If you want to gain some perspective on the impact of Covid-19 in the education industry, you can’t simply rely on data obtained from technologically advanced and developed countries. You need to look at the bigger picture by examining data from third-world nations as well.
If you do, you’ll see that all the efforts to ensure that students continue to learn in the Covid-19 era have been futile in developing nations. Millions of children spent the better part of 2020 out of school with no alternative method of learning and little hope in sight, as highlighted in this report from Unicef. These are some of the negative consequences of Covid-19 on education in developing nations.
1. The Cost Burden Remains High
Most families in developing nations can’t afford to pay for private schools. They depend on free public schools, especially at the primary level of education. These public schools are meant to be free but they are associated with many mandatory fees and donations. Parents might not pay for tuition but they will be asked to contribute to sanitation, books, uniforms, and other similar things.
Some of these poor families managed to make the required payments to send their children to school before now. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has made things especially difficult for them. Public schools in places like Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa didn’t offer viable alternatives after school closures. Only a few private schools have been providing distance learning options for students and only a handful of families could pay for this service. In fact, Unicef highlights in its report that “the share of students who cannot be reached by digital and broadcast remote learning policies is the highest in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa.”
2. Girls in Developing Countries Suffer the Most
If you’ve been following up with education trends in developing nations, you’ll know that girls aren’t schooled as much as boys. This is primarily due to a myopic belief that educating female children is a waste of money. They should be groomed for marriage while male children go to school. Civilization has reduced gender equality in education, but when they can’t afford to train all, poor families go back to training only their boys.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, many people have lost their sources of income. The poorest members of society with no savings have suffered the most. Apart from this, girls have been subjected to all forms of domestic violence and sexual abuse far more than boys during the lockdown. This is according to data collected by Human Rights Watch.
3. Distance Learning Isn’t Enough
In cases where students are privileged to access distance learning programs, they still aren’t getting enough education compared to when schools were opened. There isn’t access to enough tools to use a digital curriculum effectively. Some schools send audio files to a class of 30 students through WhatsApp and other mobile apps a few days a week. The students will not get face-to-face interactions with teachers.
How efficient can audio files be in dispersing knowledge to younger kids? Even when students get to see their teachers through video conferencing platforms, they have network connection issues. They are unable to complete conversations with ease. It is simply not viable.
To address these issues, Unicef makes several recommendations in its report. It says more support and training are needed for teachers and parents so that they can effectively manage virtual classrooms and help children learn at home. It also says that blended learning approaches that combine in-person and remote instruction are critical.
4. There is the Mental Health Problem
Online learning in developed and developing nations pose a threat to the mental health of students and teachers. Let’s assume that the students have everything they need to learn from home. The computers, Internet, electricity and everything else is readily available. Still, these students are isolated from their peers. Isolated learning can lead to a range of challenges, including depression, isolation, anxiety, and mental stress, as highlighted in this article from the Kentucky Counseling Center.
This is especially so when students prefer to be with their peers on a regular day. In-person schooling comes with social and emotional support to students and teachers alike. It also helps students improve their communication and socialization skills. In developed nations, the use of collaborative tech tools like Skype, InVision, and Google Suite help improve collaboration in online learning. Still, you can’t compare it to face-to-face interactions with peers five times a week.
The challenges listed above reflect just the immediate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the education industry in developed and developing countries. There are going to be long term effects of the pandemic in the education sector and every other sector that was negatively affected. The good news is that a vaccine has been found and is now being distributed to the most vulnerable members of society.