The United Nations in a new report says that more than 463 million school-age children worldwide lack access to distance learning, following the closure of schools due to COVID-19.
This represents almost a third of the 1.5 billion schoolchildren in the world affected by the closures, according to the report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday.
UNICEF said the situation is mainly due to the lack of distance learning policies or the lack of equipment necessary to learn at home.
The report highlights the significant inequality in access to distance learning across regions, with school-age children in sub-Saharan Africa being the most affected.
According to UNICEF, half of all students in sub-Saharan Africa cannot access distance learning.
He said the study examined the availability of home-based technology and tools necessary for remote learning among pre-primary, primary, primary and secondary school children, with data from 100 countries.
The data included access to television, radio and the Internet, and the availability of curriculum delivered on these platforms during school closings, according to the agency.
“Students from rural areas consistently represent the vast majority of those who cannot be reached by any of the three distance learning modalities analyzed.
“This is independent of the level of economic development of the country.
“In general, three out of four students, who cannot be reached, live in rural areas, but in lower-income countries the percentage is even higher.
“Additionally, students in the poorest 40 percent of families represent a disproportionately high percentage of those who cannot be reached.
“In low-income countries, they represent 47 percent of those who cannot be reached, while in middle-income countries they represent 74 to 86 percent of those who cannot be reached.
“Boys and girls were almost equally represented among the unreachable students,” UNICEF said in a fact sheet on the report.
He said the actual number of students left behind was likely significantly higher than estimated in the report, “which reflects best-case scenarios based on the policies that were put in place and the technologies available in homes.