A new UNESCO global study, When Schools Shut: Gendered impacts of COVID-19 school closures, exposes failure to factor in gender in COVID-19 education responses and widening gaps in access to quality education following school closures.
Citing some 90 countries, including 20 in the Asia-Pacific region, the study shows that despite governments' and partners’ swift responses to school closures, remote learning strategies in most countries failed to account for gender-based considerations and barriers that children face at home. Research in local communities in Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mali and Pakistan demonstrates widespread limitations of access to tech-based remote learning, and increased household responsibilities and demands for labour that have reduced children’s time to study. The closures have also severely impacted children’s mental health, resulting in anxiety, isolation, and fears of increased violence – particularly among the most marginalized and those in contexts of crisis.
A growing number of children are at risk of not returning to school. The study calls for the education community to tackle disengagement in education and low return-to-school rates in vulnerable communities by understanding and addressing gender disparities and inequalities in policies and programme delivery, for example through targeted financial support to families, the deployment of no-tech and low-tech remote learning solutions, and equipping schools to provide psychosocial support.