Girls' education and COVID-19 in Ethiopia

Malala Fund

Courtesy of Malin Fezehai for Malala Fund

Malala Fund

Malala Fund is working for a world where every girl can learn and lead.

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COVID-19 is creating a girls’ education crisis in Ethiopia, threatening to reverse the country’s recent progress towards gender equality in education. 

Over the last two decades, the Ethiopian government has expanded its education system and made important gains for girls at the primary and secondary levels. The net enrolment rate in elementary school increased from 29% in 1989 to 86% in 2017. The same year the Gender Parity Index also reached 0.90 at the primary level and 0.87 at the secondary level. However, harmful traditional practices, social norms and poverty continue to prevent girls from completing their education, resulting in high dropout rates at the secondary level. 

Now COVID-19 is putting girls’ futures at even greater risk. Pandemic-related school closures are forcing girls — particularly in regional states — into child marriage and causing increased rates of genderbased violence and harmful traditional practices. Limited access to distance learning initiatives are stopping girls from continuing their studies at home. And fears of COVID-19 and the economic consequences of the pandemic make returning to school uncertain for some girls. If leaders don’t act now, we risk losing another generation of girls. 

In Girls’ education and COVID-19 in Ethiopia, Malala Fund highlights the impact of school closures on girls in the regions of Amhara and Gambela and the city of Addis Ababa. The report attempts to highlight how preexisting social norms compounded with the economic burden caused by COVID-19 puts girls’ education and well-being at risk.

Malala Fund’s Education Champions in Ethiopia work in communities where girls face the greatest challenges accessing education. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, they have been fighting to promote girls’ education and support distance learning. As schools begin to reopen, Malala Fund and our Education Champions are focused on ensuring that girls are safely able to return to the classroom. 

In this report, Malala Fund lays out a roadmap for how government officials and other stakeholders in the education sector can address the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on girls. Based on our field research and an extensive review of policy and relevant literature, Girls’ education and COVID-19 in Ethiopia outlines steps to improve Ethiopia’s education system, strengthening it against future shocks and making it easier for girls to go to school and catch up on lost learning. 

Girls are paying the highest price of the pandemic. By taking immediate action and following these recommendations, leaders can mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and ensure that every girl in Ethiopia is able to learn during and after this crisis.

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