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The COVID-19 crisis has removed 1.3 billion children - 650 million girls - from primary and secondary education, putting the most disadvantaged girls at risk of dropping out of school permanently. As the effects of the COVID-19 crisis play out, the socio-economic impact on girls’ education in developing countries is becoming increasingly clear. From a learning perspective, closures – even with mitigating actions - will significantly reduce learning hours. School closures in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis resulted in the loss of roughly 780 hours per pupil. We also understand that the effects of school closures in developing countries are much wider than reduced learning. For many disadvantaged children in developing countries, school closures expose them to increased hunger and malnutrition as well as increased risk of violence against women and girls.
The UK’s response to the pandemic is two-fold, firstly to ensure preventative measures are taken to keep girls learning and returning to education, mitigating short term risks by focussing on safety, nutrition, wellbeing and the continuity of learning whilst schools are closed. Secondly, by supporting countries to protect and maintain their education budgets and ensuring that we build back better. DFID is adapting its bilateral education programmes in 18 countries. The Global Partnership for Education, to which the UK is the largest donor, is flexing over £200 million to support education sector stability in response to the pandemic. The UK has also announced £20 million for UNICEF’s crisis appeal, which includes education, and a further £5 million to the Education Cannot Wait fund to support emergency education in fragile contexts.