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Education is a fundamental right for every child, just as food, shelter, and clothing. It is a critical tool for fighting ignorance and charting the path for personal and community development in all spheres of life. Hover, the Covid-19 pandemic has made this right an uphill task for most children worldwide to achieve.
UNESCO data shows that as of January 25, 2021, about 800 million students across the world still face disruptions in their education. This figure represents over half of the world’s student population that has been affected by full school closures in 31 countries and reduced school time in 48 countries. Nevertheless, the current state is a significant improvement compared to the peak pandemic in April 2020, when nationwide school closures were recorded in 191 countries.
Schools in the UK have remained closed for in-person learning following the nationwide lockdown that started on January 5, 2021, to contain the spread of the pandemic. This has forced schools to provide education to students through online platforms and home learning.
In a statement on January 25, 2021, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said that he didn’t want to lift the Covid-19 restrictions when the country is still recording high infection rates. This is an indication that schools may not open anytime before the Easter holidays.
The average duration of school closures varies significantly across regions. For instance, Latin America and the Caribbean countries have recorded over seven months (29 weeks) and Europe 2.5 months of school closure compared with a global average of 5.5 months.
At its worst, the pandemic has caused tremendous disruptions in how people live and interact daily, and education is no exception. And although the pandemic has affected school-going children at all levels of education, the vulnerable are the most hit.
The coronavirus pandemic has adversely affected education across borders – regardless of nationality, race, religion, or gender. However, the case is not the same for its consequences. There is a great deal of disproportionate burdening by the crisis as the vulnerable in society are the hardest hit. African descendants – at home and in the diaspora – are no exception. This community has historically suffered unprecedented inequalities with limited access to education and a lack of essential resources.
Undoubtedly, students from fortunate backgrounds have been able to find their way out to alternative learning options following the indefinite closure of schools. On the other hand, students from vulnerable backgrounds are shut from learning since they have no access to “luxuries” such as laptops and the internet required for digital learning. In a nutshell, education continuity for an African child in diaspora and at home has been a pipe dream over this period.
The UK government is now providing the “Get Help with Technology Programme” service to help disadvantaged young people access remote education following the disruption of face-to-face learning. Parents, carers or children can contact their school, college, further education providers or local authorities to get assistance on how to access the services.
The services include:
So far, the government has provided 1.3 million laptops and tablets to boost disadvantaged young people’s home-learning. This programme aims to ensure the continuity of learning at home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
This crisis presents an opportunity for us to acknowledge the challenges we face as a community in accessing education, a basic right for every child. As the pandemic continues to degenerate our children’s education, we need to join hands to ensure that the African community gets the education we deserve.
We need to come together as a people and raise our voices to champion equitable access to education and resources for our people. At WeAfric, we provide a perfect platform where members of the African Diaspora can come together, share ideas and resources, fight for a seat at the table and get our voices heard.