80% of Adolescent School Children Reported Learning Losses in Pandemic: UNICEF
The unavailability of internet and digital resources severely hampered efforts to roll out remote learning.
The prolonged shutdown of schools triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has led to alarming inequities in learning opportunities for children in South Asia, according to a UNICEF report.
The report said that the pandemic affected 80 percent of children in India between the ages of 14-18 as the education sector moved from physical classes to a virtual mode.
Among them, girl children from disadvantageous communities and children with disabilities faced the biggest challenges in learning.
The unavailability of internet and digital resources severely hampered efforts to roll out remote learning, the report said.
Household surveys commissioned by UNICEF in six states – Gujarat, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Assam – found that in India, 42 percent of children between 6 and 13 years reported not using any type of remote learning tool during school closures.
"This means they have not used any of the following for remote learning since the schools shutdown: textbooks, worksheets, phone or video calls, WhatsApp to access materials or connect with teachers, learning programmes on radio or TV, YouTube videos, video classes, learning applications (e.g., DIKSHA), home visits by teachers and private tuitions, community teaching at local locations, other websites, blogs, and reading materials," the report said.
While students in urban areas were found to be using remote learning tools more than rural students did, the situation has been worse for economically weaker sections where families were found to be struggling to afford even a single device.
Across the six states, 10 percent of students do not use smartphones, feature phones, TV, radio, or laptops/computers, for any purpose, whether privately owned or accessed within or outside of the household.
"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.”George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia
The UNICEF report also said that in Sri Lanka, 69 percent of parents of primary school children said that their children were learning “less” or “a lot less", while in Pakistan, 23 percent of younger children did not have access to any device that could support remote learning.
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