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Impact of Digital Learning on Educational Outcomes for BME Youth

Young people are facing loneliness due to the changed learning environment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. What was once a relatively collaborative learning approach is now an isolating experience – where interaction with peers is non-existent. COVID – 19 restrictions have ignored that educational institutions and organisations are a vital factor of socialisation. Now educational experiences aren’t what they once were. Seminars at university can now be reduced to only three students. An entire university experience can now make young people feel detached which has contributed to poor mental health outcomes.

Students’ use of technology in education is usually limited as traditional learning practices require classroom interactions, rather than technology. COVID-19 restrictions mean that educational institutions and community centres must now practice social distancing. They must transfer majority of their services online. Youth spaces are no longer available face to face. This means that youth aren’t able to actively participate in community work or take advantage of any training opportunities. It’s difficult for youth to receive the right support from educators/advisors/mentors. Without any physical interaction, the process of recognising any concerns almost impossible.

Young people are now left to fend for themselves with what limited resources they have at home. The effects of this are inimical as it can lead to widening the achievement gap for BME youth. Many young people from BME backgrounds suffer from material deprivation which means that access to resources at home could be limited. A recent Guardian article headlined that ‘Nearly half of BAME UK households are living in poverty’ they state that ‘BAME households in the UK are over twice as likely to live in poverty as their white counterpart’.

As stated in our ‘COVID – 19 in the Somali Community – urgent briefing for policy makers in the U.K.’ report, the Department for Education should provide extra educational support to address inequalities likely to be exacerbated or caused by the lockdown. As well as this, they should also take account of lockdown related inequalities in grade predictions, so as not to unfairly penalise BME students affected by poor learning condition in homes. Furthermore, local government authorities should also provide support to low-income families where children and young adults are struggling with education due to technological deficit. These steps are vital in order to push for a more inclusive environment for BME youth during this time of digital delivery.

There are a number of points that need to be considered when dealing with youth in this scenario. Institutions must adopt lenient exclusion policies that embrace the intersectional challenges that young people have been exposed to during the lockdown and post lockdown recovery. Voluntary sector groups and non-profit organisations must be supported with enhanced digital delivery strategies. Programmes offered by these organisations need support when it comes to using technology and following COVID- 19 regulations. And lastly, how to meet the mental health needs of BME communities during this tense time. We are currently running consultations on mental health research – young people are invited to participate by getting in touch with Policy Officer Mohamed Ibrahim at m.ibrahim@theatm.org.

Written by Habbon Abdi, volunteer programme officer.