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Why are girls hardest hit by school closures due to COVID-19.

If you take away anything from this post, take note of this figure: 89. 

At present, over 89% of students enrolled in education globally are currently out of school due to COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2020).  It’s simply staggering. 

With sweeping COVID-19 lockdown regulations firmly in place,many learners are isolating behind screens through a home digital learning setting. In this post I reflect on what impact these school closures will mean for other groups of children in the Global South. Within your own thoughts, you may have considered how school closures will have considerable impact on children who are either vulnerable or marginalised. However, would you have contemplated the impacts of school closures on gender? 

When gender intersects with other forms of discrimination such as caste, girls are faced with greater prejudice what is also described as a ‘double disadvantage’. Therefore, for girls in the Global South, they will experience the impacts of this pandemic in a different way to boys owing to deep-rooted gender inequalities and norms. Girls outcome is bleak, which evidently will interrupt their education and increase school drop-out rates in the long term. These claims are not new, and have been supported and identified by previous UNESCO reports stating that ‘girls are far more likely to remain excluded from education than boys’ (UNESCO, 2016). Thus, in recognition of these disparities, progress towards girls’ education have continued to remain a central priority within the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

However, what could this mean for girls education in the these communities in the future?

When school gates reopen, many girls will continue to participate in education, however, others may never return. This shift could be recognised as families consider economic hardships caused by the crisis and therefore have opportunity costs educating their daughters. This will threaten and reverse any gains made for girls’ education. Within the quest to halt these education imbalances, international initiatives and policy makers will now more than ever need to prioritise the needs and specific challenges faced by girls, through gender responsive actions. 

Here are my four suggestions on how to support girls:

  1. Work closely with teachers and communities to support distance learning that includes the importance of girls’ education as part their learning programmes.
  2. In areas where internet connection is less accessible school material should be sent home. 
  3. Ensure that learning structures and approaches are flexible so that girls can continue to support families who often disproportionately shoulder the burden of care. This is also vital for pregnant girls and young mothers who often are prevented from accessing education.  
  4. Within development polices, there should be room to provide spaces for girls to have their voice and make their own decisions about schools.

Transforming for the future together

Thank you for reading

Priya

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