UNESCO study says gender equality at risk with prolonged school closures

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admin November 29, 2021
Updated 2021/11/29 at 2:46 PM

According to a recent UNESCO study, educational disruption caused by prolonged school closures throughout the world would not only have serious impacts on learning loss but also pose a threat to gender equality.

The worldwide study “When Schools Shut: Gendered Impacts of COVID-19 School Closures” highlights how school closures affect girls and boys, young women and men differently depending on the circumstances.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures impacted 1.6 billion students in 190 countries. On an unprecedented scale, “Not only did they lose access to education, but also to the countless advantages of attending school,” stated UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Stefania Giannini.

This level of educational interruption has worrying consequences in terms of learning loss and school dropout. Beyond that, it poses a threat to gender equality, including gender-specific impacts on health, well-being, and protection, “Giannini added.

The paper illustrates that gender norms and expectations might limit the ability to participate in and benefit from distance learning, based on evidence from more than 90 countries and in-depth data gathered in local communities.

In impoverished situations, additional household tasks limit girls’ time to study. Income-generating activities hindered boys’ involvement in school. According to the survey, limited access to internet-enabled devices, a lack of digital skills, and cultural norms prohibiting the use of technical gadgets made it difficult for girls to engage in digital remote learning modalities in many circumstances.

The research found that digital gender inequality was already a problem prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

In-depth studies in the worldwide report on Bangladesh and Pakistan indicated gendered implications for remote learning during school closures. In the Pakistan survey, just 44% of girls in participating areas reported owning a cell phone for personal usage, compared to 93% of boys. “Girls who did not have access to a phone reported relying on their relatives’ phones, generally those belonging to their fathers,” the survey said.

While some of the girls were allowed to use the phones of family members, this was not always the case. Their access was limited because some parents were afraid that allowing girls access to cellphones might lead to misuse and romantic relationships. “The longer a girl stays out of school, the greater the chance of losing her education.” “The percentage of girls stating that they did not study at all climbed from 1% to 10% between April and September 2020,” it noted.

The report has several recommendations on how to overcome gender-based barriers to remote learning participation, noting that the pandemic serves as a timely reminder that schools are not only places for learning, but also lifelines for girls and boys – an essential space for their health, well-being, and protection.

It is recommended to provide a range of remote learning options, including low-tech and no-tech solutions, spearhead and support efforts to reach the most at-risk learners’ designs, develop gender-responsive educational resources and tools, in addition to providing appropriate teacher support and training, and using formative assessments to track learning outcomes, it said.

 

Source: The Hindu

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