KATHMANDU, Nepal - A UN report predicts that the risk of child labor, gender-based violence, early and forced marriage, and early pregnancy may increase with children remaining out of school.
The closure of schools due to pandemic lockdowns has put an estimated 4.5 million girls at the risk of not finishing education, a report by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics said.
The report was released, marking the International Day of the Girl Child on Monday. The institute said that the continuous lockdown of schools since March 2020 has also increased the possibility that thousands of girls will never reenter their classrooms. Since 2011, the United States has observed October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child to recognize girls' rights and the specific challenges girls face worldwide.
"Such crises lead to long-lasting impacts on gender equality and education with irrevocable consequences on the most marginalized girls," reads the report. "The risk of child labor, gender-based violence, early and forced marriage, and early and unintended adolescent pregnancy may increase, leading to many girls never returning to school."
As a result of the government's efforts over the years, girls' enrolment in schools witnessed a significant increase, with the gender parity index of the boys and girls reaching 1:1.
Also, various reports like the one by the institute show the pandemic could take away the hard-earned achievement in increasing access to education.
"Despite faring poorer in quality, girls' access to education had increased significantly in the last two decades," Binay Kusiyait, a professor at Tribhuvan University, told the Kathmandu Post. "Though it is hard to say to what extent, the pandemic is surely taking away the achievement."
He said the retention of children in school had been a challenge, which the pandemic has further increased.