All will agree with me that COVID-19 has altered how we live and work. This pandemic is a scale most people alive today have never seen worldwide. The truth of the matter is that the outbreak is claiming lives and livelihoods as health systems buckle, education disrupted and families struggle to stay afloat and George Compound in Lusaka Zambia, the community The Other Side Foundation school serves is not an exception to these effects of COVID-19.
It has indeed left a lot of lives devastated regardless of the efforts to curb it. Above all the effects the Corona virus has on people, there is one thing that has not crossed the mind of most people and it is a girl child’s education. You and I have no idea that COVID-19 has done more harm to a girl child’s education than we have ever imagined. I know the question will be how. I believe we all know that girls’ education has had some challenges way back. Challenges such as early marriage, teenage pregnancy, and of course sexual abuse.
Though a girl child plays several roles In life her plight is quite pathetic. Henceforth, it took the whole world to sit together and find the lasting solution to address the earlier mentioned plights so that a girl child can access education without these interruptions. Research shows that one of the major plights of a girl child is poverty which has affected a girls’ education but it also operates together with other factors such as parameters related to patriarchy such as boy-child preference, beliefs, and early marriage, excessive girl child work, pregnancy, poor menstruation management, age, orphan hood but to mention a few.
Fortunately, educationalists, professionals, and human rights activists saw the weakness of the practice and advocated against it. The United Nations General Assembly also saw how serious it was and they spearheaded matters favoring a girl child and ensured their education is accessed with ease. The Other Side Foundation has also been in support of what the United Nations General Assembly had advocated for by supporting girls education from primary school education up to senior secondary school, giving out free sanitary pads to all girls who have reached puberty through girls’ club that is run by the school, cross-cutting issues affecting a girl child has been tackled during weekly lessons that the club teaches.
When all of us thought we were winning this battle of girls’ plight, there came COVID-19 and gave life to the almost dying practices affecting girls’ education. My observation is that COVID-19 has turned out to be now a major catalyst of all the plights of a girl child. The first and the second wave of this pandemic had seen most girls pregnant while others married off in exchange for money because of the economic effects of the pandemic on families.
Keeping these girls in school was of help because they were kept busy with school work unlike now that they have nothing to do hence a chance to involve themselves in unpleasant behavior. Some may say, how about having remote learning? Yes, for those families that can afford to do so, how about the marginalized families who can not afford three meals a day, not to mention a smartphone. Girls in George Compound in Lusaka Zambia might be among the 346 million young people who do not have access to the internet for remote learning and of such going out to do immoral activities become a lifestyle and a means of survival.
Children served by TOSF rely on the school feeding program, now that schools have closed where do they get the food to feed? Meaning most are going to bed on an empty stomach. In the first and second wave of COVID-19, TOSF gave out relief food aid to ease this challenge but now that there is no relief aid for them. All these surely contribute to their negative behavior during this time of the pandemic. What do we expect to see after the third wave? The world reeds to invest in the education and security of girls as resources for the future of this world.
Rebecca Solnit in her book, ” Hope in the Dark” says, and I quote, ” to hope is to give to the future and that commitment to the future makes the present inhabitable” end of quotation. This is the hope TOSF wants for girls where all challenges confronted with all the hardship faced throughout the decades should not be lost and we(TOSF) believe that a new world is possible. Yes possible if only we put our heads together on the lasting solutions to the plight of the girl child amid the pandemic. We all now know that the future for that vulnerable girl child is uncertain.
Thus, hope calls for us to act it forces us to take steps towards the imagined future. This is however a global call to ensure that we set a legacy of creating a society that values equal opportunities regardless of gender. Remember the future of a girl child lies in the decisions and actions we take today. Collectively let us make that decision together and save that vulnerable girl child. There is a famous saying which says, “Do not complain about the darkness but instead light a candle.” Let us all therefore light that candle in this darkness called COVID-19, together we can. Thank you.
Author: Sylvia Mweene
Technical Support: Stanley Chimanga