The way the field of education has been affected worldwide is unprecedented. According to the Human Rights Watch, there is an urgent need to improve the global education systems. As the United Nations discussed via video conferencing about the progress of their Sustainable Development goals, they were also prompted to acknowledge the damage that the pandemic has done to the educational systems across the globe.
According to analysis and data collected by the Human Rights Watch, the pandemic might not have physically destroyed schools but has definitely weakened the education system.
It is a testing time for both teachers and parents. There is a bigger challenge for children with learning challenges on how their exclusion can be ruled out. Additionally, children from poor countries or those ravaged by war, have already been suffering from exclusion to a large extend; this was a prevalent picture even before the Covid-19 crisis.
So what has really changed is that this gap has been further widened. Many countries are picking up children sitting at home for child labour exercises, where labour and manpower is scarce. The cocoa farms are one big example of this. Ghana is a classic example. Further, war torn regions like Syria and Libya also are using school children as child soldiers luring them with economic support.
Another major factor affecting the children is lack of technical infrastructure to support online classes. Many schools have now switched to online classes to keep the momentum of school going. But this does not look like a feasible option in countries that are missing basic amenities, leave alone access to laptops, mobile phone or an internet connection with a healthy bandwidth.
Added to this exclusion are many other children with physical disabilities, refugees and migrant children, the LGBT youth category, girls in many contexts; all identified under policies and practices that have caused most harm, according to reports shared by the Human Rights Watch.
In an interview with the Harvard Gazette, the former secretary of education for Massachusetts, Paul Reville has suggested, that looking at something as unprecedented as the Covid-19 situation, “schools must now invest in a backup system, if they can afford it.” This is a time to recognize all the glaring gaps and fill them. These include lack of weekend support to children with special needs, or learning opportunities to the less privileged students after school hours, etc.
Reville has also pointed out how important it has now become to have a school system we can look after the individual needs of a pupil than have collective frameworks only. It is worth mentioning that in the absence of any formal instructional classroom setting since March this year, the most disadvantaged will be the economically weaker sections of society that do not have access to online classes, language tools and learning tools.
According to official statistics collected by the United Nations, the Covid-19 situation left more than One million children out of schools. But through the medium of radio exercises and offline classes, the UN is trying to reach out to areas of Vietnam, Syria, Sudan, Congo, Rwanda, Kenya (home study options) to name a few.
UNESCO too has issued a Call to support learning and knowledge-sharing through open educational resources – materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or under an open license that permits no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others. However, the sense of inclusion will need to be inbuilt into a more resilient educational system that runs to facilitate each student and not just a few.