shahudha Mohamed
09 June 2020, MVT 18:04
On 31 March 2020, Rebeca Chang Si Loy, 17, studies online at home in Lima, Peru. Due to a nationwide lockdown, all schools and universities are closed in Peru. To stem the spread of COVID-19, schools in Peru closed effective 11 March 2020. UNICEF in coordination with Peruvian Women's Ministry and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP) and United Nations in Peru have published a Guidance for the protection and accompaniment of children and adolescents at home, named #YoMeQuedoEnCasa y la pasamos bien (#IStayHome and we have a good time) with some advice for staying healthy at home during the current quarantine. PHOTO: UNICEF
Shahudha Mohamed
09 June 2020, MVT 18:04

UNICEF revealed on June 5 that challenges posed to providing education amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic threatens to "deepen the global learning crisis".

According to the UN agency, "Access to the technology and material needed to continue learning while schools are closed is desperately unequal. Likewise, children with limited learning support at home have almost no means to support their education".

Due to this, UNICEF states that "providing a range of learning tools and accelerating access to the internet for every school and every child is critical".

Noting that "vast inequities exist between the richest and poorest households", UNICEF highlighted that almost all technologies used to deliver education while schools remain closed amidst the pandemic require electricity.

"Yet, in the 28 countries with data, only 65 per cent of households from the poorest quintile have electricity, compared to 98 per cent of households from the wealthiest quintile".

UNICEF reports that less than half the population has access to the internet in 71 countries across the globe, although 73 percent of governments out of 127 countries are using online platforms to deliver education amidst lockdown.

Three in four governments also use television as the main channel to deliver remote learning, including all the countries in South Asia.

However, UNICEF notes that in 40 out of 88 countries, children living in urban households are at least twice as likely to have a television compared to children in rural households.

More than half of the 127 reporting countries are also providing remote education through radio programmes, SMS, mobile, and social media as well.

UNICEF reported that education systems in many countries rapidly transformed to support children with remote learning since the pandemic hit, noting the efforts in Somalia to upload offline recorded session onto solar-powered tablets to make them available to children.

The NGO has also partnered with countries such as Timor-Leste, Mongolia, Kyrgystan and Bangladesh to ensure equal learning opportunities for children.

Certain tests and modules were dropped from the curriculum in Vietnam, while others are postponed to the next school year to allow students to catch up on missed learning over the whole of next year and to reduce academic pressure and psychosocial stress.

Most institutions in Maldives are providing education via online classes during the lockdown, although the government conducted televised classes titled 'Telekilaas' for students receiving primary and secondary education as well.

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