Learning in the Time of a Pandemic and Implications for Returning to School: Effects of COVID-19 in Ghana

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school closing
school opening
reopening schools
covid 19 schools responses
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Wolf, Sharon
Aurino, Elisabetta
Suntheimer, Noelle
Avornyo, Esinam
Tsinigo, Edward
Jordan, Jasmine
Samanhyia, Soloman
Aber, J. Lawrence
Behrman, Jere R.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to school closures all over the world, leaving children across diverse contexts without formal education for nearly a year. Remote-learning programs were designed and rapidly implemented to promote learning continuity throughout the crisis. There were inequalities in who was able to access remote-learning during school closures, though little systematic evidence documenting these gaps exists, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In this study, we surveyed 1,844 children in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, as well as their caregivers and teachers, regarding their engagement in remote learning, literacy and math test scores, and household economic hardships. We document inequalities in access to and engagement in remote-learning activities during the ten months in 2020 in which schools were closed in Ghana. Specifically, children in private schools and children in higher-socioeconomic status households engaged in remote-learning at higher rates and received more support from their schools and caregivers. Further, controlling for demographic characteristics and pre-pandemic learning outcomes, we document gaps in children’s literacy and math test scores, with food insecure and low-SES children, as well as children enrolled in public schools before the pandemic, performing significantly worse than their peers (0.2-0.3 SD gap). Finally, children in households that experienced more economic hardships during the pandemic engaged in fewer remote learning activities and had lower literacy and numeracy assessment scores. The findings speak to the potential consequences of increased inequalities due to the pandemic as schools re-open in Ghana and around the world and provide insight into how schools may address these inequalities as children return to the classroom.

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