Poor connectivity, limited access to devices and teachers are restricting remote learning in South Asia, says recent survey by UN agency
A recent UNICEF survey has warned that repeated school closures in South Asia have caused significant learning loss among children there. The survey was conducted by the United Nations agency in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant closure of schools has led to disruption in educational activities for about 434 million children in South Asia. In India, about 80% of students aged between 14-18 years reported lower levels of learning in comparison to the physical classes they attended before, according to the survey.
UNICEF regional director for South Asia said, “School closures in South Asia have forced hundreds of millions of children and their teachers to transition to remote learning in a region with low connectivity and device affordability. Even when a family has access to technology, children are not always able to access it. As a result, children have suffered enormous setbacks in their learning journey.”
In India, 42% children in the 6-13 years age group were left without any remote learning facilities during school closures. Research also found that even when the devices were available in the family, it was either misused or not accessible to children.
UNICEF India representative Yasmin Ali Haque said, “Going to school is a central part of children’s life. The prolonged school closure due to COVID-19 has caused many children to miss out on learning, social interaction and playtime which are essential to their overall development and wellbeing. Safe and gradual reopening of schools in the states of India is a welcome move as children learn best in person and this will help prevent further learning loss and alleviate some of the psychological stress they are facing.”
Haque stressed that safety is critical, saying that teachers, parents, children and communities can work together along with the government to put in place the protocols needed for children to return to schools.