The Russian invasion of Ukraine has drastically affected our global outlook on the world. One of the many things that this invasion has affected is education. According to UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report, the invasion is a stark reminder that the education systems of countries need to be prepared with crisis sensitive policies for natural and manmade disasters.
A grim situation
So far, over 1,800 schools and universities have been damaged or destroyed in Ukraine, depriving the youth of their right to learn (Marston & Tsolakis, 2022). Both sides are using schools as military buildings or war shelters. The net result is that millions of students have lost their right to education (UN, 2022).
Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reiterates that creative, multifaceted and flexible solutions combining traditional and modern methods are needed to reach students in a situation of crisis and minimize disruptions to their learning (UNICEF, 2022).
Apart from educating, schools and universities provide growing minds with a safe space for learning while also encouraging the overall wellbeing of students (Marston & Tsolakis, 2022). Their custodial and community roles are central to a healthy society. It is now imperative to reflect on what has been learned in the crisis and what will matter most for future generations.
Impact of Digital Divide
There is a great need to impart digital training to the teaching staff so that they can respond to the crisis across all levels of education. UNESCO findings illustrate that mobile micro-content and mobile messaging can be used to facilitate ongoing support and help teachers improve their teaching practices.
Digital technology will help collect and collate education data to improve the operations, planning and control in the education system. However, the current data and political structure do not clearly document refugees’ prior educational achievements or current progress. Furthermore, most educational institutions were identified as laggards in the field of technology adoption. The digital divide continues to hamper the chance to enhance refugee children’s learning opportunities.
How digital technology transforms education
Digital applications can be used to support skill development in specific subject areas like mathematics and science. Digital higher education courses will also become valuable when they utilize a hybrid learning approach. These include mentoring and peer support systems and draw on learner-centered pedagogies.
Instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp are available worldwide and can connect resources, students and teachers remotely. Moreover, digital media will provide refugees who are left out of the system with an opportunity to complete their education and upskill themselves.
Role of policymakers in providing equitable & inclusive education to refugees
As refugees fear reprisals and surveillance, policy makers will need to focus on creating secure and private communication spaces for them through safeguarding mechanisms for education apps and other digital tools targeting refugees.
Skill sets centered around digital literacy are beneficial as they increase the refugees’ chances to enter local and global markets. They will also enable refugees to drive the development of mobile learning solutions for themselves and their peers.
The future of digitally enabled education in a crisis ridden world
According to a report from Grand View Research in the year 2020, the digital education market size was valued at approximately US$9.36 billion and is expected to increase annually thanks to a CAGR of approximately 30.6% (https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/digital-education-market-report). For most vulnerable refugees, digital education is the only available option. Therefore, policymakers must take notice and allocate sufficient funds to support this future-proof means of education (Grand View Research, 2020).
- Marston, J., & Tsolakis, M. (2022, June 1). Ukraine Points Up the Threat to Education During War. Retrieved from ipsnews: https://www.ipsnews.net/2022/06/ukraine-points-up-the-threat-to-education-during-war/
- UN. (2022, May 12). War in Ukraine Presenting ‘Child Protection, Child Rights Crisis’, Senior United Nations Official Tells Security Council. Retrieved from un: https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14889.doc.htm
- UNICEF. (2022, May 12). Children in Ukraine need an end to this war – their futures hang in the balance. Retrieved from unicef: https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/children-ukraine-need-end-war-their-futures-hang-balance
Grand View Research. (2020). Digital Education Market Size & Growth Report. Grand View Research.