The COVID-19 outbreak has stopped the world in its tracks. It has unavoidably brought about a temporal lockdown of schools and colleges across the globe. As a result, a shifted focus on virtual teaching and learning has been an inevitable option for many educational institutions. Unfortunately, however, this path has not proven to be a panacea to the problem of disruptions in learning conditions but has instead, highlighted the educational inequity in the world.
Students living in disadvantaged areas are faced with challenges such as lack of technological devices at home, limited or no internet connection, digital illiteracy, and electricity shortage. According to the UNESCO, approximately 56 million of the world’s population live in areas that do not have access to a mobile network. Sub-Saharan Africa constitutes half of this population. 90 percent of students do not have household computers, while 82 percent are unable to get online.
The low-cost tech solution to education
The digital divide continues to widen in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, there are more than 120 million children and students out of school in West and Central Africa and those in excluded areas cannot keep up with homeschooling. Online distant education is an adequate initiative for keeping students learning during COVID-19 pandemic but many youths and children in rural communities are lagging in technological advancement.
Several bodies are working to investigate and explore new technological innovations that promote and facilitate online teaching and learning in rural areas. For instance, the World Literacy Foundation has developed the Sun Books App that is pre-loaded onto solar-powered tablets, allowing African youths and children who live in remote localities access to hundreds of eBooks, literacy activities, and videos without internet connection or electricity. This is a low-cost solution that will keep children in a disadvantaged condition at home learning during the school’s lockdown.
How can we help?
If e-Learning initiatives are going to be implemented in developing countries like those in Sub-Saharan Africa, there should be proper education policies supported by the right innovative learning/teaching tools and a solid educational infrastructure in place.
At the moment, there are many non-profit organizations working day by day to mobilize resources to assist learners in low-income areas. Still, they have been unable to successfully accomplish their objectives due to a lack of financial and human resources.
It is time to join forces and foster partnerships to complement the efforts of these organizations towards meeting the needs of students who are now at home susceptible to educational setbacks.
With this, the goal of quality education would be attainable without any community, classroom, or individual falling behind.
Help the World Literacy Foundation close the educational gap and promote educational equality for all.