Children across Africa were most likely to be “left behind”, with at least 49% of school children in Eastern and Southern Africa being unable to be reached via digital or broadcast instruction, statistic showed.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, 9% of students could not be reached, making its pupils the most connected to remote learning programs, however, UNICEF emphasised that its research reflected best-case scenarios.
The actual number of students who cannot be reached via digital and broadcast including TV, radio and internet is “likely significantly higher” than it had estimated, UNICEF added.
The humanitarian agency has also announced a partnership with multinational telecommunications company Ericsson to help map school connectivity in 35 countries by the end of 2023.
“The deepening digital divide is one of the many inequalities that the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored,” said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, deputy executive director, Partnerships at UNICEF.
“School closures, coupled with limited or non-existent opportunities for remote learning, have upended children’s education worldwide. Our partnership with Ericsson will bring us closer to giving every child and young person access to digital learning opportunities.” The Ericsson partnership is a part of the Giga initiative – led by UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union – launched in 2019, with the aim of connecting every school to the internet.
The telecommunications giant is the first private sector partner to make a multi-million dollar commitment to the initiative, the partners noted.
“Ericsson is uniquely positioned to be a key partner in helping address this important issue due to our technical expertise, global scale, decades of experience in public/private partnerships, and proven results connecting students and educators,” said Heather Johnson, vice president of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Ericsson.
Earlier in 2020, celebrities including singer Shakira and football legend Pele joined UNESCO in calling for more to be done to target inequities in global education.
Additionally, speakers at the 2020 Education World Forum warned that Sustainable Development Goal 4 – including universal primary and secondary schooling and universal literacy for children – will not be met by the 2030 deadline.
The lack of access to the internet results in exclusion, fewer resources to learn, and limited opportunities for the most vulnerable children and youth, according to the ITU.