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Education in the time of COVID-19: Compensating for lack of access to online learning by Nidhi Lohia

By Nidhi Lohia, Volunteer – FHI Kolkata

Can we deny that the pandemic has affected every section of society? From regular wage laborers to well-established entrepreneurs, everyone has suffered while trying to tune in with the ‘New World Order.’ But has its intensity been the same for every individual or social group? No, it has not been.

The unprivileged section has been hit severely with the repercussions of the global pandemic. While all efforts of emancipation and upliftment had brought about significant changes in their lives, the pandemic has ruined everything. For instance, with the efforts of government-run schools and NGOs, free and compulsory primary education has reached far and wide. But with schools closed and online education taking precedence, every such initiative of educating the disadvantaged has received a setback.

“Am I audible”?

“I’m facing technical issues. Kindly cooperate and bear with me.”

We have all heard these phrases. Haven’t we? Transition to online education has not been a cakewalk. The entire curriculum has gone for a toss. Though we are moving towards a digitalized world, online classes have been unable to match the essence of the traditional schooling structure. Schools are gradually reopening, but online learning is still very much in the mix. However, these issues are reserved for the well-off sections.

It is the poor sections that have been cut off from education altogether. Inability to afford smart gadgets or a stable internet connection has further increased the gap between the literate and the illiterate sections. According to a UNICEF report, ‘How Many Children and Youth Have Internet Access at Home?’ about two-thirds of school-going children have no access to the internet at home worldwide.

The pandemic has undoubtedly created a generational gap in learning. Many children have been pushed into child labor because of the accompanying financial crisis.

How can we bring these children back into mainstream education? How can we, as volunteers of Fly Higher, play a role in helping them overcome the effects of the global pandemic?

We can begin by incorporating specific segments of the school syllabus into our monthly events. Dedicating a maximum of sixty minutes to compulsory education can bring about a small change. It is improbable to cover everything comprehensively. But we can make a start by emphasizing topics essential for survival. Our well-established Mentorship Program can also play a significant role in helping the unprivileged get back on track.

All efforts of helping economically backward children escape the vicious cycle of poverty should not go in vain due to the pandemic. We can organize fund-raising programs and help children access smartphones, tablets, and a reliable internet connection. We can assist them in becoming tech-savvy. Their education must not stop because of a lack of technical knowledge. Through different activities, students can be taught the essentials of operating various gadgets.

The aftermath of the global pandemic will be strewn with innumerable obstacles. Dodging and subduing these roadblocks will not be a walk in the park. However, with steady steps, we can commence eliminating these pandemic-induced problems.

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