May 13, 2020

Class closures may put girls out of school for ever, warn Global Youth Ambassadors

130 million girls were already out of school before the pandemic

Photo credit: UN Women

Theirworld's youth activists have recorded videos to express concern about the lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic on education.

It's hard enough already for disadvantaged girls to get an education in some parts of the world. Now school closures caused by coronavirus are putting another barrier in their way.

Two of Theirworld's Global Youth Ambassadors - our network of young activists - have spoken about their fears that many girls are in danger of being left behind if they are out of school for too long.

They have recorded special videos to voice their concerns.

"All schools have been closed in Gaza and the West Bank, said Yara Eid from Palestine.

She said the majority of disadvantaged students can't learn online because they don’t have laptops or tablets. Yara added: "There are many concerns about girls who are now trapped in households that have domestic violence - and these girls will not be able to go back to school."

Watch Yara's video...

In Cameroon, fellow Global Youth Ambassador Pertulla Ezigha said school closures have pushed learning online, on TV and on radio. But this excludes many children, especially in rural and remote areas.

"For girls, it only means more time on house chores. It is important that children continue learning," said Pertulla.

Watch Pertulla's video...

Before the coronavirus crisis, there were already 130 million girls not at school - so the pandemic is one crisis on top of another.

Girls are often marginalised and out of school simply because they are girls. Their chances of getting a quality education are even smaller if they come from a poor family, live in a rural area or have a disability.

Girls are four times more likely to be out of school than boys from the same background. The poorest girls are also much less likely to complete primary school.

The humanitarian organisation Refugees International warned this week that the education of 740 million girls currently not at school because of classroom closures is under threat.

It said: "Girls already disproportionately miss out on education and are only half as likely as boys to go to secondary school... Once girls are taken out of school for any reason, they are both less likely than boys to engage in home schooling and less likely to ever re-enrol."

Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education, had a stark message when she took part yesterday in an online panel discussion on girls' education attended by government ministers and dozens of global civil society organisations.

Girls are in danger of being left behind if schools remain closed in the long term

Photo credit: UN Photo / Martine Perret

She said: "In many ways the health crisis is becoming an education crisis. The most immediate impact of school closures is an increasing equity gap. Yet again it is adolescent girls from the poorest households that will bear the brunt of this crisis."

Albright said schools are often a lifeline for girls - but she warned: "All of the gains of the last 20 years are at risk of being rolled back."

She called on governments to work with parents to encourage girls to go back to school - removing barriers such as bans on pregnant girls.

In northern Ethiopia, more than 500 girls have been rescued from child marriage since schools were shut, as fears mount that the pandemic is reversing years of work to stop the practice.

"In the previous days, we could easily get information through schools and be able to trace if the issue was happening and then be able to stop it," said Asnaku Deres, head of the bureau of women, children, and youth affairs in the Amhara region. "Now that is not possible because of the closure of the schools."

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