Nov 30, 2020

Covid-19: Girls out of school in Mozambique

Since our latest update, the spread of COVD-19 in Mozambique has rapidly increased, reaching almost 14,000 total cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The sharpest increase occurred at the same time of a relaxation of emergency measures, that the government introduced in order to avoid a severe economic and social crisis that is already affecting many families, as most of the country is facing a “stressed” or “crisis” Food Insecurity Phase.

However, this new phase in the COVID-19 crisis management in Mozambique has not resulted in relevant changes in the education sector: primary and secondary schools remain closed, except for final year students. This means that the wellbeing and access to rights of over 10 million Mozambican children in school age is at risk due to:

  1. falling into poverty or increasing poverty severity;
  2. reduced learning opportunities;
  3. barriers to survival and good health
  4. increased risks of violence, abuse and exploitation of children in precarious situations (UNICEF 2020).[1]

“The longer schools are closed, the greater the loss of learning time and the greater the chances that children, particularly girls, will not return to the classroom when schools reopen” (UNICEF 2020).

Notwithstanding some relevant progresses in key education indicators over the last two decades, such as access to school, the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are amplifying the fragilities of the sector:

  • There are still almost two million primary-school-age children that are out of school;
  • More than one third of students drop out before Grade 3 and less than half complete primary, well below the average in Sub-Saharan African countries;
  • Due to several factors including high levels of teacher absenteeism, children only have 74 out of the 190 expected school days in the year;[2]
  • While 94 percent of girls in Mozambique enroll in primary school, more than half drop out by the fifth grade, only 11 percent continue on to study at the secondary level, and just 1 percent continue on to college;
  • 33.2 per cent of girls in urban areas and 44.4 per cent in rural areas get pregnant before the age of 18.1;
  • Among children who finish primary school, nearly two-thirds leave the system without basic reading, writing, and math skills[3];
  • 74 per cent of children live without electricity, and only 2 per cent have access to the internet;
  • Prior to the outbreak, 10 per cent of children or just over one million children aged 0−12, were orphans.

Helpcode Italia’s core activities in Mozambique include supporting schools in rural areas and vulnerable families through a multidimensional approach that aims at enhancing their productive capacity while raising awareness on the importance of sending kids to school.

Drop-out rates will peak once the school reopens, as children who have been out of formal schooling for almost a year have been diverting their time to productive and care activities to support family’s needs.

The severe economic crisis that is unfolding in Mozambique is expected to severely impact on children and to expose more girls to the risks of violence, early pregnancies and marriages, transactional sex – as coping strategies to escape poverty.

In this context, providing girls with menstrual kits is part of a more comprehensive strategy that Helpcode adopts in Mozambique and it’s considered critical to promote dialogue on sexual and reproductive health rights.

We thank you for your support.

 

[1] https://www.unicef.org/mozambique/media/2531/file/The%20Impacts%20of%20COVID-19%20on%20Children%20in%20Mozambique%20.pdf

[2] https://www.globalpartnership.org/where-we-work/mozambique

[3] https://www.usaid.gov/mozambique/education#:~:text=The%20Ministry%20of%20Education%20reports,of%20males%20(60%20percent).

Oct 19, 2020

I am still stuck at my home

If things had been normal, Mashida would have been in the final year of high school and looking forward to going to college. Instead she is uncertain what the future holds.

The National Examination Board has cancelled the exams which Mashida was supposed to take in April and told schools to conduct their own examinations. She has not heard anything about this from her school.

“This was supposed to be the last year at high school, but the academic session hasn’t started yet and I am still stuck at my home,” said 16-year-old Mashida from Fishingl in Chitwan district.

In the meantime, she is relying on distance learning programmes provided by a local radio station to stay productive and motivated. However, she is worried about falling behind, citing distractions at home and financial hits from the lockdowns.

“Although my parents encourage me to focus on my studies, I am also expected to do the cooking, cleaning and babysit my little brother. I spend more time on doing household chores than studying,” said Mashida.

Globally, the World Bank estimates that 1.6 billion children have been pushed out of school since March, including 111 million girls in the world’s least developed countries. Studies conducted by UNESCO and UNDP said financial uncertainty unleashed by the Covid-19 can lead to girls being pushed into child marriage, child labour, human trafficking, sexual violence and other forms of exploitation.

