Over 11 million girls in low and middle-income nations such as Nigeria may not return after the reopening of schools following their closure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a report by the World Bank has noted. The report, titled “Realising the returns to schooling: How COVID-19 and school closures are threatening women’s economic future, ” said the pandemic is eroding the gains made in girls’ education in recent years.
The Bank noted that urgent action is needed to ensure that girls and women can realise the returns to their schooling, as one additional year of schooling for girls means their wages could go up by 12 per cent. “COVID-19 is presenting a crisis within a crisis for girls’ education. One additional year of education increases women’s returns to education by 12 per cent, while it is 10 per cent for men.
‘The quality of education received by boys and girls is an important determinant of their access to higher levels of schooling and their future earnings. Girls have caught up with boys in many dimensions in recent decades and now outperform boys in terms of learning achievement. “COVID-19-induced school closures may slow or reverse these gains and may further prevent girls and women from realising the potential returns – representing a “hidden” future cost, ” the report stated. The Bank forecast lower levels of schooling, learning and future earnings because of school closures due to COVID-19. It added that the pandemic put the girl child at an increased risk of dropping out of school, being vulnerable to domestic violence and other gender-based violence threats, facing child marriage and early pregnancy and being exploited as child labour.
It noted that the scenario played out during the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, as more girls missed out on educational opportunities as a result of school disruption. It suggested that urgent action be taken to prevent further school closures, mitigate or reverse learning losses and get girls back to school. The Bank recommended implementing learning recovery programmes such as Teach to the Right Level and Tutoring. It also called for the adoption of Zambia’s Keeping Girls in School Programme where cash is given to families of adolescent girls for them to help keep their daughters in school among others.