A report by UNICEF estimates 463 million children, or at least one-third of students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread school closures around the world, lack the equipment or electronic access to pursue distance learning.
The UN estimates that 1.5 billion children worldwide have been affected by lockdowns or school closings caused by the pandemic. “The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency,” said Henrietta Fore, executive director of the UN Children’s Fund.
Fore stressed that the repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come.
Based on data gathered from roughly 100 countries, measuring public access to the internet, television and radio, the report underlined gaping geographical differences in children’s access to distance education, with far fewer affected in Europe than in Africa or parts of Asia.
Moreover, those with adequate access still face other obstacles to distance education such as the lack of a good workspace at home, pressure to do other work for the family, or lack of technical support when computer problems arise.
Among students in the world unable to access virtual education, 67 million are in eastern and southern Africa, 54 million in western and central Africa, 80 million in the Pacific and East Asia, 37 million in the Middle East and North Africa, 147 million in South Asia, and 13 million in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Philippines, where the school year has been repeatedly delayed due to an ill-prepared Department of Education, should figure prominently in the statistics. We have a month to go before our government agencies involved can prepare the entire public education system for distance education which will involve not only access to the internet, television or radio, but will also require affected students to be equipped with the necessary devices to make learning possible.
While certain groups and sectors can afford to call for a gap year, government does not have that luxury of simply throwing in the towel when the situation becomes difficult. We hope our government and DepEd can still muster all the necessary resources to properly restart the school year and find the ways and means to make education available to as many students as possible.*