Words by Neill Padlan
Art by Gracey Menses
Undeniably, everyone is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the impacts are greater felt in communities where privilege does not extend.
How can you implement virtual learning if you live in a slum or a refugee camp? How are you supposed to sign up and install an application if you have no reliable internet access? How can you ensure quality learning if an option for digital tools is limited? How can students in the rural communities and far-flung areas are going to cope with the #NewNormal?
As the world shifts its momentum to the integration of online technology, series of contentions have sprouted into whether or not to continue the academic school year. The scare brought by the pandemic has severely affected the educational sector and condition of students from different walks of life.
Several studies show that with this ongoing situation, it is expected that the number of out of school individuals and drop-out rates will skyrocket across different countries.
“How can you ensure quality learning if an option for digital tools is limited? How can students in the rural communities and far-flung areas are going to cope with the #NewNormal?”
According to UNESCO, around 1.5 billion learners in 188 countries are affected by school closure which represents over 91 percent of the world’s student population.
The effect of school closures as one of the social isolation measures will surely haunt the lives of people in deprivation, especially those who rely on basic essential services, including school nutrition, health programs, shelter, access to clean water, and sanitation that schools provide. Furthermore, it is worrisome as millions of students will struggle to continue virtual education with limited digital resources in these unprecedented times; a blatant case of a digital divide.
“Digital divide is a socio-economic term that refers to inequality of access to information and technology. This technological gap occurs across countries that are being denied with opportunities and basic human rights to use gadgets like smartphones, tablets, and personal computers.”
Globally, 9% of all children of primary school age are still being denied with the right to schooling and education, which rates are reaching from 16% to 37% for the youth of lower and upper secondary ages, according to the report of UNESCO. This reveals a clear lack of concern for education on the part of institutions and national authorities.
Surprisingly, as the number of global death toll cases increases, all levels of education have moved online. Some are delighted, but the majority are not. Photos and videos are circulating online showing the so-called “resourcefulness” of these people – students had to climb trees and hike mountains – for the sake of compliance of school requirements; an alarming disruption to educational activities and programs is blatant.
Furthermore, it is worrisome as millions of students will struggle to continue virtual education with limited digital resources in these unprecedented times; a blatant case of a digital divide.
Financial capacity is said to be a great factor that affects the ability of an individual to cope up with the new normal.
Higher-income households are expected to have leverage for this kind of set-up as they don’t worry for financial costs and means. All these basic necessities are easy for them to get – easily purchase a gadget and get reliable internet access for e-learning set up. They are still more likely than others to have good access to digital resources. However, for people at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, this is not just the case. Low-income families faced multi-facets of challenges and poverty brought by the pandemic. These people do not have enough food to eat. They are trying their best to make a living every day.
Undeniably, everyone is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the impacts are greater felt in communities where privilege does not extend. Majority of them are being denied with opportunities to experience quality education and were not well-equipped to have computers, internet connection, and devices for virtual learning and workspaces. It is evident that there is a clear exacerbation of existing inequalities between those from privileged and unprivileged socio-economic class – that constitutes a denial of basic human rights to those in the poverty line – which is a real threat to the learning continuity.
This pandemic has brought our educational sector to the fore, but it should not pull us backward in pursuit of a digitally inclusive and sustainable community.
All of a sudden, with no cure in sight, internet connection becomes a prerequisite for a new educational learning ecosystem. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed old looming problems and vast disparities in countries’ digital preparedness to virtual learning.
If anything, this global contagion presents an impetus to ensure underserved individuals and communities’ access to education and tools to improve the quality of their lives. It should serve as a wake-up call to various institutions to redouble their efforts and take up affirmative actions in bridging the gap of digital divide. This pandemic has brought our educational sector to the fore, but it should not pull us backward in pursuit of a digitally inclusive and sustainable community.
Do you want to help find books and study materials for public school students, facilitate an online reading session for young children, or create studying materials? 📖 Join the Re_action program under the theme of Education!
Build a better normal with a hundred other volunteers working online to find solutions for fundamental needs. Apply today: tinyurl.com/JoinReaction2020
Neill resides in Bulacan, Philippines and is currently working in a government agency as a Technical Writer. He is passionate to issues concerning sustainability and had extra-curricular works with various socio-civic organizations.
Gracey is a Psychology graduate residing in Surigao City, Philippines. She is currently looking for new opportunities, but in the meantime, she wants to actively support advocacy-based organizations through volunteering and internships. Gracey, a firm believer of change, is passionate about mental health awareness and preservation of culture.