AN EXTRA four million girls around the world will not return to school when they reopen, the charity World Vision has calculated.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced more girls into child marriages, the charity reports. It also suggests that large numbers of children, both girls and boys, will remain estranged from school because of an increase in abuse, exploitation, and conscription into armed groups.
The charity is urging the UK Government to use its leadership of the G7 summit, which is to be held in Cornwall in June, to put the impact of the pandemic on the education of children at the heart of its global response.
“At the peak of the pandemic, 1.6 billion were out of school: that’s over 90 per cent of the world’s student population,” Dr Carine Le Borgne, of World Vision, said. “But for many children living in the world’s most dangerous places, forced into things like child labour, exploitation, and child marriage, it’s not as simple as turning up to class, even when schools are open.
“Coronavirus has put many families in desperate situations. The most vulnerable families and their children are hardest hit during major crises like the coronavirus outbreak. Those living in fragile countries already suffering from conflict, climate change, instability, or displacement, and those already receiving humanitarian assistance, are suffering even greater injustices because of pandemics like this one.”
The charity has reported that it is seeing an increasing number of girls forced into early marriage in Afghanistan, India, and South Sudan, as a result of financial hardship. Other children are sent out to beg on the streets for money.
The charity has highlighted the case of Mariam, aged 11, who was married to a 21-year-old cousin in Afghanistan for £2160, after her family lost their income because of the virus. She is one of five children, and her parents could not afford to feed them all. Now married, Mariam is forced to work as an embroiderer, and has not been allowed by her husband’s family to return to school.
The World Bank has warned that the impact of lost education will lead to increases in inequality in countries around the world. It estimates that the present generation will lose $10 trillion (£7.2 trillion) in earnings — or almost ten per cent of global GDP — as interrupted education stops them reaching their earnings potential.
As part of a World Vision campaign, Empty Classrooms, Broken Futures, people are urged to write to their MP to ask them to sign an Early Day Motion raising the issue.
For information, visit edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/58076.