School Closures Due to Covid19 Will Increase Gender Gap in Education: UNESCO
In light of the anti-contagion measures prompted by the Covid19 pandemic worldwide, a number of countries have temporarily shut down schools and colleges. Yesterday, the UNESCO told PTI that the closure of educational institutions will impact women the most and increase their drop-out rates, further widening the existent gender gaps in education, and lead to increased risks of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and early and forced marriages.
The UNESCO, which is monitoring the impact of the Covid19 pandemic on global education, has stated on its website that nationwide closures have affected 90 percent of the world’s student population. This number represents 154 crore students enrolled in schools and colleges, and includes 74 crore girls — some of whom live in the world’s least developed countries, where getting an education is already a struggle, explained Stefania Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, by breaking down the figures.
“For women and girls in countries where limited social protection measures are in place, economic hardships caused by the crisis will have spill-over effects as families consider the financial and opportunity costs of educating their daughters. While many girls will continue with their education once the school gates reopen, others will never return to school,” she added before warning that the world is at the brink of reversing 20 years of progress made for women’s education. Giannini also expressed concerns about girls living in refugee camps, who are anyway only half-as-likely to enroll in schools compared to their male peers.
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Urging governments to address the challenges faced by girl-students against this backdrop of indefinite closures of educational institutions, UNESCO has also recommended a strategy which includes leveraging teachers and communities, adopting appropriate distance learning practices, considering the digital divide, safeguarding vital services and engaging young people.
Meanwhile, UNESCO has also launched a global education coalition, which aims to facilitate inclusive learning opportunities during the Covid19 crisis by investing in remote learning that will also help in the development of more open and flexible education systems for the future.
“While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new, unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education. We are working with countries to assure the continuity of learning for all, especially disadvantaged children and youth who tend to be the hardest hit by school closures,” Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, had said last month.