UNESCO report: Coronavirus has widen the education gap

Kenya has been mentioned among a handful of countries that have supported learners after the closure of learning institutions to contain the spread of Covid-19.

A report released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) indicates that about 40 per cent of low- and lower-middle-income countries have not supported learners at risk of exclusion during the pandemic.

However, the Kenyan Institute for Curriculum Development (KICD) is commended for introducing primary and secondary school lessons on public radio.

Nevertheless, the report noted that the lessons still left out majority of those living in remote areas, the poor, linguistic minorities and learners with disabilities.

Unesco also points out that studies found that among the poorest households in the country, only 30 per cent had access to a radio while none had a television.

The KICD estimates that 47 per cent of learners are accessing lessons through radio, TV or the internet. This means that more than half of the students are not able to access remote lessons, either because they are outside of broadcast range or do not have the necessary equipment.

There has been concern among parents and teachers that majority of learners lack an internet connection to support online learning. “But even as governments increasingly rely on technology, the digital divide lays bare the limitations of this approach. Not all students and teachers have access to adequate internet connection, equipment, skills and working conditions to take advantage of available platforms,” said Unesco.

The Global Education Monitoring Report points out how much of the world is still grappling with disparities in education, with children from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds getting the short end of the stick.

Education opportunities, the report warns, continue to be unequally distributed and fewer than 10 per cent of countries have laws that help ensure full inclusion.The effects of being out of school during the pandemic are especially far-reaching for girls.

Unesco says that analyses of the trend during the Ebola pandemic in West Africa have shown that health crises can leave many behind.

It calls attention to the effects on girls from poor households, many of whom, the report says, may never return to school. “More time at home exposes them to domestic chores, sexual violence or teenage pregnancy risks,” Unesco said.

The report comes amid jarring data on teenage pregnancies during the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the Children’s Department in Machakos County estimates that nearly 4,000 school girls have been impregnated.

But Education Executive Lazarus Kivuva disputed the numbers and said they would release their own report on the matter.

With more than 90 per cent of the global student population affected by coronavirus-related school closures, the world is in the throes of the most unprecedented disruption in the history of education, the Unesco report noted.

“Barriers to quality education are still too high for too many learners. Even before Covid-19, one in five children, adolescents and youth were entirely excluded from education. Stigma, stereotypes and discrimination mean millions more are further alienated inside classrooms,” said Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay.

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