“Scale of education loss ‘nearly insurmountable’”

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By Karen Abrams, MBA Ed.D ‘25

A January 2022 UNICEF release shared the alarming headline, Scale of education loss
‘nearly insurmountable’. Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Chief of Education, stated that, “In
March, we will mark two years of COVID-19-related disruptions to global education.
Quite simply, we are looking at a nearly insurmountable scale of loss to children’s
schooling. While the disruptions to learning must end, just reopening schools is not
enough. Students need intensive support to recover lost education. Schools must also go
beyond places of learning to rebuild children’s mental and physical health, social
development and nutrition.”

Here in Guyana, the story is no different. A 2021 STEMGuyana ONLINE parent survey
noted that 59% of parents reported having enetworks, GTT (DSL / Fibre) or Satellite
internet service in the home. When factoring in the parents who are not online,
STEMGuyana theorizes that internet penetration in Guyana drops to around 47% to
50%. Still quite low, albeit a significant increase over the 2017 rate of 37.33% reported
by statistica.com.

The point is however, that nearly ½ of Guyana’s school children did not have access to
the consistent quality of education their more privileged classmates received over the
past two years. Not up for debate is the fact that the digital and academic divide in
Guyana, as in the rest of the world will continue to grow wider without significant
interventions and resources targeted to vulnerable children to help them to close the
learning gaps, and improve their psychosocial well being–the combined influence that
psychological and the surrounding social environment have on their physical and
mental wellness and their ability to function.

All across the globe, countries are marshaling their best minds to respond to this global
emergency. The press release goes on to say that, “Children have lost basic
numeracy and literacy skills. Globally, disruption to education has meant millions
of children have significantly missed out on the academic learning they would have
acquired if they had been in the classroom, with younger and more marginalized
children facing the greatest loss. Even in the United States learning losses have been
observed in many states including Texas, California, Colorado, Tennessee, North
Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Maryland. In Texas, for example, two thirds of children in
grade 3 tested below their grade level in math in 2021, compared to half of children in
2019.

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The entire village must be engaged to head off the dangerous potential consequences of
thousands of children undereducated or abandoning school today and being relegated to
a future of increased juvenile crime, teen pregnancies, low wage employment prospects
and an expansion of poverty even in oil producing Guyana.

Across the globe, many public and private organizations like STEMGuyana are working
on innovative and technology integrated solutions to increase engagement among
vulnerable students and improve their academic outcomes. This is not a Ministry of
Education alone challenge to solve. The entire village in Guyana must be involved in
contributing to solutions and these solutions must be modeled and studied and
improved and replicated across the country, region and globe, if effective. Our
underpopulated, oil producing nation needs every citizen to contribute to her
development, we must leave not even one child behind.



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