At least 19,000 school students in New York City do not have the devices they need for remote learning, according to reporting from Chalkbeat.
Remote learning in the city has been underway for more than five weeks now, so many of the children who have still not received their devices have not had consistent access to their schoolwork for weeks now, Chalkbeat reported, putting them at risk of falling behind.
The mother of a kindergarten student who lives in a Manhattan shelter told Chalkbeat that her son’s education is "at a standstill."
A senior at West Brooklyn Community High School named Skylynn Lozada was forced to share a smartphone with her brother for weeks.
"It was really hard to do school work and stay focused," Lozada told Chalkbeat. "It’s a little screen, everything is set up differently from how it would be on an actual laptop."
The New York City Department of Education has pledged to deliver devices to the 19,000 students who have requested them by the end of the month. But there are likely still thousands of students who lack remote learning devices that have not requested them, according to Chalkbeat.
As millions of children are being forced out of classrooms around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unequal access to technology has become yet another way in which class and income inequality shape access to education.
Of the 1.5 billion students who have been affected by school closures, about half — or 830 million students — do not have access to a computer at home, and 40% lack access to the internet. In sub-Saharan Africa, over 80% of students lack internet access, and nearly 90% lack access to home computers. Millions of people in China, particularly in its rural communities, lack internet access or a device to connect to the internet with, according to the New York Times.
In the United States, approximately 17% of students do not have a computer at home, and about 18% lack access to home broadband internet, the Associated Press reported in 2019. Absentee rates have been high in schools with a large number of online students, while selective or affluent schools have reported online learning attendance rates of close to 100%, according to the New York Times.
The "unfinished learning" that stems from all of this "could have implications for years," Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, told the New York Times.
Good education is essential for promoting sustainable development and eliminating poverty, with the United Nations calling it "the key to prosperity."