SEATTLE, Washington — As the world continues to adjust to the new norm of socially distancing, certain aspects of life must change dramatically to maximize safety. One of these aspects is education since students must now stay at home in many countries. The effects of coronavirus on primary education, especially in developing countries, has made education more difficult for many. In developing countries, many students have limited access to the internet or devices connected to the internet, making it hard for them to keep up.
The Learning Crisis
Adding to this dilemma is the fact that the developing world had a severe learning crisis before the spread of coronavirus. About 53% of children in lower-income countries could not read by the age of 10. These children are classified as being in Learning Poverty. Previously, there were up to 35% of children without care when they returned home in some developing countries. The amount of unsupervised time for these children will increase now that teachers cannot adequately care for them during school. Without responsible adults making sure the children focus on their studies, the percentage of Learning Poverty will only increase.
The Addition of Coronavirus
These numbers are shocking, yet the pandemic has put even more strain on government and school officials. The World Bank estimates an increase of up to 25% of children below the minimum level of educational proficiency. This is aided by the fact that in 71 lower-income countries, more than 30% of students don’t have access to the internet.
On top of a lack of educational resources, many professionals believe the effects of coronavirus on primary education can extend further. They worry more than one billion children being out of school will intrude into social skills development. In an interview with Kristi DeBernardi, a first-grade teacher from Northern California, she states that preschool and Kindergarten are times where students learn essential academic skills. However, even more, it is a time where kids learn to work in groups and handle person to person interactions. She calls these skills “soft skills” and claims they are important skills to learn during such a crucial time in the growth of a child. Without them, we could have a future where students lack a foundation of social skills.
The Effects of the Pandemic on Women and Girls
In addition to the problems children in developing countries face, the effects of coronavirus on primary school impact women and girls more than other groups. For instance, girls have less access to digital platforms than boys. This disparity will only increase the dropout rate for young girls. Fewer girls in school correlate with teenage pregnancy rates going up, which then raises a number of household problems.
In fact, Whitney Cross, UNICEF’s Manager of Global Cause Partnerships, explains that during school closures during the Ebola crisis, there was a 65% increase in adolescent pregnancies in the country of Sierra Leone. This was accompanied by an increase in sexual violence and a decrease in girl’s enrollment in school. Cross believes these are the effects we will see across the developing world due to the coronavirus’ closure of schools.