Half of the total number of learners – some 826 million students – kept out of the classroom by the COVID-19 pandemic, do not have access to a household computer and 43% (706 million) have no internet at home, at a time when digitally-based distance learning is used to ensure educational continuity in the vast majority of countries.
These figures were compiled by the Teacher Task Force, an international alliance coordinated by UNESCO, on the basis of data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the International Telecommunication Union.
Disparities are particularly acute in low-income countries: in sub-Saharan Africa, 89 per cent of learners do not have access to household computers and 82% lack internet access.
Furthermore, while mobile phones can enable learners access to information, connect with their teachers and with one another, about 56 million learners live in locations not served by mobile networks, almost half in sub-Saharan Africa.
“While efforts to provide connectivity to all must be multiplied, we now know that continued teaching and learning cannot be limited to online means”, stated Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General. “To lessen already existing inequalities, we must also support other alternatives including the use of community radio and television broadcasts, and creativity in all ways of learning. These are solutions we are addressing with our Global Coalition partners”.
Globally, at least 1.5 billion students and 63 million primary and secondary teachers are affected by the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with school closures in 191 countries.