Prolonged school closures due to Covid pose threat to gender equality: UNSECO

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A new UNESCO study notes that educational disruptions due to prolonged school closures around the world will not only have alarming implications for the loss of knowledge, but also threaten gender equality.

A Global Study, When Schools Close: Gender Impact COVID-19 school closures ”underlines that girls and boys, young women and men have been hit differently by school closures, depending on the context.

“At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1.6 billion students in 190 countries were affected by school closures. They have lost not only access to education, but also the myriad benefits of attending school on an unprecedented scale, ”said Stephanie Giannini, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education.

“Disruptions in education of this magnitude are alarming in terms of loss of knowledge and school dropout. In addition, it poses a threat to gender equality, including gender-specific health, well-being and protection implications, ”said Giannini.

Drawing on data from approximately 90 countries and detailed data collected from local communities, the report shows that gender norms and expectations can affect the ability to participate and benefit from distance learning.

“In poorer settings, girls’ time for school was limited to increased household chores. Boys’ participation in education was limited to income-generating activities. The report states that girls face difficulties using digital distance learning methods in many contexts due to limited access to Internet-enabled devices, lack of digital skills, and cultural norms that restrict their use of technological devices.

The study indicated that the digital gender divide was a concern even before the COVID-19 crisis.

“In-depth research on Bangladesh and Pakistan in a global report showed its gender impact on distance learning during school closings. In a Pakistani study, only 44 percent of girls in participating counties reported owning a cell phone for personal use, while 93 percent of boys did. Girls who did not have mobile phones reported that they relied on their relatives’ devices, usually those of their fathers, ”the report said.

“Some girls could use the phones of family members, but not always. Their access was restricted because some parents were concerned that giving girls access to smartphones could lead to misuse and could lead to romantic relationships. ”

“The longer girls did not go to school, the higher the risk of school loss. From April to September 2020, the proportion of girls who reported that they did not study at all increased from 1 percent to 10 percent, ”the report said.

Noting that the pandemic is a timely reminder that schools are not only spaces for learning but also vital spaces for girls and boys, important spaces for their health, well-being and protection, the report provides several recommendations on how to overcome gender barriers … to participate in distance learning.

“To promote equal access to inclusive, gender-sensitive distance learning, it is recommended to provide a range of distance learning options, including low-tech and non-tech solutions, and support efforts to reach students most at risk, design, develop gender. “Responsive educational resources and tools, in addition to providing appropriate support and training to teachers, use formative assessments to track learning outcomes,” the statement said.



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