Letters in Cubes spelling CoronaVirus | © Glen Carrie - Unsplash

Virus threatens to increase inequalities in the education sector

A new report has warned that inequalities faced in the education sector could get worse, owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

A new report has warned that inequalities faced in the education sector could get worse, owing to the coronavirus pandemic.  

According to the 2020 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report released on September 23, already, more than a quarter of a billion children and young people from around the world have no access to education. 

Millions of others are marginalized within the education system owing to their background, identity, or disability.  

The Report states that the COVID19 pandemic threatens to exacerbate these inequalities yet further.  

By way of example, 40 percent of low and lower-middle-income countries have not supported disadvantaged learners, such as those who are disabled, during the COVID19 crisis. 

UNESCO warns that, as a result of the COVID19 pandemic, the annual financial shortfall for education in low and lower-middle-income countries such as Kenya, will increase by up to one third from 148 billion US dollars to almost 200 billion US dollars. 

Commenting on the report, Maria Flachsbarth, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development for UNESCO, noted that in a crisis context such as the current COVID19 pandemic, existing inequalities are reinforced around the world.  

"Over a billion children have been unable to go to school because of the pandemic this year. Everyone needs equal access to high-quality education," she noted.  

Flachsbarth recommended the strengthening of global partnerships for the education sector. "We need global solidarity if we are to combat the disastrous impact of this pandemic on education."  

According to UNESCO, in a quarter of all countries around the world, separate education for children with and without disabilities is required by law.  

In Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, for instance, there is legislation to that effect in more than 40 percent of countries. 

In Kenya, the government requires all children with special needs and disabilities to access free and compulsory education as provided for in international conventions to which Kenya is a signatory.  

However, not all children with disabilities have been fully integrated into the education system in Kenya. 

The education task force report of 2012 revealed that in 1999, there were 22,000 learners with special needs enrolled in special schools, units, and integrated programmes. According to the report, the number rose to 26,885 in 2003 and to 45,000 in 2008.  

The report further revealed that there were over 1,100 units and 100 public special schools in Kenya including vocational and technical institutions catering for learners with special needs and disabilities.  

The number of special needs institutions has since increased to 3,464 with 2,713 integrated institutions and 751 special schools as indicated in the second medium-term plan 2013-2017.  

Margaret Njuguna