COVID-19 forces additional 39 million children out of school

• CODE, Malala Fund Task Govt On Inclusive Distance Learning
Closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced an additional 39 million students out of school. Country representative at Malala Fund, Crystal Ikanih-Musa, disclosed this on Friday in Abuja.

She said this was in addition to the over 13.2 million children that were already out of school before the pandemic.

Ikanih-Musa, who said this at a press conference to launch a report titled: ‘Girls education and COVID-19 in Nigeria,’ regretted that the pandemic was frustrating girls’ education crisis in Nigeria, warning, “If leaders don’t act now, we risk losing another generation of girls.”

A report presented by Malala Fund, which analysed survey data collected from 2,253 respondents in Kaduna State, revealed a widening gap in girls learning access during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The report disclosed that girls surveyed in Kaduna State experienced less access to learning resources, increased domestic burdens and lack of academic support from their families.

It said girls in Nigeria face distinct gendered impacts during the pandemic, with over 50 per cent of girls receiving no help to continue education during school closure.

The report stated that government’s distance learning programme did not reach all students, and that just 10 per cent of girls and 24 per cent of boys accessed distance learning offered via television and only 18 per cent of children used radio for study, while two percent used mobiles.

The data also showed that, while mothers supported boys and girls, fathers were 36 per cent more likely to assist their sons’ learning than their daughters’, and that generally, boys were more than twice as likely to have access to a private tutor during the pandemic.

The report documented insufficient government guidance on how to ensure that girls in lower socio-economic and conflict states will re-enroll in school, when the pandemic is over.

Malala Fund Champion and Programme manager at Restoration of Hope Initiative, Benjamin John, said his interaction with many families during the lockdown revealed that financial constraints will be a major factor in the decision to re-enroll girls in school, due to dwindling income.

The Executive Director, Connected Development (CODE), Hamzat Lawal, urged government to provide gender-equitable and inclusive distance learning to support all students through current and future school closure.

He called on government to ensure safe, gender-responsive reopening plans across the country.