The COVID 19 pandemic has affected most sectors worldwide but the education sector is one of the most vulnerable sectors and the worst hit. The United Nations estimates nearly 1.6 billion learners in the world have been affected and only 1% of the student population in countries in the global south have access to education during this lockdown. Educational institutions in almost a hundred countries have not yet announced when they will start offline education. Before Corona times, parents tried to restrict screen time for their kids but the pandemic has turned the tables and now even kids from kindergarten are expected to attend online classes starting early morning till afternoon. As we suddenly saw a surge in online education and educational institutions rushed to start providing online education, people stopped talking about limiting screen time which was a concern before. Young and adolescent kids can easily get diverted during online classes or when trying to do their assignments to social media or tons of other websites which are available easily. This can easily make them dependent on and glued to their screens. Now this not only has adverse effects on the kids psyche, but online education has also brought economic trouble for the middle class and lower middle class parents where both parents are working and cannot afford to have personal devices to simultaneously work from home for both the parents and also cover kids online classes.
Further, turning to online education has shed light on another critical issue i.e. cybersecurity and cyber bullying. Unsuspecting children are easy prey to cybersecurity threats due to lack of awareness and proper knowledge. Further, adolescents have seen a raise in the rate of cyberbullying since online teaching started as these online platforms can provide easy platforms to bully someone; especially when cybersecurity laws are still not advancing as quickly as technology is.
We have seen many apps mushroom to provide platforms for online education from kindergarten to universities in the market. However, the big question remains unanswered, only a handful of the world’s children have access to electronic devices like laptops and reliable internet connections. The affluent population who can afford computers and high-speed internet can continue to learn and even pay for the online education system, but what about the children who barely have access to books. How can we bring education which is halted to them? Another pressing question is how good of a solution is online education when it can also have these adverse effects. Sure, it helps prevent spreading of the coronavirus but it is not a solution for everybody as not everyone can have access to it, and those who have access are prone to the above-mentioned risks. So is providing online education the best solution we can provide, and is it enough?
You made some excellent points in this blog post that people usually assume that most adolescents have devices, electricity, and internet access needed to make online education work. Also, for those who do, becoming a cyberbullying victim is a genuine possibility. Speaking from my brother s` experience of online education, in his school, they had an online event via Zoom platform so that all of the students and teachers would commemorate the Genocide Day together. Someone unexpectedly took control and showed very disrespectful content, resulting in the entire school community becoming affected by cyberbullying. I agree with you and hope that an alternative way of educating will come into practice, hopefully succeeding in not excluding children from different economic and social backgrounds and creating a more inclusive and tolerant environment.