The coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of students to stay away from schools and other educational institutions due to stringent social distancing measures. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has said that over 154 crore students have been impacted by such closures, warning an increase in drop-out rates, especially among girls.
Stefania Giannini, UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Education, reportedly said that the drop-out rates will disproportionately impact adolescent girls and further entrench gender gaps in education. She warned that it will also lead to increased risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and early and forced marriage.
Giannini said that economic hardships caused by the crisis will have spill-over effects on girls’ education as families will reconsider the financial costs of educating their daughters. She added that many girls will continue with their education after the crisis is over but warned that others will never return to school.
“As governments prepare for indefinite school closures, policy-makers and practitioners can look to lessons from the past crises to address the specific challenges faced by girls,” said Giannini.
UNESCO has been warning about the evolving situation and recently it convened a global videoconference of high education officials to step up the emergency response and share strategies to minimize learning disruption worldwide.
The specialised agency of the UN has launched the Global Education Coalition and is inviting expressions of interest from organizations interested in joining COVID-19 response in the field of education. UNESCO had said in a statement that education is a fundamental human right and it will take alternative measures to ensure the continuity for learners despite closures and lockdown.
As part of the Global Education Coalition, the partners are trying to mobilise actors and resources to develop an effective and unified response. It also focuses on coordination in order to maximise the penetration of resources and its impact by avoiding overlap. It is based on the theory of distance education by leveraging hi-tech, low tech and no tech approaches.
(With PTI inputs | Image: Twitter / @UN)