COVID-19 | More than 430 million South Asian children without school

(New Delhi) The closure of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic for more than a year has deprived 434 million children of education in South Asia and exacerbated “alarming inequalities”, according to a report published by UNICEF on Thursday.

Posted on Sep 9, 2021 at 8:45 am

Before the pandemic, nearly 60% of children in South Asia “by the age of 10” could not read or understand basic texts, the United Nations Children’s Fund said, adding that school closings since the beginning of the pandemic “have worsened and” the situation is already precarious “.

“Girls, children from the most disadvantaged households and children with disabilities have had the greatest difficulty with distance learning,” the agency continues.

In India, 80% of 14 to 18 year olds surveyed say they learned less than when they were physically in class, the report said. And 42% of the surveyed children between the ages of 6 and 13 stated that they had no access to distance learning.

Deepu Singh, a farmer from Jharkhand state (east), hopes for his children that the schools will reopen soon. “Your future is at stake. I want you to go to school,” he told AFP.

Her two young children have not been to class since it was closed last year and have no internet access. English is his son’s favorite subject, but he doesn’t speak the language.

“I can’t help it,” he regrets. “I have to put food on the table. I can’t afford a cell phone ”.

In Pakistan, 23% of toddlers do not have access to an electronic device to benefit from distance learning, according to the report, which says only 24% can use such devices when they are within reach.

In Sri Lanka, 69% of primary school parents surveyed observed that their children learned “less” or “much less”.

“Even when a family has access to technology, children cannot always access it,” said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF regional director, in a statement, “as a result, children have suffered tremendous delays in their learning path.”

The UN agency urges teachers to assess their students’ learning levels and ensure they are catching up by introducing a “catch-up period”.

She also urges governments to give priority to vaccinating teachers and training them so that they can interact with children who do not have access to technology.

Rajani KC, a teacher in Nepal, believes that alternative methods are still not effective in ensuring effective learning. “We are in a dangerous situation,” he told AFP, “if the pandemic continues and the university sector loses more years, what human resources will the country benefit from? “.

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