Thousands of students in New York City do not have the technology needed to connect online with their schools and teachers and begin remote learning as their classes resume this week, Chalkbeat reported.
Chalkbeat previously reported that the city would need to purchase 300,000 iPads or laptops to provide to students in need of them.
"We’re not going to have 300,000 devices by Monday — we never said we would," Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education Richard Carranza told Chalkbeat last week.
The city expects to distribute 25,000 through this week, and is focusing on getting technology to students who are in public housing, experiencing homelessness, or who come from low-income families, Carranza told Chalkbeat.
New York City residents expressed concern that disparities in learning devices would exacerbate income inequality in the city.
"It’s definitely going to show the haves and the have nots," NeQuan McLean, a parent council leader in Brooklyn, told Chalkbeat.
Another factor that could drive unequal access to remote learning is that some New York families do not have internet at home.
Around 70% of New York City’s school students are from low-income families, according to Chalkbeat.
Worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced 850 million children out of schools, around half of the world’s student population, according to UNESCO.
"The disadvantages [of school closings] are disproportionate for under-privileged learners who tend to have fewer educational opportunities outside school," UNESCO said.
Yet education is essential for lifting people out of poverty, which is why ensuring quality education is one of the United Nations' Global Goals.
As a result UNESCO is organizing a response to help governments address the concept of remote learning, including providing advice and technical assistance to governments and bringing in partners such as Microsoft to help implement remote learning.
"Education liberates the intellect, unlocks the imagination, and is fundamental for self-respect," the UN said. "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."