For students around the globe, the closure of schools means a complete migration to the digital environment in order to continue their education whilst social distancing.
Most ordinary students in first world countries with adequate access to technologies, countries including Canada and the U.S have turned to platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom. These video-calling and virtual assignment delivering platforms allow students and educators to communicate effectively without any physical interaction.
The transition is adaptable enough for citizens of first-world countries. The vast majority of the population were already relying on digital devices to interact long before the COVID-19 placed everyone in lockdown. For some, the transition is even preferred to attending classes in-person as it offers specific perks of digital education unobtainable otherwise. However, this situation disproportionately affects developing countries, low-income communities, and school boards that were already underfunded previous to the pandemic.
In developing countries in South America, Asia, and Africa, trade and tourism reliant economies have taken a hit from COVID-19; leaving them incapable of properly funding schools and education solutions. Most do not have widespread internet availability, and it proves too expensive for most households. In Israel, television providers have agreed to air lessons on TV so that households without internet or devices can still learn.
For some, parents of children living below the poverty line are unable to continue their employment. This leaves their children having to choose between school or putting food on the table. Most families lack access to the technology needed for digital schooling, and online education is not even a choice for underfunded school boards and their students.
The impacts of this disparity can be seen in the urban-rural divide of communities in China. While children living in urban areas with access to devices are successfully attending their scheduled classes virtually–many students in rural areas do not have the means to do so. For these rural students, their families are left dealing with other pressing impacts of COVID-19, and thus, education is neglected.
Reports show rural Chinese students forced to hike hour-long distances just to obtain a stable Wifi connection:
“One high schooler in Sichuan Province was found doing homework under a rocky outcropping. Two little girls in Hubei Province set up a makeshift classroom on a wooded hillside.”
- Raymond Zhong, The New York Times
Along with having access to technology, another problem lies in the environments that children in poverty are subject to. Children living in abusive or overcrowded households find it extremely difficult to work from home. Many younger children must learn with no guardian supervision at all when parents work full-time either at home or outside as essential workers.
The severity of the disparity between circumstances of families during this pandemic is real and as a result, these children lose a significant support factor in their education, hindering the overall learning process.
Read more at efaglobal.org/on-education.