Imparting online education to children amid the COVID-19 crises has emerged as the go-to solution for schools looking to resume the classes amid the need to continue social distancing till a vaccine for the pandemic is found. Conducting online classes is helping education institutions across the world to beat the coronavirus lockdown and push ahead with the academic calendar.
However, this trend has raised numerous concerns among the educational experts, at the United Nations Children’s Emergency Funds (UNICEF) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). While some of them have expressed alarm about the potential dangers of internet exposure for young kids, others say they are scared that this digital shift may alienate the economically disadvantaged students who lack access to the technology needed to attend the digitally conducted classes.
As per the UNICEF that’s engaged in humanitarian aid for young children across the globe, ‘Millions of children are at increased risk of harm as their lives move increasingly online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The internet exposure puts children at high risk of online sexual exploitation and grooming, as predators look to exploit the coronavirus pandemic. Online grooming is a worrying product of the internet and social media age, in which predatory adults builds online relationships with gullible children and trick or pressure them into sexual behaviour.
Moreover, under the shadow of COVID-19, millions of children’s lives have temporarily shrunk to just their homes and screens of devices. It is high time we should adapt ourselves with the current situation and help our children to navigate this new reality.
According to a report issued by the UNESCO, ‘Half of the total number of learners, about 826 million students kept out of the classroom by the pandemic, don’t have access to a household computer or a smartphone device. While 43 percent have no internet at home when the online based distance education is being opted by the schools and educational institutions to ensure continuity of academic year for students in different countries of the world.’
Challenges of Online Education
There are many challenges when it comes to imparting the online education:
Students who reside in small towns and villages struggle to get a good internet connection speed and mostly are unable to attend the online classes. This will especially prove disadvantage during the exam time as half the students will fail for sure because they will not to connect due to bad internet connection.
Many of the students don’t have the devices, smartphones and laptops or money to keep the internet connection while also paying the school fees. These are the real challenges which hinder the process of the online learning.
Not just students, some school teachers and educators are also struggling to get a hang of the technology. The school wants them to make PowerPoint Presentations (PPTs), record the video lectures, and take online classes through different apps and online platforms, but they aren’t instructed clearly as to how this should be done. This is more common among adults of 60 years and above who find the online medium to impart education quite challenging due to lack of hands-on experience with the latest technology.
The lack of real-world interaction among the students and teachers is another challenging factor that could have a negative impact on their relationships compared to regular classes.
A New Reality
As the security concerns of the video conferencing apps such as Zoom emerged in the early days of lockdown with regards to conducting online lessons, meetings and private appointments, most schools have started searching for alternatives to keep the academic year 2020-21 going and not suffer much with disruption owing to coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 has spawned up an unprecedented dependence on technology that keep up the operations running across different sectors and its potential long-term impact on the economy and lives of people across the world. Studies are been conducted on the increasing dependency on the gadgets among the children and adults to monitor its impact on mental health.
Now it is more vital to provide child protection services to ensure they remain open and active throughout the pandemic, by ensuring that the devices they use have the latest software updates and antivirus programs for precautions against cyber attacks and threats.
Additionally, UNESCO has advised the use of television and radio broadcasts as an alternative to reduce the already existing inequalities among students seeking to continue their education with the online classes.