Students in South Asia lack online devices for remote learning: Unicef

The United Nation's children's Fund (Unicef) says hundreds of millions of children in South Asia are suffering because their schools have been closed due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and lack of online devices and connections for remote learning. 

Students of Martyrs Secondary School in Papua New Guinea
Students of Martyrs Secondary School in Papua New Guinea. Photo courtesy of Study In PNG. 

Authorities should prioritise the safe re-opening of schools because, before the pandemic, nearly 60 per cent of children in the densely populated region were unable to read and understand a simple text by the age of 10, it said on Thursday.

“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,” George Laryea-Adjei, Uniecf’s regional director for South Asia, said.

“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.”

Repeated school closures since last year have affected 434 million children in South Asia and a substantial proportion of them were learning significantly less compared with pre-pandemic levels, Unicef said in a report based on research in India, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In India, 80 per cent of children aged 14 to 18 reported lower levels of learning than when physically at school, while 42 per cent of children between the ages of six and 13 reported no remote learning during school closures.

In Sri Lanka, 69 per cent of parents of primary school children said their children were learning less or a lot less.

In Pakistan, 23 per cent of younger children did not have access to a device for remote learning. “The safe re-opening of schools should be considered a priority for all governments,” Laryea-Adjei said.

Indian epidemiologists and social scientists asked authorities to re-open classes, saying the benefits outweighed the risks, especially as poor, rural children were missing out on online education.

South Asia, with nearly 2 billion people, reported more than 37 million the Covid-19 infections and more than 523,000 deaths.

Source : The National / Study Awards

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