It is undeniable that COVID has altered how we live and work. Lives continue to be lost, and hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients suffering from the virus. Therefore, measures such as closure of schools and long lockdowns have been implemented to curb the spread of the pandemic. However, drastic measures need to be taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on girls’ education.
Girls are more vulnerable
Girls’ education has been specifically challenged by the pandemic, especially those from low-income households and in rural areas. They have faced challenges such as child marriage, early pregnancy, and gender-based violence. Many girls are married off in exchange for money as a result of the economic effects of the pandemic on families.
There has also been an increase in rape cases, which led to unwanted pregnancy, and survivors are more likely to drop out of schools.
Sexual and reproductive rights are highly compromised in this lockdown as girls are unable to leave home to seek safety from their abusers.
It has been reported by UNESCO’s COVID-19 Global Education Coalition that teenage pregnancy across sub-Saharan Africa could increase by as much as 65% as a result of school closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
High dropout rates
The education emergency caused by the COVID pandemic could also roll back progress that has been made to achieve gender equality in education. It has been reported that there will be a sharp increase in the number of girls who would not be able to return to school after the pandemic.
There are deeper structural challenges that the world needs to deal with such as child marriage, sexual and reproductive health rights of girls. Post-COVID-19 might see a rise in child marriages due to the economic hardships that families have been exposed to during the lockdowns and the paradigm shift of working conditions.
With all the challenges confronted, with all the hardships faced throughout decades our hope in girls is not lost and we believe that a new world is possible. This is a generational call to ensure that we set a legacy of creating a society that values all people equal regardless of gender, tribe, and race.
The future of the girl child lies in the decisions and actions we take today.
The world must invest in the education and security of girls as resources for the future of this world.