Emirates Literature Festival: Covid drove more girls out of school, says Malala – News

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Malala shed light on how Covid-19 has impacted and reversed several years of progress in girls education.

Amongst the many disruptions the pandemic has caused, right to education for girls has been the most severely impacted. This was the “deepest concern” of Pakistani-born activist and the youngest Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who spoke about her activism and passion to advocate girls’ right to education at a virtual session held at the Emirates Literature Festival on Saturday.

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Millions of girls are being taken out of schools, which is a serious cause of concern, the young education activist said.

Addressing a packed session at the festival virtually, Malala shed light on how Covid-19 has impacted and reversed several years of progress in girls education.

“I really hope that governments, teachers, civil society and education activists are giving their full attention to this, ensuring that girls are learning from home, at this time,” she said.

Malala spoke about how, at the start of the pandemic, the Malala Fund (a fund in her name dedicated for girls’ education) conducted research, based on the Ebola crisis, to determine the impact of the pandemic on children’s education.

“The results of the research demonstrated a risk of 20 million more girls dropping out of school for reasons like girls being pushed into forced marriages or having to become the financial supporters of their families and added responsibilities, leaving no time for their education.”

“There is a gender disparity when we look at how Covid-19 has impacted education, not only while the pandemic is ongoing but also once it is over and many children start returning to school. Several girls might be held back for these reasons and will not be able to return to school,” Malala added.

The Malala Fund has been actively taking steps to ensure that the impact on girls’ education due to Covid is treated as an emergency, asking for urgent calls to action.

“This is very much a part of this pandemic. The pandemic has health costs, as well as, economic, social, and educational costs. It affects jobs, our daily lives and our education. It affects women and girls in vulnerable communities and minorities. So, we cannot ignore these facts.”

The Malala Fund has initiated projects that are specifically focused on education challenges during Covid times, including digital learning and online classes and supports local education activists in over eight countries.

“One of the activists that we support in Nigeria, started radio lessons during the pandemic, to keep children engaged in education and learn from home. In Pakistan, the activists have worked on coming up with mobile apps and providing educational lessons through the national television,” added Malala, highlighting the various ways in which organisations and authorities can make sure that children continue to learn.

The session concluded with her recounting her learning and reflection from dealing with the pandemic and all the challenges it has caused in people’s lives.

She said: “Times of crisis, whether economic or health-related, are highly unpredictable. We are always living in some level of uncertainty and there will always be this risk that this decades-long progress, of activists’ hard work on the ground, could be lost in seconds. A pandemic hits and there are millions of more girls who are at risk of losing their education. The Malala Fund will continue to work hard and ensure that as many girls are able to return to school once this is over, taking the learnings of this pandemic and incorporating them in their future policy, to effectively combat the challenges faced by girls and women, during times of crisis.”

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