School closures have led to alarming inequities in learning opportunities for children in South Asia including Sri Lanka, despite significant efforts by governments and partners to expand remote learning, a research conducted by the UNICEF revealed.
According to the research conducted in Sri Lanka, India, the Maldive and Pakistan it was found out that school closures in South Asia due to the COVID-19 pandemic have interrupted the learning of 434 million children.
It was revealed that 69 per cent of parents of primary school children in Sri Lanka had reported that their children were learning “less” or “a lot less”.
“In Sri Lanka, 69 per cent of parents of primary school children reported that their children were learning “less” or “a lot less.” Girls, children from the most disadvantaged households and children with disabilities faced the biggest challenges while learning remotely,” the research revealed.
“School closures in South Asia have forced hundreds of millions of children and their teachers to transition to remote learning in a region with low connectivity and device affordability,” said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia.
“Even when a family has access to technology, children are not always able to access it. As a result, children have suffered enormous setbacks in their learning journey.”
Despite significant efforts from governments, low connectivity and access to digital devices have severely hampered efforts to roll out remote learning.
The research found that student-teacher engagement, when regular and reciprocal, is a strong predictor of success in children’s learning, especially for younger students. However, the surveys found that most students had little or no contact with their teachers after schools closed.
“In Sri Lankan private primary schools, 52 per cent of teachers reported contacting their students five days a week, but this number dropped to only 8 per cent for teachers from public primary schools,” the research revealed.
“The safe reopening of schools must be considered an utmost priority for all governments. Parallelly, investing in teachers will ensure that teachers and schools can adapt to all situations. The more teachers are trained, equipped and supported on distance and blended learning, the better they will be able to reach all their students,” added George Laryea-Adjei.