The closure of schools for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic has deprived 434 million children of education in South Asia, according to a report released Thursday by UNICEF. This measure has accentuated “alarming inequalities”
Before the pandemic, nearly 60% of children in South Asia could not read or understand a basic text “by the age of 10,” said the UN agency for children, adding that the prolonged closure of schools since the start of the pandemic “worsened an already precarious situation”.
“Girls, children from the most disadvantaged households and children with disabilities have been faced with the greatest difficulties in terms of distance learning”, further notes the agency.
In India, 80% of 14-18 year olds surveyed say they learned less than when they were physically in class, according to the report. And 42% of children aged 6 to 13 surveyed say they have not had access to distance learning.
In Pakistan, 23% of young children do not have access to any electronic device to benefit from distance learning, according to the report, which specifies, however, that when such equipment is within reach, only 24% can use it. .
In Sri Lanka, 69% of parents of primary school students surveyed noted that their children learned “less” or “much less”.
“Even when a family has access to technology, children are not always able to access it,” said George Laryea-Adjei, regional director of UNICEF, in a statement. “As a result, the children suffered huge delays in their learning journey.”
The UN agency urges teachers to assess the learning level of their students and to make sure they catch up by instituting a “catch-up” period. She also calls on governments to prioritize immunization and training of teachers so that they can be in contact with children who do not have access to technology.
Rajani KC, teacher in Nepal, believes that alternative methods still do not ensure effective learning. “We are in a dangerous situation,” he told AFP. “If the pandemic continues and the university sector loses more years, what kind of human resources will the country benefit from in the future?”