COVID-19: The long-term socio-economic gap facing poor and developing countries.

BY R.D. Miller

The humanity of education:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had serious implications beyond the spread of the illness itself and efforts to quarantine or social distancing. Many have lost their jobs, companies have closed or sales have gone down. With over a million people die and another 70 million infected and rising, there are several untold and unseen consequences.

coronavirus under the microscope. 3d illustration

Unfortunately, many lower-income families in impoverished communities in poor and developing countries, do not have access to the global space of learning. They will miss out on the face-to-face socialization process critical to the child’s development as many experts have noted until this global health pandemic, run its course.

While discussions between communities about what is the best course of action to mitigate the effects between science, politics, clinical trials, vaccine; financial power, and resources regarding equitable distribution. The reality for poor many regions, it remains a complex issue, and where some may not be vaccinated because they lack the critical resources, safety from political instability.

Besides that, many will refuse the vaccine for cultural, religious reasons and a history of distrust in fear of being used for its development. However, hidden between the clinical trials, hesitations, death toll, and infections, the devastating rising of hunger, poverty, and starvation that is killing millions, and this crisis seems to have taken a back seat or being overshadowed in many communities.

Many students are already confronted with food insecurity due to lost family income and decades of poverty. While social distancing is essential to maintaining public safety, classroom learning is welcome for some, as school is the only place they can enjoy a hot meal at the cafeteria that day or escape from a violent home.

What this pandemic has taught us is that the educational system is about teaching all regardless of race, sex, creed, culture, or socioeconomic status, and to build a nation and humanity, that will create change in bringing our society to a perfect union.

Beyond the vaccine, science, and politics.

While there have been political debates and promises about the COVID-19 stimulus package, or money distributed as reported in certain areas that lasted a trip to a local grocery store, and where elections have been won or lost as a result of pandemic management. Unfortunately, many politicians are good at winning elections, and then they learn the difference between campaigning and governing. Government is about accomplishing things, and usually a lot harder than being a politician. Some have limited skills, and we give them more tasks than they can do.

We have seen several political leaders issued tablets in many of these poor and developing regions, and it is a step in the promising direction, but that is where it stops. There is no access to the internet or resources to pay for access. Technology experts noted that though they may provide access regarding learning from a remote location, it lacks a keyboard, mouse, low processor, and limited research capabilities to work on projects. There are many young students out of the classroom and on to the streets to find their way.

Though making sure students are off the street getting their education is critical. There are reports that many will be sent back to classrooms especially in poverty-stricken communities unprepared to minimize the exposure to the virus. Some argued that it will provide a lovely image like under porting the exact numbers of COVID-19 related deaths and infections.

Photo by Julia M Cameron

Poverty is like a dial-up speed to upload and download life’s journey, and it has held many students back.  It is a fact that COVID-19 has already shown signs that it is affecting school achievement, as experts have noticed. Reports have shown students since COVID-19 failing at an alarming rate. A recent test assessment showed lower scores for math, reading, and science.

This forecast looks worse for impoverished nations and though it may not relate to a teacher’s engagement in this new normal distance learning behind a camera and computer screen tucked away on a kitchen counter, at a cafe, or a corner office, beyond the articles, opinions, COVID-19 occupy two different worlds.

Before COVID-19, many poor and developing countries were struggling and risking high tides across the treacherous ocean as refugees to traveling to countries for an economic anchorage in an empty classroom anywhere. These systemic disparities today need a new fiber-optic connection to link hunger, education, and the pandemic into a single package on a long-term social contract like what they offer with your local cable company, broadband internet, television, and telephone.

Photo by Pixabay

The middle class has equally been deeply affected, and the dreadful long-term reality of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty is appalling, as poverty is expected to increase, according to the World Bank. The report indicates that between 70 and 80 million people will fall into more profound poverty. Moreover, there were significant pre-pandemic disparities in several areas, like education, employment, access to good and affordable health care.

On-campus or not?

In contrast to rich school districts that have adopted an excellent strategy with resources, new technology platforms, improved speed, computers, and uninterrupted access, virtual, in-classroom, or hybrid. These wealthy districts’ parents often are more engaged, have the flexibility, and connection that can influence the next learning platforms that suit their schedules. And though there are concerns about students and teacher safety, as evidenced by the demonstration lines with the teachers and their union, that normally settles with the school’s budget.

