Coronavirus effect: UN enlists Google, Facebook, Microsoft to help 1.5 billion students missing school

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Published: March 26, 2020 9:18 PM

The UN estimates that 87 percent of the world's students have been impacted by school closures, forcing many to adapt to online lessons and other distance-learning techniques -- when they are available.

Tech partners include Microsoft, Google, Facebook and video conferencing specialist Zoom, as well as the GSMA association of mobile network operators. (Reuters)

The UN’s education agency said Thursday it had forged a coalition with tech firms and nonprofit organisations to support more than 1.5 billion students missing class because of the coronavirus crisis. “Never before have we witnessed educational disruption on such a scale,” Audrey Azoulay, director general of the Paris-based UNESCO, said in a statement.

The agency estimates that 87 percent of the world’s students have been impacted by school closures, forcing many to adapt to online lessons and other distance-learning techniques — when they are available. “We are working together to find a way to make sure that children everywhere can continue their education, with special care to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization which is a coalition member.

Tech partners include Microsoft, Google, Facebook and video conferencing specialist Zoom, as well as the GSMA association of mobile network operators. Britain’s BBC public broadcaster has also joined, as has a US foundation behind the hugely popular “Sesame Street” educational TV programme.

Lack of widespread internet access in developing countries could further widen the education gap with wealthy nations, Unesco warned. The coalition aims to provide “resources and expertise” to governments for implementing remote learning based on the available infrastructure, to avoid an upsurge in dropout rates once schools reopen.
UNESCO did not say how much money had been committed to the coalition’s efforts.

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