Like millions of other children, Mia Sulastri has been making an extra effort to continue her studies. When she closed her school in Indonesia due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 17-year-old traveled 24 kilometers on a motorbike, four times a week, to find a phone signal to receive messages from her teachers and send them. email you your tasks.
Mia is one of hundreds of students, parents and teachers that Human Rights Watch has interviewed in 60 countries over the past year to find out how they try to continue learning during COVID-19 school closures.
We have heard repeatedly that children, who tend to run away from the most severe symptoms of COVID-19, have had to sacrifice the education to which they are entitled. School breaks are part of public efforts to protect the health and save the lives of their families, friends, teachers and their communities.
This is a commitment that students usually make willingly, but at a loss.
We also heard that the failures of governments before the pandemic to provide adequate public services or to accommodate and include all students in schools worsened the consequences of the pandemic for the education of children.
A 14-year-old girl in Lebanon told us that her English teacher was canceling online classes almost every time due to lack of electricity. Lebanon has long since not reformed its deteriorating electricity system, so those who cannot afford a private generator run out of reliable energy.
A principal of a school with predominantly Alaska Native students said she had the best Internet plan available in her community, which cost her $ 315 a month. “I can start loading a web page and go sweep my flats while I wait for the page to load,” he said. “I don’t think going to online learning can ever be an option unless the Internet infrastructure is better.”
A second-grade teacher in Germany said her school has long struggled to invest in technology. “Then came the announcement that Skype would be installed on school computers,” he said. “It turned out that the school computers didn’t have a camera, so the issue was closed.”
Instead, a teacher at a private secondary school in São Paulo, Brazil, who he described as “extremely privileged,” said he had been teaching for five years using a digital platform: “In my world, things are pretty easy. ”
The pandemic did not cause these problems or inequalities, but rather worsened their consequences.
Governments already had solid evidence of which children were disproportionately excluded from school before the pandemic, often girls, children living in poverty, disability, or living in war zones. Still, these same children felt the weight of school closure particularly heavy.
The Ugandan government should have provided 12 years of free education to the 14-year-old boy who told us he was selling cookies on the streets of the Ugandan capital to save on school fees, after his financial situation family was successful due to the pandemic.
The Armenian government should have predicted that it would be difficult for the 14-year-old hearing-impaired boy with whom we spoke the mother to read sign language on a telephone screen divided into seven for a Zoom class.
The British government should have paid more attention to ensuring that children from families living in poverty who receive the main meal of the day at school do not go hungry during pandemic school closures.
The Iraqi father was right when he said it was not his 15-year-old son’s fault that he could not write his own name, after years of schools forced to close by ISIL extremists (ISIS) and not there were displaced people in the camp where the family lived.
As the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines brings hope for a final closure of pandemic-related schools, it is clear that simply returning things to the way they were is insufficient and reckless.
So many students have been working so hard. Governments must fulfill their own responsibilities. They need to improve, mitigate and correct long-standing structural inequalities in access to education, the availability of free secondary education and accessibility to learning in the virtual or real classroom.
They should track down children who do not return to the classroom when they reopen schools and give them a reason to return, as they should do for children who did not go to school even before they closed. . Governments should make primary and secondary education completely free and accessible to all children. They need to eradicate inequalities in access to electricity.
They must stop breaking down, recognize that the network is now indispensable for the education of children, and expand affordable access to the Internet. They must end child marriage, a major barrier to girls ’education. They need to structure education systems so that children with disabilities, who are indigenous, refugees or live in areas of poverty or war, are welcomed and included.
Reopening the classroom doors is just the beginning.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.