Around the globe, schools are closing as a protective measure to contain the dangerous COVID-19 virus. According to an estimation of UNESCO, around 89% of all students worldwide are out of school due to the school closures. This translates into 1.54 billion children and youth, including nearly 743 million girls. Over 111 million girls live in the least developed countries in the world, and they will face difficult challenges during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is a high risk that girls in particular will be hit disproportionately hard when it comes to future scenarios. Many girls who live in countries with limited social protections and weak economic status will not return to school after the COVID-19 crisis. One of the reasons for this is the increased involvement in domestic and caring responsibilities due to the closed schools. In times of financial crisis, many parents in countries that are economically vulnerable question the value of their girls’ education, because they simply cannot afford the cost of tuition.
Another huge issue is the danger that girls face when they are not in a safe and supervised environment.
For many girls, school is not only a place to learn, thrive, and grow, but a place where they can count on security, care, and shelter.
So how does this phenomenon affect our schools?
In Khayelitsha, a township of Cape Town in South Africa, the purchase of land to build a girl’s school in cooperation with our implementing partner Molo Mhlaba is still in progress. This is good news for now, although the construction of the new school will certainly be delayed.
South African schools are locked down, and children were sent home as a protective measure due to COVID-19. However, this protective measure evokes a massive threat for children, especially girls, in Khayelitsha. The time that girls are not supervised in school will increase their vulnerability to physical and psychological threats. A spokesperson of Molo Mhalaba underlines this fear. She says that they “are incredibly nervous about what the closure of the school means for the girls but also have to abide by the law.“ The law requires all students to be sent home for at least four weeks.
We very much hope that all girls stay safe and will return to school after this crisis is under control. The great team of Molo Mhlaba will undoubtedly do their very best to help girls to come back to school.