The worsening of the economic situation is having a negative impact on the period poverty, with many girls not affording to access to hygiene materials and sanitary pads.

In Chitwan, Helpcode is supporting girls to go to school. During these months, Sheila, the educator officer, keep in contract with teachers and students I order to monitor the children situation in the lockdown.

We cannot just wait until the school reopens to find out whether or not the pandemic pushed girls out of school. It will be too late, and any reactive programmes will be less effective by then,” said Mr Bharat, Director of Helpcode Nepal.

When parents face crises because of limited income and resources, they are likely to neglect or deprioritise daughters. These girls are forced into staying back at home, doing household chores and some even end up getting married,” said Sheila, Education Program Manager at Helpcode Nepal.

During the lockdown, Sheila has been reaching out to dozens of girls through phone calls, personal visits or text messaging to follow-up on their educational progress and on their family situation. “Most of the girls are having financial problems at home and this stress is impacting their studies,” she said. “I listen to them and try to give them suggestions and motivate them to stay focused and optimistic.”

She also talks to the parents to explain the importance of girls’ education. “We want to send a message to the parents that no matter what, they must never compromise with their daughters’ education,” said Sheila.

Jun 23, 2020

Impact of COVID19 in Menstrual Hygiene Management

COVID- 19 pandemic has impacted each and every sector of human life around in the world. In response to the Nepalese contest, in March 2020 Nepal government has ordered a nationwide lockdown as emergency measure to prevent spreading of the infection. Almost every household, community, organization, sector and nation has been facing devastating impacts on health, economy, food security and livelihood. Public activities are discouraged, families are largely restricted to their homes, all schools are closed and children are out of school across the country.

There are, and will continue to be, clear negative effects of COVID-19 on children’s education, social life, physical and mental health. In such critical condition, it is difficult to manage menstrual hygiene properly.

Sheila, who’s working with Helpcode in Nepal by 10 years, reported that in regular school time, adolescent girls have been received sanitary pad in their own schools but nowadays every student have been out of school and stay at home.

In settings where we are working with the poorest rural girls, they commonly use washable traditional type of sanitary pad. The reason is financial stress may lead to families to prioritize other needs such as food or essential utility bills over purchasing menstrual hygiene materials. On the other hand, they do not have excess to buy sanitary pad in their village. In the urban area, shops are closed since 2 months ago, so girls are facing problem to buy hygiene products. In rural area there are no shops where they can buy sanitary pad to manage their menstrual hygiene. Helpcode had provided hygiene kit to 120 adolescent girls of targeted schools before the lockdown. In this critical days those girls may have using the received readymade pad.
I have been contacted to respective focal teachers and principals in weekly basis. Actually they are not well informed about how girls are managing their self-care and hygiene on monthly cycle because in the rural scenario it’s the matter of shame. Even teacher may feel hesitate to ask about the sanitary pad using condition of their girl’s students at the time they are staying at home with their parents. They just to know that they are using cotton or old clothes folding pads for their menstrual hygiene management because most of the family (female) members have habit to use the traditional pad.

Helpcode is mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 and menstrual health and hygiene for girls and women in communities by providing menstrual materials to avoid disruption of access to menstrual hygiene materials, particularly disposable menstrual hygiene materials that require monthly replenishment. In many remote area shops went out-of-stock or increased price as a result of panic buying, supply chain disruptions in supply chains due to stay-at home orders or simply increased demand due to recommendations to keep “extra” essential supplies on hand.

The COVID-19 pandemic will have secondary impacts on girls’ and women’s ability to manage their menstruation and their health. The impacts will vary based on the country context and ability to respond through social protection and health systems. Similarly, the most affected will be the poorest and most vulnerable to economic and social shocks. Certain occupations will bring greater vulnerability.

The COVID19 pandemic is putting at risk the smooth progress the rural community in gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, cultural taboos, poverty and lack of basic services.

Thanks to the HAPPY PERIOD project, we were able to support Nepali adolescent girls to be more informed about their body, to improve their hygiene management and to have access to menstrual hygiene products for free.

 
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