(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the news pages of UNESCO, the United Nations’ educational, scientific and cultural agency.)
Out of the total population of students enrolled in education globally, UNESCO estimates that over 89 percent are currently out of school because of closures ordered to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus. This represents 1.54 billion children and youth enrolled in school or university, including nearly 743 million girls.
Over 111 million of these girls are living in the world’s least developed countries where getting an education is already a struggle. These are contexts of extreme poverty, economic vulnerability and crisis where gender disparities in education are highest. In Mali, Niger and South Sudan — three countries with some of the lowest enrollment and completion rates for girls — closures have forced over four million girls out of school.
For girls living in refugee camps or who are internally displaced, school closures will be most devastating as they are already at a disadvantage. Refugee girls at secondary level are only half as likely to enroll as their male peers.