Islamabad : COVID-19 has widened existing educational inequalities in Pakistan, particularly affecting girls in more marginalised areas and poorer households, making girls most at risk of dropping out, particularly in interior districts.
These findings made part of a research report, “Girls’ education and COVID-19 in Pakistan” commissioned by Malala Fund with the help of Education Champion Network. The report highlights the impact of school closures on students, across the country, with an emphasis on girls’ experiences.
The Education Champion Network supports the grassroots girls’ education advocates in Pakistan. These champions serve as the voice of girls’ education and help communities develop solutions. Representatives from the network include activists, academics and education leaders.
Currently, there are 22.8 million out-of-school children in Pakistan. Out of these 53 per cent (13.4 million) are girls. The report notes the pandemic’s effects on household finances and how this economic crisis has the potential to prevent even more girls from completing their education. Girls also had a harder time accessing devices and distance learning during the initial lockdown. This is unlikely to change now.
The report highlights that during lockdown, government support for distance learning principally relied on TV, radio and e-learning, but the majority of the students surveyed did not have access to these. Only 20 per cent of girls and boys reported to spend time on educational TV and just 3 per cent on educational radio.
About 60 per cent of the respondents had smartphones, but three-quarters of those with access reported only being able to afford data intermittently. Girls were almost 40 per cent more likely than boys to say that they never had access to a mobile device and the most frequently cited reason for not accessing a phone was being afraid to ask. Only 1 per cent of the interviewed students used Edtech for distance learning.
Madiha Rehman, Director Programs - AzCorp Entertainment stated that while there are effective Edtech platforms available in Pakistan, in most of the rural areas accessibility to the internet remains a major challenge.