School reopening: Prolonged school closures due to Covid threaten gender equality: UNSECO study

Education disruptions due to prolonged school closures around the world will not only have alarming effects on learning loss, but will also pose a threat to gender equality, a new study from the UNESCO.

The global study titled “When Schools Close: Gendered Impacts of COVID-19 School Closures” highlights that girls and boys, young women and men have been affected differently by school closures, according to the context.

“At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1.6 billion students in 190 countries were affected by school closures. Not only did they lose access to education, but also the many benefits of attending school, on an unprecedented scale, ”Stefania said. Giannini, UNESCO, Assistant Director-General for Education.

“An education disruption of this magnitude has alarming effects on learning loss and school dropout. Beyond that, it poses a threat to gender equality, including health effects,” well-being and protection that is gender specific, ”said Giannini.

Drawing on evidence from around 90 countries and in-depth data collected from local communities, the report shows that gender norms and expectations can affect the ability to participate in and benefit from distance learning.

“In the poorest contexts, girls’ time to learn was limited by the increase in household chores. Boys’ participation in learning was limited by income-generating activities. compatible devices, a lack of digital skills and cultural norms restricting their use of technological devices, ”the report says.

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

“The in-depth studies on Bangladesh and Pakistan in the Global Report revealed its gender-specific effects on distance learning during school closures. In the Pakistan study, only 44% of girls in participating districts reported owning cell phones for personal use, while 93% of boys did. Girls who did not own cell phones reported relying on the devices of loved ones, usually those belonging to their fathers, ”he said.

“Although some girls were able to use their family members’ phones, they were not always able to do so. Their access was limited as some parents feared that providing girls with access to smartphones would lead to misuse and could lead to romantic relationships. . ”

“The longer the girls were out of school, the higher the risk of losing their learning. From April to September 2020, the proportion of girls reporting that they had not studied at all increased from 1 to 10 percent, “he added.

Noting that the pandemic is a timely reminder that schools are not only places of learning, but also lifelines for girls and boys – a critical space for their health, well-being and protection, the report contains several recommendations on how to address gender issues. barriers to participation in distance learning.

“To advance equal access to gender-responsive and inclusive distance learning, it is recommended to provide a range of distance learning options, including low-tech and non-tech solutions, spearhead and support efforts to reach learners most at risk design, develop gender – the right teaching resources and tools, in addition to providing appropriate support and training to teachers, use formative assessments to track outcomes of ‘learning,’ he said.

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