Panellists lament impact of COVID-19 on girls’ education
By Christabel Addo, GNA
Accra, Nov. 06, GNA – Panellists at the MasterCard Foundation Scholar Programme in Accra have expressed worry over the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on girls’ education.
They said though it may take a while to appreciate the full extent of the pandemic and its resultant school closures on children generally, and girls’ education in particular, the implications were not far-fetched.
The panellists at the annual research and learning summit included representatives from the Ghana Education Service (GES), academia and research, students and parents.
They expressed the sentiments based on the findings of two research works on the implications of the pandemic on girls and education in general.
The study found that students who had been home for several months resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak were currently sad and anxious, with the girls, especially, facing various forms of gender-related abuses and threats including forced early marriage, sexual violence, pregnancy and child birth.
The report commended efforts at extending E-learning opportunities to pupils and students at home but the “accessibility gap” between the rural, urban poor and rich students remained to be bridged.
The 2020 Summit, organised by the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED Ghana), a pan-African movement revolutionising how girls’ education is delivered, was on the theme: “Implications of COVID-19 on Education: Addressing the Impact of Girls.”
It was held virtually via zoom for broader participation.
A wide range of stakeholders including representatives from the Ministry of Education, GES, Colleges of Education, the National Teaching Council, non-governmental organisations, inspectors, teachers, students, parents and counselling experts participated.
The panellists were of the view that in the midst of the COVID-19, most of the gains made in girls’ education could be eroded if deliberate actions were not taken to forestall it.
It came up that about seven million public basic and senior high school students were at home due to the disease, with about half of them being girls facing several threats to the continuation of their education.
They said the closure of schools, though an important step in the fight against the spread of the disease, had been of great concern to all stakeholders in education as it had led to disruptions in the education calendar.
Mrs Benedicta Tenai Seidu, the Director, Girls Education Unit, GES, encouraged teachers to effectively engage parents on girls’ education as it was the greatest insurance to parents and the nation.
She said marring them off so young without any education was a big disincentive to humanity.
She touched on the “Back to School” campaign to be launched by the GES to educate Ghanaians on the need to encourage every female student to return to school in January, and by so doing ensuring equal opportunities to all for sustainable development.
Mrs Ivy Kumi, a Director, Guidance and Counselling Unit, Girls Education Unit, GES, advised parents to befriend their children through effective communication to build their confidence so they could report any form of abuses to them.
The findings were presented by Mr Edward Tsinigo, a Researcher with Innovation for Poverty Action, an NGO, and Mr Patrick Atta Buabeng, a Senior Officer, Research and Learning, CAMFED Ghana.
The research recommended the provision of psychosocial support to students to help them cope with the effects of school closures, and further development of strategies to ensure the re-enrolment of girls to sustain their performance when school re-opened in January, 2021.
It recommended the provision of educational materials and enabling access to e-learning platforms to prevent children, especially girls, from lagging behind in school.
It also proposed that female students be provided with targeted safeguarding from being pressured into early marriages in order to ensure optimal re-enrolment when schools resumed.