The Effects of COVID-Related School Closures on Children Across the World
With fall in full swing, school campuses are once again bustling in the United States, but what about the rest of the world’s classrooms? Though high vaccination rates and the reopening of schools in the U.S. have provided us with some sort of light at the end of the tunnel, that light is wavering and hardly visible in nations where schools remain empty. Underprivileged children across the globe continue to face the pandemic’s wrath and a consequent loss of learning. It’s time to acknowledge this pressing international issue before irreparable damage on children’s education sets in.
The current education crisis in the Philippines proves how severely children are still impacted by COVID-19. More than 27 million Filipino students will go yet another year without face-to-face schooling as President Rodrigo Duterte refuses to reopen the nation’s schools. With only 16 percent of the country’s population fully vaccinated and Delta variant cases on the rise, Duterte’s obstinacy to keep classrooms shuttered seems justifiable.[i] But children and adolescents cannot possibly go on much longer without an accessible education.
Virtual schooling has been an option since the beginning of the pandemic, but it’s an option that millions of Filipino families struggle to afford. In the 2021 New York Times article “With Schools Closed, Covid-19 Deepens a Philippine Education Crisis,” one Filipino mother, Maritess Talic, explained how difficult it was to scrape together 5,000 pesos, approximately $100 (U.S. currency), to purchase a used tablet for her two children to share. She then expressed the concern that her children, even with the possession of a tablet, weren’t learning much: “’The thing is, I don’t think they are learning at all. The internet connection is just too slow sometimes.’”[ii]
The lack of internet service isn’t just an issue for Talic’s family. According to a 2020 World Bank report, in 2018, “about 57 percent of [the Philippines’] 23 million households did not have internet access.”[iii] With 17 million people living below the poverty line in the Philippines[iv] and families clearly struggling to afford the necessary tools for their children’s virtual education, online learning won’t be feasible without a greater, more widespread provision of tablets, computers, smartphones, and internet cards.
For children in India, the education situation is similarly dismal. Schools haven’t been open since March 2020 and the injurious effects of these extended closures are evident. According to a 2021 survey conducted by Road Scholarz, which examined the effects of school closures on underprivileged children in India, only 28% of children are studying online consistently and 37% are not studying at all. As a result, many children’s reading and writing abilities have regressed as they cannot keep up with their learning practices.[v] The reason for the alarmingly low rates of children undergoing virtual schooling is that “only one in four children has access to digital devises and internet connectivity” as stated by a recent UNICEF report.[vi]
The effects of prolonged school closures in India and the Philippines, as well as Indonesia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and a handful of other countries, will be detrimental to children’s social and educational development. Without the safety and structure that a school provides for children living in poverty and/or conflict countries, they are at risk for issues such as a malnutrition, poor mental health, child marriage, and child labor.[vii] The UNESCO article “Adverse consequences of school closures” also lists several ways in which children and vulnerable communities in general will be impacted by school closures. For example, there are now greater gaps in childcare as children remain out of school and parents return to work.
Such consequences are deeply concerning and will only be halted once children across the world can safely return to school. In the meantime, however, we can and must make an effort to facilitate young students’ success in virtual learning as so many will go another year without the necessary benefits of face-to-face schooling. The provision of tablets, computers, and smartphones can at least serve as a Band-Aid over the COVID-inflicted wounds on education.
Yours Humanly’s mission is to provide quality learning opportunities to children across the world, with a special focus on children in need. And today, with so much need in the world, Yours Humanly is determined to create a light at the end of the tunnel for children in countries that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 chaos. We must not let this pandemic rob children of their right to a quality and equitable education. Make a donation here to help provide underprivileged children with the tools they need to navigate online learning and be successful in the process. You can ease their burden and be a part of something special.
Yours HumanlyOctober 5, 2021