Sustaining Girl’s Education Post Pandemic
All over the world, countries have shut down schools in efforts to slow the transmission of COVID-19. While this will be a temporary situation for the majority of students, lessons learnt from the Ebola crisis reveals the pandemic will have lasting and far reaching effects for the most marginalized girls. It is estimated that 20 million more secondary school-aged girls all over the world could be out of school after the crisis has passed. This conclusion is attributed to impacts of the pandemic on households such as increased rates of poverty, household responsibilities, child labour and teenage pregnancy in addition to restrictive school policies as well as the already existing gender inequality that inhibits girl's on access to education. The pandemic has also reduced funding for education as governments have diverted funds to public health which puts a strain on pre-existing teacher shortage.
In Kaduna State, yearly school census records have consistently shown enrolment rate for school girls to be significantly lower than for boys. In 2017, net enrolment for girls was about 70% while for Boys was 86%, more worrisome was the high number of girls who dropped out or failed to return. While Kaduna State has made commendable efforts at promoting Girl’s education through its free education policy,a sizeable number of children, especially girls, remain out of school owing to a number of reasons which include demands for their labour in the home as care givers for the elderly or younger siblings; child marriage, doing house chores, helping to run small business and contribute financially, death of one parent and so on. Many of these are stepped in patriarchal societal viewpoints which favour boys over girls.
Aggressive awareness campaigns in communities, local government and at the state level is necessary to inform communities about the importance of girl’s education, and the need to prioritize girls return to school post pandemic despite the challenges inorder to ensure that young girls in all their diversities can return back to school when they reopen.
It is on this note that EVA is channeling efforts to engage communities especially local leaders and people who are influential in the different pressure groups of a community.Our strategy is based on the belief that local leaders best understand the needs of girls in their community, the barriers that keep them out of school and how to overcome these obstacles. Our goal is to ensure that the impact of the pandemic on Girl’s education in Kaduna is mitigated and more girls are willing and able to return back to school when they re-open.
We have been able to reach about 120 girls between the ages of 10-24 from vulnerable and poor communities who have pledged their commitment to return back to school when they re-open. Worthy of note is that out of this number, 8 of the girls had been out of school before the onset of pandemic for a number of reasons one of which is a lack of funds to afford books and scholarly materials for school. We have committed to ensuring these needs are catered to and have procured the needed items for 5 students. For Maryam, a 15 year old girl from Rido community, the case is slightly different. While Maryam’s parents could afford to buy books and other materials she needed in school, Maryam had dropped out of school because “I didn’t feel I belonged. I wasn’t doing well at all and I do not think I am smart enough to be in school. I would rather learn a trade”. Deeper conversations with Maryam revealed that there were some subjects she liked and did well in. She was encouraged to return back and seek tutoring help from her peers and teachers where she was experiencing challenges with comprehension. She has committed to returning back by Oct 12 when schools re-open.
In addition to engaging directly with young girls, we are also actively engaging parents and guardians of the girls on the importance of education and the need to make returning back to school post pandemic as much a priority for girls as it is for goys. All of these efforts are geared towards ensuring the strides accomplished with regards to increasing access to education for young girls is not lost due to the pandemic. With your help, we believe we can reach more communities with messages on the importance of girl’s education, get more parents/guardians and the girls themselves to commit to returning back to school and provide scholarly materials to those who need them.