African communities have one striking problem – inequality.
But such inequalities are more pronounced in the education sector where learners from different backgrounds have unequal access to technological advances – further widening the digital divide.
In the age of digital transformation, online learning is available to some, especially in urban areas. But the story is different for those in rural schools.
This is a major concern even in South Africa – the continent’s most economically advanced country – as said by its leader President Cyril Ramaphosa during the 10th Africa Regional Conference of Education International on Tuesday.
Ramaphosa told the conference running under the theme, “Standing Together for Resilient Education Systems in Times of Crisis” that the emergence of the deadly COVID-19 hastened digital transformation and quickly shifted work patterns and education matrixes.
The pandemic exposed the fragilities stalking most African societies, according to Ramaphosa.
“The pandemic was not just a health crisis but also of education. It underscored the vast disparities in our education systems, with the digital divide becoming more pronounced. While some learners adapted swiftly to online learning, others, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, experience great challenges,” he said.
The South African President, a lawyer by training, spoke passionately about how rural communities and students with disabilities were disproportionately affected.
“With schooling disrupted, inequalities in education were exacerbated,” said Ramaphosa.
To further compound education inequalities, are political upheavals in some parts of Africa and globally.
“These crises further strained our social fabric, affecting the livelihoods of countless individuals and denying many children their fundamental right to education. In these times of instability, it is even more critical for nations to stand united in pursuit of equal access to education for all,” said added.
Ramaphosa went on: “Education is the cornerstone upon which societies build their future. Through education, we cultivate respect for human rights, the rule of law, and the principles of democracy.”