The challenges of learning from home are threatening futures

By Jessica Souza
May 15, 2020

On an island in Indonesia, in a quiet village, there’s a small house on the side of a dusty dirt road.

Sitting in the doorway, her arms crossed over her knees, is a 15-year-old girl. She’s staring off into the distance, but she’s not looking at anything in particular. Her eyes are glazed over. She’s bored out of her mind.

On a normal day, before COVID-19, she’d be starting the walk home from school right about now. Carrying her books, and chatting with her friends. But nothing is normal anymore.

The pandemic has caused school closures all around the world. It’s estimated that almost 90% of students are now out of the classroom, and that includes 743 million girls. Many are learning from home, with virtual lessons from their teachers or homeschooling from their parents.

But in rural communities in developing countries, often neither of these options are available. There aren’t laptops at home, and there’s no internet to connect children to the outside world. And many parents can’t homeschool because they’ve had limited education themselves.

That’s why Yusti has nothing to do with her afternoons but worry.

Her village is just about 15 miles from the district capital, but it feels like much farther. There are no city perks, like stable telephone or internet connections.

“I am getting bored and don’t know when I can go back to school,” Yusti says. “I have been studying for almost a month at home and all the homework I was given has been done.”

Her parents only finished elementary school, so they can’t carry on more advanced lessons. Still, Yusti tries to make do, because she likes to learn. “I teach myself using old notes I took from previous lessons,” she says.

But that’s no way to keep learning.

Will Yusti go back to the classroom on the other side of this pandemic? It’s hard to tell. Adolescent girls are the most at risk for permanently dropping out of school after an interruption like this.

Unfortunately, one lesson Yusti is learning right now is that her future is on hold.

Plan International is protecting girls and children from COVID-19 in Indonesia. We’re distributing thousands of personal kits with soap so they can wash their hands. We’ve giving out board games that teach good hygiene practices. And we’re advocating for local governments to broadcast education programs over the radio.

But there’s so much more to be done. Inequalities will worsen because of this crisis. You can help keep vulnerable girls and children safe and healthy, and also protect their futures from being compromised. The only way forward is together, with no one left behind.