The United Kingdom (UK) ambassador to Zimbabwe, Melanie Robinson, says the Covid-19 impact on education systems the world over has greatly affected millions of girls, with some at risk of not returning to school.
At the height of school closures, 1.6 billion children and young people were out of education around the world with girls disproportionately affected.
Before the pandemic, girls were already facing an education crisis as in sub-Saharan Africa, 33.3 million girls of primary and lower secondary school age were out of school.
“The number rises to 52.2 million when considering girls of upper secondary school age, which is compounded by the pandemic that exacerbates the many obstacles they already face to getting a quality education like poverty, gender-based violence, Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, and a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services,” said the UK diplomat in a statement.
Robinson lamented that there was a ‘real’ risk of a lost generation of girls, as many as 16 million disadvantaged children may not return to school at all with secondary age girls most at risk of staying home or marrying early because their families have fallen into poverty.
“This is a global crisis. We must act as a global community to tackle it,” she said.
That is why the UK, Kenya, and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the largest partnership fund dedicated to transforming education in lower-income countries, are co-hosting the Global Education Summit at the end of this month in London, said Robinson.
“The aim is to set GPE on a path to raising $5 billion over the next five years to transform education in the world’s most vulnerable countries. This will give 175 million more children the chance to learn. That is not only the lives of tens of millions of individuals improved. That is also millions of communities transformed for the better,” the UK diplomat declared.
“Personally I am excited because I see what access to an education has done for me and my girls and what it can do for all girls around the world.”
The UK diplomat indicated that investing in girls’ education is a game-changer for everyone.
“It boosts incomes and develops economies. With just one additional school year, a woman’s earnings can increase by a fifth. $28 trillion could be added to global GDP if women had the same role in the labour market as men,” Robinson said.
“Investing in girls’ education also creates healthier and safer societies. A child whose mother can read is 50 percent more likely to live beyond the age of 5 years, twice as likely to attend school themselves – and 50 percent more likely to be immunised. If every girl went to secondary school, infant mortality could be cut in half, saving three million lives every year.”
Turning to Zimbabwe, the UK ambassador, said since 2017, Britain has annually supported 1.4 million of the poorest and most marginalised girls and boys in over 4 500 rural remote and primary secondary schools.
“This was through grants for basic supplies furniture learning materials. A Zimbabwean girls secondary education programme has supported 57 000 marginalised girls to complete their education and provided over 3 600 bicycles so that girls can travel safely to and from school,” Robinson said.
She added that to build on these achievements, it was pleasing that Zimbabwe was working with the international community to tackle “complex barriers of girls education so that they can stay in schools.”
“If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is how interconnected we all are. Girls’ education is no different. By giving all girls the chance to access 12 years of quality education, we will have a fighting chance to lift people out of poverty, grow economies, save lives, and build back better from Covid-19.”
Funding raised from the Global Education Summit will go to GPE, which Robinson said meant practical support for education in 90 countries and territories around the world.
The UK has committed £430 million of new UK aid for GPE which will go towards helping the 1.1 billion children across these countries over the next five years. Since its creation in 2002, GPE has already contributed to getting 160 million more children into school and to the doubling of girls’ enrollment in the countries they work in,” noted the UK ambassador.