40 Million Children Are Affected By School Closures in Pakistan

Around 40 million children in Pakistan are affected by COVID-19 school closures, forcing students to rely on virtual learning, and for those with no internet access, education can is almost out of reach.

This has been stated in a new joint report ‘How Many Children and Youth Have Internet Access at Home? of UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

According to the report, 88 percent of South Asia’s school-age children do not have an internet connection in their homes.

The report further stated that even before the pandemic, a growing cohort of young people needed to learn foundational, transferable, digital, job-specific and entrepreneurial skills to compete in the 21st-century economy.

The digital divide is perpetuating inequalities that already divide countries and communities, the report notes. Children and young people from the poorest households, rural and lower-income states are falling even further behind their peers and are left with very little opportunity to ever catch up.

The report noted that globally two-thirds of school-age children have no internet access at home. There is a similar lack of access among young people aged 15-24 years old, with 759 million or 63 percent of young people unconnected at home.

“That so many children and young people have no internet at home is more than a digital gap –it is a digital canyon,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

“Lack of connectivity doesn’t just limit children and young people’s ability to connect online. It prevents them from competing in the modern economy. It isolates them from the world. And in the event of school closures, such as those currently experienced by millions due to COVID-19, it causes them to lose out on education. Put bluntly: Lack of internet access is costing the next generation of their futures.”

There are also geographic disparities within countries and across regions. Globally, around 60 percent of school-age children in urban areas do not have internet access at home, compared with around three-quarters of school-age children in rural households. School-age children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are the most affected, with around 9 in 10 children unconnected.