Education during the Coronavirus pandemic
The novel coronavirus has rapidly spread throughout the world and is continuing to do so. It has disrupted many sectors of the world economy, one of them being education. Education is one of the most critical factors in a person’s life through imparting knowledge and skills.
Formal education, specifically, comprises of various levels of education from primary to tertiary institutions. With the onset of Covid-19, there was a necessity to close down most learning institutions to curb the spread of the virus, thereby creating an imbalance in the curriculum. It meant that school terms were cut short, and no examinations could take place during the period. Reopening of schools is uncertain in many countries even though some such as the UK have opened.
The impact of the closure of schools did affect not only the students, but also teachers, parents, and economies. It has shed light on the vulnerabilities such as food security, shelter, internet services availability, and digital learning. Economically, some parents had to leave their jobs to take care of their children as they cannot afford childcare. It has resulted in lost wages and, in extreme circumstances, loss of jobs due to missing work. Also, many people rely on job opportunities provided by the presence of students in an area, which has drastically reduced. However, closure of schools created a gap in learning that needed filling leading to virtual learning. On food security, nutrition plays a significant role in keeping children in school due to the free meals provided. The closure of schools means that nutrition for some students is compromised.
Virtual learning is online studying through the Internet. It has helped many learners stay up to date with their studies, even with the brief interruption. Many can take online exams and continue with regular learning programs. Platforms such as Zoom and Skype have proved beneficial during the pandemic as learners interact with their educators in virtual classrooms.
In some countries, however, many people cannot afford to cater to the digital learning platforms resulting in unequal digital learning opportunities. In poorer countries, basic school amenities such as books, desks, and internet connection are insufficient, making learning even more difficult, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The lack of access to technology acts as a significant obstacle to the learning process. Libraries are temporarily closed, also leading to a lack of reading material. Some governments have resulted in teaching and keeping students updated through social networks such as through the radio and TV. Airing of educational programs teaching different subjects enable the learner to follow the lessons. Teachers provide effective communication through guidelines to the parents allowing them to have a structured learning process while at home.
One of the dangers brought to education is the fear of dropouts. The engagement of students is critical, especially with high rates of dropouts is some countries. A more extended period away from school would only increase the chances of disengagement. The most vulnerable include the homeless and at-risk children who are more likely not to return to school after such a pandemic. School and education help to develop social interaction, thereby creating a necessity of keeping school engagement at its optimum. Educators have had to implement ways in which to maintain positivity among learners as instances of anxiety could quickly soar. Through setting clear guidelines, each person is aware of their role to avert the crisis. Educators have also faced challenges such as lack of teaching material. The limitations to online content and copyrights slow the teaching process as learners have limited access to the relevant course materials.
The mission of education systems is to overcome the pandemic and reduce the adverse effects on learners by getting them back on the learning process. Governments and institutions must strive to improve the quality of education to give all learners equal opportunities, whether in a physical or virtual classroom, by closing the gap in opportunities. Open access to learning materials for both learners and educators could help smoothen the transition to online learning, thereby enhancing the learning environment. For example, in New Zealand, some publishers have permitted the virtual reading of their material from libraries, which provides educators with online teaching resources.