The pandemic has created new realities all around the globe. Many people are struggling to secure their livelihoods, pre-existing divides within society are widening, and the feeling of insecurity is growing. While more wealthy countries and regions are equipped with resources enabling them to offer support to their populations and economies, many countries in Africa, Latin America and parts of Europe and Asia are being forced to balance their measures between the need to fight the spread of the virus, and the demands of the poorer parts of their population to earn a living in order to avoid hunger, unrest and confrontation.
The impact of the crisis on Adult Learning and Education (ALE) is somehow at odds with itself: On the one hand, the pandemic has created an existential crisis for many providers of ALE. They were forced to close their doors, traditional ways of teaching and learning became impossible, and opportunities to generate income were reduced to a minimum. Support for struggling adult learning institutions is unfortunately very low on the agenda of many governments and development partners. Once more, the pandemic shows that the understanding of education using the lifelong learning concept is far from being established, with the majority of actors continuing to focus on the front-loaded formal education system.
The other side of the coin in this situation is the huge potential that ALE can offer to deal with the crisis in terms of outreach, mitigation of the impact of the crisis, and delivering desperately needed information.
Experience during the initial months of the crisis proved that ALE offers a unique combination of measures and services which are of particular value in the current situation. This is based on the extraordinary flexibility of the sector, which is strictly demand driven, mostly non-formal, and action-orientated. ALE providers and projects have the potential to support people in many ways. Several experiences from DVV International’s projects and networks demonstrate this specific value:
Further examples on how DVV International and its network reacted to the corona pandemic will be presented in this newsletter, and can furthermore be found on our website.
ALE providers have been forced to adapt the activities that they offer to the new reality at short notice. The rapid development of virtual learning opportunities plays a key role nearly everywhere. This requires investment in digital access, capacity building, especially for teachers, and the development of new ALE programmes and approaches. These investments have to be made in order to ensure that no one is left behind. Access to the Internet should be regarded as a public good, funded by the State and the community.
Governments, development partners and international agencies are called on to support ALE providers in their efforts to develop new, demand-orientated digital learning opportunities, and to ensure that all learners will have the opportunity to use them.