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COVID-19: At least 463m school children unable to access digital learning globally – UNICEF


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A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that not less than 463 million school children worldwide were unable to access remote learning following the closure of schools due to the  COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF Executive Director said for the 463 million schoolchildren, ‘there was no such thing as remote learning’.

“The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency. The repercussions could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come,” Fore said.

The report stated that at least 70 per cent of school children of pre-primary-age who are about 120 million children could not be reached, largely due to challenges and limitations to online learning for young children, lack of remote learning programmes for this education category, and lack of home assets for remote learning.

The UNICEF further stated that not less than 29 per cent of primary school children estimated to be about 217 million also cannot be reached.

“At least 24 per cent of lower-secondary school children, about 78 million students cannot be reached, while upper-secondary school children were the least likely to miss out on remote learning with at least 18 per cent who are about 48 million school children lack the technological assets to access remote learning.”

The report indicates that African nations represent a larger proportion of the population, noting that in East and Southern Africa, not less than 67 million are unable to access digital learning representing about 49 per cent of the population of school children in the region while in West and Central Africa at least 54 million school children representing 48 per cent of the region could not access remote learning.

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In East Asia and the Pacific, a minimum of 80 million representing at least 20 per cent of the population could not access remote learning.

In the Middle East and North Africa, 37 million which is 40 per cent could not access remote learning, South Asia; 147 million representing 38 per cent of the region, Eastern Europe and Central Asia; 25 million, 34 per cent, Latin America and the Caribbean 13 million, 9 per cent bringing to a global figure of not less than 463 million, which represents a total of a minimum of 31 per cent of the global school children.

The report further showed that school children from the poorest households and those living in rural areas were by far the most likely to miss out during closures.

Globally, 72 per cent of school children unable to access remote learning live in their countries’ poorest households while in upper-middle-income countries, school children from the poorest households account for up to 86 per cent of students unable to access remote learning.

The ICIR had reported how school children had been unable to access digital learning due to the closure of schools in Nigeria.

Some of the children hawked facemasks during this time while some stayed at home without learning due to lack of electricity.


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Lukman Abolade is an Investigative reporter with The ICIR. Reach out to him via [email protected], on twitter @AboladeLAA and FB @Correction94

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