South Africa reverses decision to open schools

Child protection experts say that Covid-19 school closures have exposed children around the world to human rights abuses such as forced genital mutilation, early marriage and sexual violence, Harriet Grant writes.

Globally, the World Bank estimates that 1.6 billion children were locked out of education by Covid-19. As schools in England and around the world prepare to reopen this week, NGOs warn that millions of the world’s most vulnerable children may never return to the classroom, and say that after decades fighting for girls’ education the pandemic could cause gender equality in education to be set back decades.

In Tanzania, girls sent home from boarding schools where they were being protected from FGM have already been cut. In the Sahel region, where early marriage is widespread, Unicef worries that many girls will never return to school.

The Dutch charity Terre des Hommes runs a safe house for girls in Tanzania, protecting them from FGM.

The community has taken advantage of this situation of Covid-19 and where children are now back at home they are cutting their girls. They know it is against the law but they are not afraid. We had one mother who was jailed for a year after carrying out FGM but for her she is happy. She is locked up but her girl is cut.

Many girls have been cut, including girls we had managed to keep safe through the cutting season, which began in October last year. Some girls escaped and they ran to our FGM centre; we had several girls just turn up. For these children, school is a safe place.

 SOURCE: The Guardian by Harriet Grant