School in the time of pandemic. Almost 170 mln children deprived of education

According to UNICEF’s report 168 million children are prevented from going to school due to restrictions connected to the pandemia. They do not get access to one of the fundamental human rights – the right to education.

98 million of them come from Latin America. Executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, Henrietta Fore, said that we are dealing with the huge educational crisis [1]. 

Schools in the time of pandemic

The coronavirus has changed every aspect of our lives. It also had a negative influence on education. The situation in some regions of the world is dramatic, andone of them is Latin America and the Caribbean. 

In this region children haven’t been attending school for nearly 12 months. Compared to other countries, this is the longest period of facilities’ closure due to the Covid-19. “In Latin America and the Caribbean, the losses will be more catastrophic and far-reaching than in any other region for children, parents and society as a whole” said Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean [2]. The introduction of remote learning is not effective because of the poor quality of the network and often its complete absence in rural areas [3].

In addition to students deprived of development opportunities, there are also teachers who lost their jobs and daily activities due to the pandemic. However, some of them are still trying to help their pupils. 

Ecuadorian teachers visit students at home

Heroes without capes, but with pencils. This is how Adriana López, Carmen Valencia, William Añapa and Iván Roque are described [4]. They participate in the Pedagogical Alignment and Acceleration program launched in 2019 and aimed at students aged 8 to 18 who have gaps in learning [5]. They are supported by the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and DYA – a non-profit organisation working to improve the quality of children’s and youth’s life in Latin America [6]. Together with other teachers involved in the project (altogether there are over 400 of them), they visit more than 4,000 students per week. 

Hundreds of students have already participated in our educational program. Support our online activities in schools. Build laboratories of peace with us >>

The four heroes share passion and commitment, however they do not only teach. Their presence is also a great support for their students. Iván Roque says that he had not come to the Lago Agrio to teach the children, but to learn from them. 

Schools in Ecuador were closed on March 13th 2020. Until the outbreak of the pandemic, there were 150,000 children and teenagers outside the education system. It is estimated that another 90,000 joined them due to the pandemic, and this number may continue to increase [7]. 

Venezuelans are opening schools at home

Prior to the pandemic, a lot of students in Venezuela have been missing classes. Reasons were, among others, a lack of transport and poverty. The coronavirus has increased the percentage of children without access to education, and as a result the authorities urged students to learn at home.

Moreover, in 2019 40% of teachers from public schools resigned from their jobs for the other activities. They were driven by low wages and changes in the educational system. For instance, teachers and rectors stopped receiving the salary, because their positions were excluded from the ministerial structures. Working hours and benefits for retired teachers also have been reduced [9]. 

In helping children has got involved Iris Pellicer, age 56, who graduated from law studies during the pandemic. She has created a place to teach in a room left by her daughters who had emigrated to Chile. The woman teaches maths and helps children with the homework. Her motivation was seeing children spending time in the street. In such a situation the road to crime is short, and as she says herself: “It’s a big worry in this area” [10]. 

Iris Pellicer’s school became an example. Other city residents joined her activities and together they care for the education of children in the local community. 

A peruvian robot helps children with learning

There is an increase in EdTech educational technologies in Peru. It aims to improve the effectiveness of learning with the help of the innovative methods and tools [11]. Despite the great potential of that sector, there are inequalities in access to technology in the country. In one of the poorer regions Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro (VRAEM), with the beginning of the pandemic, schools were closed and children were not provided with alternative learning possibilities. tIn order to make students continue their education, Walter Velásquez Godoy combined learning with fun. 

The professor of science and technology has built a robot from recycled and scrap materials. Kipi, as the invention is called, speaks two languages – Spanish and Quechua, and is charged with solar energy [12]. “I’m a special robot. I was created and programmed to sing, dance and learn with students with special needs” – those words says Kipi himself [13]. 

These are only some examples from numerous stories of how Latin American teachers help children during the pandemic. More of them can be found in the Spanish daily “El País”>>

Hope for students

Despite the commitment of individuals, the pandemic situation in many Latin American countries remains dramatic. COVID-19 has deepened the already existing inequalities in this region. However, there is some hope for the students. Authorities in several countries have decided to resume teaching in schools.

There are, for example, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. There are ongoing disputes and debates about this decision in the media and the public [14], but there is no doubt that children and teenagers are looking forward to going back to school. 


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