Skip to main content

Covid-19: Education for Girls

Volume 675: debated on Wednesday 29 April 2020

What assessment she has made of the effect of the covid-19 pandemic on the Government’s commitment to ensure that girls receive 12 years of quality education throughout the world. (902042)

The Government are steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls throughout the world receive 12 years of quality education. As well as supporting multilateral education programmes, the UK Girls’ Education Challenge, which has projects that span 17 of the world’s poorest countries and reaches over a million marginalised girls, is responding to the current pandemic. British expertise is working so that schools are able to reopen without further delay when it is safe to do so.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whether in Dudley or Malawi, one of the key success factors impacting on children’s education is that parents understand the value of education? If so, what is the Government’s approach in relation to that specific point?

As we all know, parents are a key success factor in children’s learning around the world. UK aid programmes draw on evidence that shows that school attendance and learning can improve when parents and children know about the benefits of education to incomes and when they have local information about the choice of school quality. DFID programmes also address the cost and time barriers to education, especially for girls, to promote the vital role of teachers in children’s learning.

Ebola showed the wider impact of infectious diseases on women, because schools closed and teenage pregnancies spiked, but the impact of covid-19 will be even greater in overpopulated refugee camps. In Bangladesh, nearly 1 million Rohingya now live in cramped conditions in Cox’s Bazar, with 70,000 people per square kilometre. In that tiny area, women’s education suffers, but gender-based violence will also rise—similar to the current pattern in the United Kingdom. What specific action is the Secretary of State taking to deal with that issue?

The covid crisis has removed 1.5 billion children from school, putting the most disadvantaged girls at risk of dropping out of school permanently. School closures will significantly reduce learning hours, particularly for the most disadvantaged children, and we risk many dropping out permanently. Prior to the crisis, 258 million children and young people globally were already out of school—over half of them girls. The Ebola crisis showed us that female pupils bear the brunt of school closures during disease outbreaks, leading to higher levels of sexual exploitation, abuse, teenage pregnancy and early marriage, so we will continue to prioritise education for all as part of the international response.