At the current time, due to the Coronavirus pandemic UNESCO reports that 82 percent of the world’s students are locked out of the classroom — and that percentage is likely to rise in the weeks and months ahead. While this may be welcome news for some children, it is nothing short of catastrophic for learners in the developing world for whom access to education is not just about improving quality of life; it can literally be a matter of life and death for them and their families.
Entrepreneur and executive Sanjeev Mansotra states that in many parts of the world, basic and vocational education is widely understood to be a right rather than a privilege. However, in the developing world, the situation is markedly different. Access to education is tenuous and volatile, largely due to a confluence of factors such as severe economic challenges and a systemic lack of educational infrastructure, including qualified teachers and suitable learning resources.
While the situation in the developing world is grim and will surely get worse in the days ahead, according to Sanjeev Mansotra, there are things that governments and organizations can do now in order to mitigate the damage. These steps include dramatically enhancing access to edutech, increasing the scope and quality of learning content, and putting millions of dollars into training current and future educators at all levels.
In the last decade, some parts of the developing world have struggled to implement educational technology (edutech) tools and systems, largely due to economic and infrastructure barriers. While there is no quick fix for this gap, decision-makers need to put their past differences aside and focus on ways to help learners who may be weeks, months or even years away from safely attending a classroom.
According to Sanjeev Mansotra, one of the biggest barriers to edutech is that the availability, reliability and cost of mobile data in many developing nations — especially in rural areas — is prohibitive.
While there are some very difficult days ahead for the developing world, there will come a time when the Coronavirus pandemic eases up after a vaccine is approved and enough supply is created for mass distribution (which is in itself a massive, complex undertaking). It is incumbent on decision-makers to do their best to ensure that students who are fortunate enough to continue learning outside of the classroom are getting access to quality, relevant materials that prepare them to contribute in the workforce and their communities.
If there is any good news to report, it’s that there is a push in the developing world to create more localized content that uniquely fits the culture and dynamic of each respective learning population claims Sanjeev Mansotra. For example, students in Africa are learning about issues and developing knowledge in a way that makes sense to them and their context.
Compared to their counterparts in the developed world, teacher salaries in the developing world are shockingly, and in some cases shamefully low. As a result, individuals who have the talent and aptitude to become exceptional teachers have been forced to put this ambition aside and pursue other job. Allocating resources to train current and future educators will help in the current crisis, and lay the foundation for future responses.
Qualified and dedicated teachers are absolutely vital to keep students enrolled and engaged, and to facilitate the workforce and community members of tomorrow. Now is the time for the developing world to have an educational awakening, and elevate the profession of teaching to where it belongs.