Around 40 million children in Pakistan have been affected by the COVID-19-induced school closures, forcing students to rely on virtual learning. Of course, for those with no internet access, education is now almost out of reach.
This finding was made by a new joint report released by UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), entitled How Many Children and Youth Have Internet Access at Home?
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 UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“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,” she added.