New York, April 21 (IANS) Microsoft has partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for expansion of a global learning platform to help children and youth affected by COVID-19 continue their education at home.

The platform, called “Learning Passport”, which has been in development for the past 18 months, was due to start as a pilot programme this year.

When the global pandemic hit and schools were closed worldwide, the programme underwent rapid expansion of its reach.

Now, all countries with a curriculum capable of being taught online will be able to facilitate online learning for children and youth with devices at home, Microsoft said on Monday.

Kosovo, Timor-Leste and Ukraine — which have closed their school gates in the past weeks to help halt transmission of the virus — are the first to roll out their online curriculum through the Learning Passport.

The content available to schoolchildren includes online books, videos and additional support for parents of children with learning disabilities.

“From school closures, to isolation, to a persistent sense of fear and anxiety, the effects of this pandemic are impacting childhoods worldwide,” Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, said in a statement.

“We need to come together and explore every avenue to keep children learning and help them through this difficult time.”

According to the latest available data from UNESCO, 1.57 billion students have been affected by school closures in more than 190 countries worldwide.

“Just as COVID-19’s impact has no borders, its solutions must not have borders, as it requires the collaboration across public and private sectors to ensure every student stays engaged and continues learning,” said Brad Smith, President of Microsoft.

“UNICEF’s Learning Passport is uniquely positioned as a scalable learning solution to bridge the digital learning gap for millions of students to bring their classroom into their home during the pandemic,” he said.

Children and young people continuing their education online can do so through a country-specific platform, accessed via their country’s learningpassport.unicef.org page.

–IANS

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