SEATTLE, Washington — The novel coronavirus has pushed many underserved communities into a learning crisis. In the past, economic, geographical and cultural divides have created a gap in education equality. Now, the pandemic is unmasking the relationship between the digital divide and access to education as classrooms and learning programs transition online. Children who lack the necessary technologies, power supplies and internet connections are forced to discontinue their schooling. Google and the nonprofit Teach for Nigeria are working to bridge Nigeria’s digital divide by providing children with online learning tools amid the pandemic.
Education in Nigeria
Currently, Nigeria has the highest number of children out of school in the world. Although primary education in the country is both required and free, nearly 10.5 million children are not in school. This issue is driven by social and religious unrest, underdeveloped curriculum, overcrowded schools and untrained teachers.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its preventive measures have exacerbated these existing problems. Children living in underserved or isolated regions face significant challenges in transitioning to a predominantly online form of learning. In developed countries, the pandemic is revolutionizing digital education capabilities and changing how many institutions choose to deliver content. Meanwhile, in low-income countries, students lack the resources to make this transition and risk being left behind.
Teach for Nigeria
The nonprofit Teach for Nigeria, which has been addressing the educational needs of children in Nigeria since 2017, now has to adapt to the digitization of education and faces unprecedented issues. The organization, which is a part of the Teach for All network, recruits volunteers to teach in Nigeria’s low-income regions during a two-year fellowship. Additionally, the program teaches volunteers highly transferable teaching skills, which can drive long-term systemic changes in Nigeria’s educational sector. So far, Teach For Nigeria has placed more than 60 fellows in southern Nigeria.
Recently, Teach for Nigeria received a grant from Google for Nonprofits, an initiative started by Google to empower nonprofits by giving them access to their technology and services free of charge. The program aims to mitigate the expenses associated with managing operations and employees, advertising and donor engagement since nonprofits often operate on a tight budget. As of 2020, Google has provided its services to nonprofits in 57 countries around the world.
Children’s’ Education Amid the Pandemic
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, nonprofits like Teach for Nigeria need to make a digital shift. Most importantly, the organization needs access to tools and resources to help children study remotely and raise awareness online. Teach for Nigeria’s services are essential to ensure students in underserved communities can access quality education delivered by well-trained instructors. Higher levels of education increase the likelihood of securing a stable job. In many developing countries, this progress toward rising employment rates is a critical step in decreasing poverty levels.
Teach for Nigeria is working to make its program inclusive for all students through alternative learning means such as television and radio stations. This initiative targets students living in rural or isolated areas who otherwise face the risk of exclusion from educational opportunities.
With outside funding, Teach for Nigeria is working toward creating educational equity and closing Nigeria’s digital divide. The organization intends for 1,000 fellows to reach more than 175,000 students by 2022. Additionally, hundreds of Teach for Nigeria alumni are continuing to impact the lives of children in high-need communities.