The pandemic of 2020 is rocking our world and throwing our country’s school system into shutdown mode. While educators are trying to mitigate the unprecedented impact by quickly forming makeshift online learning, this, often valiant effort, still exacerbates inequity by shutting out the millions of students without internet access.
This lack of internet access can turn into an academic avalanche, where students with already shaky footing, will tumble further behind.
Having millions of students unable to engage in online learning for the foreseeable future, isn’t just harmful to them and their academic futures, it also adds more strain to thousands of schools that were already ill-equipped to support those students performing below grade level.
With so many dividers between students of privilege and their less than affluent peers, addressing the digital divide is of vital importance. We don’t know when the pandemic will end and what the near future will look like, but we can certainly imagine the negative impact of not having access to teachers and academic support that digital platforms can provide.
There are times where our actions have to catch up to our words. When we move beyond the feel-good rhetoric and stand firm. Our so-called beliefs will often be tested, and our internet providers core beliefs are being tested now – in a very public way. Some of them are failing the test miserably and it’s harming millions of students.
This unfettered access to the internet can be a stabilizing force for students who are in the throes of uncertainty and need to be able to engage learning and the outside world during this time of mandated stay home policies.
We know that COVID-19 has rapidly changed the world as we know it. And, as usual, the negative impact of many phenomenas disproportionately harms children with less of a cushion, those students with a smaller and holier safety net.
Join us by signing this petition and demanding educational justice. It’s a matter of access and connectivity. Something internet providers claim to be a part of their core mission. Call on them to make good on this claim.
Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.