On the other side of the city, even with access, this pandemic has devastated especially minorities, people of color who have lost many families as a result of this disease. The healthcare disparities have caused more deaths in these communities, and whether online or in class, it will not fill the emotional sadness and gaps from any new classroom format.

Besides, the further setback in their educational, social, and economic development; many may not even be vaccinated based on location, and access again will remain a barrier. The only ones who may come out as the winner are the investors as shares of pharmaceutical companies skyrocketed, but one still must give credit to the scientist who has been working to get us to this point.

Unquestionable, students missed their senior proms, hanging out with friends, homecoming, and sports, as experts noted critical to the student’s social and emotional needs. However, this pandemic will not be measured on these things alone, but the gaps that it will leave in our society. The fact is, COVID-19 already created a wider gap between the haves and the have-nots.

The personal check-in

Studies have shown that teachers have a lifelong effect on schoolchildren that help them to believe in themselves, but parents will remain the most influential individuals in a child’s education and development.

Photo by Katerina Holmes

COVID-19 has created a “Big Brother,” a popular television series as they tossed many teachers into this unknown glass room, where everyone watching, hoping to get to know these kids through gadgets that often foggy while keeping 20-35 students’ alert.

The online setting does not provide an ideal platform to recognize all students, unique strengths, weaknesses, and motivation levels critical to keeping them all engaged virtually. It is much more flexible to say, these students do not have the responsibility to go to work, the only commitment is to wake up, log in and participate, but I can see how many students grades may suffer even if a student had a high-grade point average, before the Pandemic.

I monitored a few classes over the past three months, and I realized how tough teachers’ roles are in this new normal. Undoubtedly, a bonus for the ones who are mothers with instant access to their children from exposure to COVID-19.  Time again you get that, “I’ll be right back,” wearing two hats. But I understand

Even working in an environment, protecting the public and with the latest technology gadgets, my platform has its ugly days. However, as the week passed, it became more painless, and occasionally someone pops into this visual space, and maybe a school counselor and perhaps from parental feedback.

The students’ opinions that may be formed for a lifetime, may not have any outside discussion from one’s political beliefs, socio-economic status, culture, race, national origin, and how few view other groups, and a misguided history from some of these selective lectures, where it appears key decades in our/their history pains brushed over to a much rosier picture in that period. Slavery cannot be discounted as if they did not know better.

Some teachers are extremely helpful and understanding, while others, once they complete the slide, please check the folder to reply. What about those who may not have access to a closed online slide from that day’s class to refresh because their connection is away from the comfort of their home at a McDonald’s?

The question that I kept coming back to, if these sponge brains do not have an outlet at this age in the future to talk about any disagreement, questionable section of these Power Point critical to their development at lunch, on the playing field, in the hallway walking to a locker, let’s hope COVID-19 does not set us farther apart when we are all vaccinated and can return to normal.

Where is mum in these missing debates?

Employment
Daycare
Slow or No Wi-Fi

These parents deserve more support and resources like community groups. Even to help with an assignment. It’s critical to recognize and respect that every family and child has unique needs. Many parents have become substitute night teachers of the abundance of assignments and emails. If they cannot explain the material being taught, how will they help their child with homework?

The experts also pointed out that parents take note: Kids, teens, college students mental health problems on the rise.

More withdrawn than usual
Eating or sleeping too much or too little;
Getting irritable mood most days
Lack of interest in activities they typically enjoy.

Logging out for the Day

Parents must be conscientious of several pop-up learning platforms being sold as an alternative by offering free computers and dedicated support. They must investigate to make sure it does not leave them with an enormous financial burden and the child is not prepared for the future. Also, the increase in fishing to lure students from the virtual classroom to an inappropriate website and the best inter security alone cannot monitor these sites.

As society re-balances, I hope this pandemic creates a do-over where everyone can receive a legitimate shot to overcome these systematic gaps. Times are rough now, but if we prepare with a new balanced approach, I remain hopeful because education belongs to humanity and not a country.


Photo Credit: Forbes

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