Lack of Access to Technology Threatens to Increase Education Inequality Worldwide
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced more than 1 billion school children around the world to continue their education from home, yet many lack the technology necessary for remote learning, leaving them at risk of falling behind in their education, UNICEF warned earlier this month.
In particular, many people in developing regions do not have internet access for online learning.
"Providing a range of learning tools and accelerating access to the internet for every school and every child is critical," UNICEF Chief of Education Robert Jenkins said.
"A learning crisis already existed before COVID-19 hit," he added. "We are now looking at an even more divisive and deepening education crisis."
Nearly 1.2 billion children worldwide are out of school due to closures, yet in 71 countries, more than half of the population does not have internet access.
Three-quarters of the countries reporting to UNICEF are also using television as a means of delivering remote learning information. However, rural households in many developing countries do not have access to television, as is the case in rural Chad, where only 1 in 100 households has a television.
To promote access to education, UNICEF has recommended that countries use multiple methods for education, including television, radios, and take-home packages of materials.
Access to remote learning technology is not just a problem in low- and middle-income countries. In New York City, there have been delays in getting remote learning devices to students, and throughout the United States, since remote learning began, absentee rates have been higher in schools with a higher portion of low-income students, according to the New York Times.
The United Nations has said that quality education should be available to everyone, naming it as one its Global Goals.
"Education liberates the intellect, unlocks the imagination, and is fundamental for self-respect," the UN notes. "It is the key to prosperity and opens a world of opportunities, making it possible for each of us to contribute to a progressive, healthy society."