Crisis of Corona Might Put Full Stop To The Education Of Millions Of Girls

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School education has been drastically affected worldwide by the COVID-19 pandemic. Girls’ education has faced the most adverse effect of this. As per statistics, even after the end of COVID-19 crisis, about 20 million girls will not be able to return to their schools in several low and medium income countries. India is also among these countries.

On one hand, India is witnessing various campaigns related to women empowerment while the flip side is that about 40% girls of age group 15-18 years are still out of school.  Also, in comparison to boys, the number of girls is almost double who have not been able to pursue their school education even for the first four years. These figures from UNESCO may become more horrible after the pandemic.

Center For Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) on behalf of Champions for Girls’ Education, has conducted a study across 3176 households across 5 states in India – Assam (5 Districts), Bihar (8 Districts), Uttar Pradesh-UP (11 Districts) and Telangana (4 Districts), and Delhi (1 District). The objective of this study was to understand the impact of Covid-19 on the livelihoods and earnings of families living on the margins, and its relationship with the education of children, the impact of school closures and lockdown on girls’ education, including the changes in the social and familial environment that could impact enrolment and retention of girls in schools and the landscape of the institutional and policy interventions with potential or intent to mitigate the adverse impact of Covid-19 on girls’ education.

As we know that nationwide almost all the schools are closed from March 21 onwards. Most of the schools in our country are infrastructure wise not in a position to maintain physical distancing among children. So as an alternative, schools are trying to provide education through online mediums. Though the interaction with girls reflected that digital medium is a waste for them. Study shows that only 47% families have the facility of phones and this number reduces to even lower as 31% when we count only the families having smart phones. Moreover, mostly girls are not getting it for their studies. Actually in situations where only one person of the family has the mobile phone and internet access facility and boys and girls both are studying in the family, priority is given to study of the boy child over the girl child. Hence this academic session appears to be a total waste for girls.

During or after the pandemic, there is a higher possibility of teenage girls getting married for some or the other reasons and it will lead to discontinuation of their schooling. Data from UNICEF shows that every year about 1.5 million Indian girls under the age of 18 get married. Marriage not only put a full stop to their education but it also carries dangers like becoming a mother at a very young age. A strange trend is noticed in this regard. The rate of marriage of girls below 18 years had dropped by about 20 percent in the years of 2005-2006, but again had a rise in the year 2015-2016. Now it is assumed that after this pandemic this graph may show a big jump which is a very serious matter of concern. The United Nations population fund has predicted that in the next decade more than 13 million girls will be married at under age. Here it is noticeable that this data is apart from the early girls’ marriage data of pre-corona time.

Beside this, girls are appearing psychologically more affected due to closure of schools. This is because they are continuously victimized by domestic violence. The CHILDLINE India reported that within the first two weeks of lockdown, there was an increase of 50% complaint calls from children compared to what they usually receive. It is very much understood that most of these calls were from girls who were facing various types of violence during the lockdown period.

In these situations it is not very difficult to predict that adolescent girls from economically weaker sections are on the verge of dropping out from their schools in this Corona lockdown. This is why several organizations are working towards girls’ education through the #BackToSchool campaign. Special care for secondary education is advised so that things will not become worse.

The outbreak of Ebola in African countries in 2014 had a similar impact on children’s education. Dropout rates of girls were much higher compared to boys. The consequences like early marriages and teenage pregnancy emerged there too. However, plenty of efforts to improve the situation are done later. Now during the Coronavirus pandemic, a similar scary picture is being emerged once again for developing countries of the world.

 

–By Preetam Brahma Choudhury

 

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