A new report by the United Nations has shown that remote learning remains out of reach for at least 500 million students across the world during the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
The report also states that inequalities in education are exacerbated by COVID-19 as only 65 per cent of primary schools have basic handwashing facilities critical for COVID-19 prevention.
The report was published by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in collaboration with over 200 experts from more than 40 international agencies using the latest available data and estimates.
The report titled Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020 presents an overview of progress towards the SDGs before the pandemic started, but it also looks at some of the devastating initial impacts of COVID-19 on specific goals and targets.
According to the report, “remote learning remains out of reach for at least 500 million students.”
“In 2020, as COVID-19 spreads across the globe, more than 190 countries have implemented nationwide school closures.
“About 90 per cent of all students (1.57 billion) were out of school. Although distance learning solutions are provided in four out of five countries with school closures, at least 500 million children and youth are currently excluded from these options.”
“The sheer magnitude of school closures is likely to set back progress on access to education.” it noted.
Poorest countries most affected
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools are offering remote learning to students through virtual classrooms to mitigate the impact of school closures.
“While this is an option for some, it is out of reach for many. Lack of access to computers and the Internet at home, as well as a low level of computer-related skills, put many already marginalised students at a further disadvantage.”
Lack of basic infrastructure in schools, such as handwashing facilities, will make recovery from COVID-19 more difficult
“Lack of basic handwashing facilities in many schools around the world means that teachers and students do not enjoy a safe learning environment.
“In areas where schools are closed because of the pandemic, it also means that they will be unable to practice essential hygiene measures when they go back to school. According to the latest available data, only 65 per cent of primary schools worldwide have basic handwashing facilities.
“The proportion is slightly higher for lower secondary and upper secondary schools, at 71 per cent and 76 per cent, respectively. Of all regions, sub-Saharan Africa faces the biggest challenges, with basic handwashing facilities in only 38 per cent of primary schools and 43 per cent of upper secondary schools.”
The report says the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to its very core.
“However, we must hold firm in our convictions and not let the crisis derail our hopes and ambitions. In fact, the principles on which the SDGs were established are key to building back better in the post-COVID-19 recovery.
“The continued pursuit of these universal Goals will keep Governments focused on growth, but also on inclusion, equity and sustainability.
“Our collective response to the pandemic can serve as a “warm-up” for our preparedness in preventing an even larger crisis – that is, global climate change, whose effects are already becoming all too familiar.
“Governments and businesses should heed the lessons learned from this wake-up call to formulate the kinds of transitions needed to build a healthier, more resilient and more sustainable world.”