SEATTLE, Washington — The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact not only the world’s global health and economy but education as well. Indeed, according to UNESCO, school and university closures are affecting almost one-point-six billion students around the world. That is why organizations like UNICEF and the Global Education Coalition are working tirelessly to provide remote education during COVID-19 worldwide.
The Challenges of Remote Education for Disadvantaged Students
Governments around the world are making efforts to provide students with distance education opportunities. In general, this consists of web-based learning and streaming classes over TV and radio. However, access to remote education varies dramatically in conjunction with a family’s income level. Less than 25% of low-income countries around the world provide any type of distance education, for example. Of those that do, most use TV and radio for remote learning. This is largely due to a lack of widespread access to internet-service in the developing world.
Along similar lines, the quality of remote education varies from family to family according to income. Income level, for example, affects a family’s ability to purchase studying materials or books for a student’s use at home. Additionally, because parents in the developing must work long hours to provide for their families, children frequently suffer from a lack of parental engagement in the learning process. Without being able to receive assistance as they would in a physical classroom, this can place them at a severe disadvantage.
Compounding this dilemma is the fact that the pandemic hits the most vulnerable communities much harder than others. Even prior to the lockdown, refugee children, displaced populations and asylum-seeking communities had been struggling with access to learning opportunities. Less than half of school-aged refugees were able to attend classes, for example, while a majority of students were lacking necessary assistance like language classes and psycho-social support. Now, with school closures interrupting an already fragile education, there is concern that this will only heighten inequality.
NGOs Helping Provide Remote Education During COVID-19
Both local and global NGOs are working to expand access to remote education during COVID-19 in low-income and vulnerable communities.
Here is a quick overview of what is being done to help:
- In Bulgaria, the Council of Refugee Women and the Bulgarian Red Cross are providing refugee students with laptops and holding online language classes.
- The UN Refugee Agency is producing and delivering learning materials to refugee communities. In addition, the agency is also supporting refugee teachers financially.
- The United Nations Children’s Fund is assisting the Vietnamese government in developing and distributing learning materials. This includes planning opportunities for physical education.
- In Rwanda, UNICEF is teaming up with Inspire, Educate, Empower and the Rwandan Broadcasting Agency to produce radio educational lessons for students across the country.
- In conjunction with TED-Ed, the United Nations Environment Programme has launched Earth School, an online resource with free videos, reading materials and activities for students, parents and teachers.
Governments around the globe are trying to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on education. However, when it comes to remote learning, underlying issues with inequality are presenting a steep challenge. That is why the work various NGOs and other organizations are doing to help students from low-income and vulnerable backgrounds is so vital.
– Elizaveta Naguslaeva