COVID-19 may increase school drop-outs, girl-child enrolment ― Minister

The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, says the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to affect girl-child education and increase number of school drop-outs in the country.

Tallen expressed her concern on Friday while flagging off the 2020 National Children’s Day celebration, themed: “Promoting Girl-Child Education for Sustainable Development’’, in Abuja.

According to her, the pandemic with the subsequent closure of schools has exposed the girl-child to all forms of violence and likely to affect the girl-child education.

“As we are all aware, the country is already facing the struggle of getting the girl-child enrolled and retained in school, the COVID-19 pandemic has a high tendency to set us back as the likelihood for increased school drop-out rates of those already enrolled.

“These issues will further widen the gender gaps in education and lead to increase in all forms of violence such as sexual, physical and emotional exploitation, early and forced marriages, child trafficking and child labour,” she said.

The minister, therefore, appealed to parents to ensure their children returned to school as soon as academic activities commenced, to bridge gender gaps in line with the SDGs 4.

She also expressed concerns over the plights of Almajiri children, who were subjected to inhumane conditions, calling on state governments to develop strategies that would address the situation.

“Apart from hunger and starvation, the Almajiris are saddled with the inhuman treatment of transporting them to their states of origin in trucks meant to convey cargo, the trauma of being rejected by their own state government is painful, shameful and unacceptable,’’ she said.

Tallen, however, appealed to the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) to bring the issues of Almajiri to a logical conclusion, as well as respect and protect their human rights by implementing the Child Rights Act in states yet to pass it into law.

In commemoration of the 2020 World Menstrual Health Day, the minister stressed the need to protect females from negative effects of poor menstrual health and hygiene management to enable them to realise their full potentials and contribute to national development.

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Ms Elizabeth Jeiyol, the National Coordinator, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), said the theme for the World Menstrual Hygiene Day, “Periods Don’t Stop for Pandemics’’ highlighted the difficulty of accessing menstrual products during the lockdown.

Jeiyol, therefore, reiterated the commitment of the council toward ensuring access to WASH facilities.

“We urge stakeholders to ensure that WASH facilities in schools and public spaces are made easier for women and girls to manage their menstrual hygiene and create awareness in removing the stigma around menstruation,” said the coordinator.

The UNICEF Country Representative, Milen Kidane, reiterated their commitment toward providing services during the pandemic as well as ensuring that the Almajiri children transferred back to their states reunited with their families.

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