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|Malala Yousafzai: We Must Stop Covid Shutting Girls Out Of School Forever by Baharly: 2:11am On May 07, 2021|
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Most school students will remember Covid-19 as a temporary interruption, but for many girls it will have lasting effects. Nearly 130m were out of school before the pandemic and Malala Fund’s research estimates that an additional 20m who were in secondary school may never return once it subsides. Millions of girls and young women are studying at home without access to the internet. Girls unable to use distance learning or afford tuition are now taking on more household responsibilities or getting married. Others are working in low-paying, insecure jobs to help ease the financial strain on their families. Past health and economic shocks teach us that, for many girls in low-income countries, these disruptions to their education can become permanent. In Sierra Leone, protracted school closures led to a 16 per cent decline in re-enrolment once schools reopened after the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Despite the heightened difficulties, girls continue to fight for their education. After schools closed and learning resources grew scarce, Elvira, Maria Florinda and Yessica, three students in Guatemala, created libraries in their communities to help fellow indigenous students keep up their studies. In Indonesia, activist Nayla Ariwibowo started her own initiative to collect and distribute school supplies to students living in orphanages.
Too often, girls are left to pick up the pieces of broken education systems. While their efforts are innovative and inspiring, they should not have to bear this responsibility. Governments need to allocate funding to ensure that every child can go to school. When education is well-financed, school systems are able to hire and retain qualified teachers and reduce overcrowding. They can also provide students with updated curricula and access to classroom technology. But Covid-19 has left government resources strained. The international development community said the 2020s would mark a “decade of delivery” for education. Instead, we are facing a severe setback. Two-thirds of low and lower middle-income countries have cut education spending. The UN predicts rollbacks in foreign aid are next. If these projections are correct, the global education funding gap will soon rise to $200bn a year. Failing to invest in girls’ potential is a missed opportunity. Girls’ education is key to rebuilding communities and countries and offers us the best protection against future crises. Ensuring every girl can learn for 12 years could unlock up to $30tn in global economic growth. Women with primary education earn up to 19 per cent more than girls with none; those with secondary education earn almost twice as much. Every country would benefit. Malala Fund research shows that educating young women can also help prevent wars, improve public health and even help mitigate the effects of climate change, by giving them the skills to contribute to a low-carbon economy.
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