Written by Akuffo Emmanuel Kwabena osae
School closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have shed a light on numerous issues affecting access to education, as well as broader socio-economic issues. As of March 12, more than 370 million children and youth are not attending school because of temporary or indefinite countrywide school closures mandated by governments in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of 29 March, nearly 90% of the world's learners were impacted by closures.
According to the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF), the COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than 91% of students worldwide, with approximately 1.6 billion children and youngsters unable to attend physical schools due to temporary closures and lockdowns.
Even when school closures are temporary, it carries high social and economic costs. The disruptions they cause affect people across communities, but their impact is more severe for disadvantaged children and their families including interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, childcare problems, and consequent economic cost to families who cannot work. According to Studi Economici Dell'Ocse (OECD) studies, school performance hinges critically on maintaining close relationships with teachers. This is particularly true for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who may not have the parental support needed to learn on their own. Working parents are more likely to miss work when schools close in order to take care of their children, incurring wage loss in many instances and negatively impacting productivity. Localized school closures place burdens on schools as parents and officials redirect children to schools that are open.
The unintended strain on the health-care system
Women make up almost 70% of the health care workforce, exposing them to a greater risk of infection. They often cannot attend work because of childcare obligations that result from school closures. This means that many medical professionals are not at the facilities where they are most needed during a health crisis.
A math distance lesson over a video conference during the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia
Online learning has become a critical lifeline for education, as institutions seek to minimize the potential for community transmission. Technology can enable teachers and students to access specialized materials well beyond textbooks, in multiple formats, and in ways that can bridge time and space.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools began conducting classes via videotelephony software such as Zoom. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has created a framework to guide an education response to the COVID-19 Pandemic for distance learning.
Unequal access to technology
Lack of access to technology or fast, reliable internet access can prevent students in rural areas and from disadvantaged families. Lack of access to technology or good internet connectivity is an obstacle to continued learning, especially for students from disadvantaged families. In response to school closures caused by COVID-19, UNESCO recommends the use of distance learning programs and open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education.
To aid in slowing the transmission of COVID-19, hundreds of libraries have temporarily closed. In the United States, numerous major cities announced public library closures, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City, affecting 221 libraries. For students without the internet at home, this increases the difficulty of keeping up with distance learning.
Unequal access to educational resources
Lack of limitations and exceptions to copyright can also have an impact on the ability of students to access the textbooks and materials they need to study. Several initiatives were taken to grant that students and teachers can have access to open educational resources or understand copyright limitations. The International Council for Open and Distance Education issued a special website to provide webinars, tips for online teaching, and resources for teachers.
In New Zealand, a group of publishers agreed to allow for virtual public readings of their materials from libraries and classrooms. A similar agreement took place in Australia, where the Australian Publishers Association, the Australian Library and Information Association, and the Australian Society of Authors agreed on a set of exceptional measures to allow libraries to provide educational content. The Australian organization AMCOS agreed to give a gratis license for all their music sheets to all schools across Australia.
An advocacy organization in the Netherlands launched a website to allow teachers to use free-licensed music and video for their classes.
A coalition of over 500 civil society organizations and individuals issued a letter to Francis Gurry, Director of the World Intellectual Property Organization, asking, among other things, a special set of limitations and exceptions to copyright for the duration of the pandemic. we
Several organizations are also working to explain to teachers how to navigate complex copyright scenarios. The National Copyright Unit of Australia, a specialist copyright team responsible for copyright policy and administration for Australian schools and TAFE, issued a set of recommendations to follow on copyright issues while doing remote learning and a set of recommendations for using openly licensed content, especially aimed to parents supporting students. Centrum Cyfrowe in Poland is holding open calls to support the work of teachers and educators leading in the open education sector. The Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at the American University is holding a set of webinars for different educators to guide them through copyright issues when delivering online teaching and how to address best practices for fair use.
Akuffo Emmanuel Kwabena osae
Nana Appiawiah House
Kade senior high technical school