Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO is certain that “rethinking the future of education is all the more important following the COVID-19 pandemic, which further widened and put the spotlight on inequalities”.
Before COVID-19, the will to make education more modern and inclusive was already a pressing concern. Governments, institutions, the education sector and tech industry had to join forces during the pandemic to accelerate the needed change for a digital transition that would make possible for some young children to study from home.
But not all children have access to schools, and learning shouldn’t be limited to only those who do. Adding to that stark reality, not even all the children that have access to schools, have access to education. According to The Economist, unannounced visits carried out by the World Bank to classes across sub-Saharan African countries, found that the teacher was absent in nearly half of them.
In sub-Saharan Africa, UNICEF data shows us that 18.8% of children of primary school age are out-of-school. 18.8% means that 32.2 million children, ages 4 to 11, are not learning how to read, write or count. In West and Central Africa, stats also reveal that only 30% of children from the poorest households complete primary education.
In a nutshell – and according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistic (UIS) and the data available on education as of September 2019 – there were still about 258 million children and youth out of school. From that total, 59 million are children of primary school age.
While there’s been significant strategies and efforts to reduce out-of-school children, everything leads us to believe that there was no progress in the last few years. When many of these children already faced fears and obstacles in their way to school, their situation has most likely been worsened by COVID-19.
But we do believe that there are solutions, even in the most complex situations, that can mitigate the adversities these children face. Technology can, and should, be the key to boost education and tackle the issue of out-of-school children in places like sub-Saharan Africa. Not only does tech and devices designed for education allow children to have access to information anywhere they need, but it also provides them with the quality and universal standard they deserve. And we should start working from the bottom up, creating a culture of information, innovation and connection within the community of children of primary school age, that can – and will most certainly – help strengthen national systems of education, while also building bridges with Governments, companies and people.
It is undeniable that being able to find sustainable measures through technology to overcome pedagogical challenges can bring children closer to school.