The global lockdown to stop the spread of the pandemic outbreak of Covid-19 has left children around the world to human rights abuses such as genital mutilation, early marriages and sexual violence due to the global closure of schools, as said by the child protection expert. Globally an estimate of 1.6 billion children was locked out of education due to COVID- 19. Thus, Education has become one of the biggest victims of COVID- 19.
As schools in England and around the world prepare to reopen this week, NGOs warn that millions of the world’s most children might never return to school. After decades of fighting for girl education, the pandemic had given a cause to set back to decades in gender equality for education.
School Closure as a Victim of COVID- 19 Internationally
In West and Central Africa alone, 120 million children were sent home after schools locked out, and while some had to make long journeys over hundreds of miles on their own. Andy Brooks is UNICEF’s child protection adviser in West and Central Africa and has been very closely working on issues related to the exploitation of children for 30 years. He said that one major concern for girls is that being out for a long period out of school puts them at risk of early marriage. Secondary education is a major delayer in early marriage. In this region, every 4 out of 10 girls are married before the age of 18. Brooks says that there are real fears that girls might not return to schools because of the COVID- 19 outbreak the financial stress and depression might be even harder and families will be looking forward to their girls getting married earlier.
- Covid-19; Is Digitalized Education an Opportunity or Disadvantage?
- Rajandgaon’s Delhi Public School Sharing Innovative Ideas for Online Education
However, the pandemic has come as an opportunity of help for some children, in Sahel areas, where there is a phenomenon of sending children across borders to be with Qur’anic teachers to learn Arabic. They live away from homes and the outcomes for these children often end up begging on the street. The sudden closure of schools has put many children in danger by sending them on long unaccompanied journeys into their homes. When the schools got suddenly closed many children were found roaming in the streets.
In Tanzania, girls are sent home from boarding schools where they were being protected from FGM have already been cut. The Dutch charity Terre des Hommes runs a safe house for girls in Tanzania, protecting them from FGM. The community has taken advantage of the COVID- 19 situations and where children are now back at home they are cutting their girls. They know it is against the law but they are still doing it. And the closure of schools, which is indeed the safest place for these girls, has now been turned down and girls who have managed to keep safe the cutting season in the last October have been cut down now.
In Bangladesh, aid- groups have been formed to launch a pilot programme that would allow Rohingya refugee children to start learning in the Myanmar curriculum for the first time in between hundreds of informal learning centers. Babu Nisa, a refugee teaching assistant told UNHCR that her students were very upset when they heard that it will be closed down due to global lockdown.
In the same way in Latin America, groups working with refugees are afraid of COVID- 19 and will make finding school places even harder for displaced children. The underlying fear of the pandemic hangs over on students also who are returning to education as in Europe, some students stay at home even when schools reopen.
School Closure as a Victim of COVID- 19 Nationally
According to UNESCO, in India 320 million children are affected due to school closure. It has been estimated that about 158 million among these students are female students, who now are at risk in a country like India where education is already a struggle based on gender biases. Even before COVID- 19, it was likely to be seen that girls who engage in two hours of household work per day have fewer chances of finishing their secondary education. The post-pandemic stage will lead to a higher risk of girls permanently moving out of school and reversing the graph of gains that were made in recent years.
In countries like India, girls often come across different barriers relating to education daily due to poor infrastructure, cultural norms, and poverty. But schools often allow equal opportunity to avail resources like food, water, and sanitation. While much more ground still needs to be covered in this regard, several schools over the past few years have helped girls to fight the taboo under menstruation and provide them with sanitary products to maintain health and hygiene. But the closure of the schools has not only affected the nutrition but also has taken their shelter. The school was a shelter for many girls protecting them from the vulnerable world outside, making them a victim of physical and sexual violence.