As of March 2020, in the midst of this COVID-19 outbreak, almost 2 billion children in the world are out of school. That is including the existing global educational crisis that was a 53% rate even before the outbreak. Now, it has become worse. We must be worried about the heightened dropout rates and learning losses. Additionally, there are countries in the world that have unequal educational systems, where the poor don’t get as much education compared to those in the middle and upper-class children.
We must find ways to counter these losses with opportunities to help children catch up on learning and not completely drown in the hands of illiteracy.
Children must remain engaged, specifically the high school students, where dropout rates are high and continually rising as we speak. Attending school doesn’t only mean learning science and math, but it is about developing friendships and improving social relationships. Students should remain connected with their schools now more than ever. Parents and family members, on the other hand, play an important role in instilling these children with good characters such as honesty, self-love, confidence, and resilience. In light of this, media platforms like television and radio can offer advice to parents on how to provide support for their kids.
A lot of countries provide school meals, and these are very important, especially to those school children whose families are poor and cannot afford to feed their kids with nutritious food. It is not easy to organize such feeding programs, but other countries have found ways to provide these. They utilize their school or community buildings for children to go during lunchtime in an organized way. Currently, this has not been possible as schools have closed down. Thus, administrators should expand their thinking to reach out to children and provide them with nutritious meals. They can probably have their meals delivered to the community or homes, or if that is not financially possible, cash transfer initiatives can be put to place. It is important to plan carefully and be prepared for whatever changes may arise, as the pandemic may not subside any moment now. The government must also support the schools and provide them with assistance to make these plans feasible and convenient. There are many opportunities for government and school to work together, some of which are visible today, which is good news. A lot of investments and improvements that the system is undergoing currently might have a long-term positive impact on school children.
With the schools shut down, learning in classrooms will definitely be delayed and, in some countries, will even be impossible. Undoubtedly, this interrupts the lives of the children, teachers, and the children’s parents as well. But some measures can be taken to minimize the negative effects that this situation brings, and one of the best alternatives in online learning. This is gaining popularity and is already done in more improved and wealthier countries. Remote learning won’t be easy to set up. Teachers will be dumped with a lot of work coordinating with IT people to create remote learning materials that are useful and age-appropriate. Parents will have to make adjustments at home, creating an environment that is conducive for learning and setting up a desk, laptop, and internet connection. Some children may not get this easily, particularly if they do not have supportive parents, but this will be part of the challenge that we must surpass. The opportunities are there, and we only need to grab them and make use of them for our children’s sake.
The goal of every educational system is the same – to get through the learning crisis that has already existed and to keep it from being lost because of this pandemic we are facing. One way of doing that is to reduce the negative impact it has on school and learning. We must take this from experience and regain the path of improvement. As we cope with the global crisis, we must also find ways to heal quickly and strongly. We must have a better understanding of the need to decrease the losses by taking the opportunities in front of us. Children must have the same opportunities for quality learning and education.