1 Parikrma Humanity Foundation (INDIA)
2 JAIN University (INDIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 8978-8986
ISBN: 978-84-09-24232-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2020.1989
Conference name: 13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 9-10 November, 2020
Location: Online Conference
In India, access to education for girls had improved tremendously over the last seven decades. India’s female literacy rate had risen from 9% during Independence to 65% in 2011. Primary-level female gross enrolment ratio rose from 61% in 1970 to 115% in 2015. At the secondary level, enrolment rose from 14% in 1970 to 75% in 2015. This upward trajectory has been severely disrupted by COVID19 and is likely to regress.

As of July 22, 2020, nationwide school closures in 40 countries affect 282 million children, of whom 134 million are girls. UNESCO's Stefania Giannini, warned of the "potential for increased drop-out rates which will disproportionately affect adolescent girls, further entrench gender gaps in education and lead to increased risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy and early and forced marriage” Nearly 10 million secondary school girls in India are likely to drop out of school due to COVID19 that will put them at physical, emotional and intellectual risk and reverse the gains made in the recent years.

Many schools have launched online classes to keep on the momentum of learning. Over two decades ago when information technology was introduced in education, expectations were high and there was optimism that this would increase easy access to education for the underprivileged. However, this has not happened, and the digital gap has widened quite fast, and impacts are now vivid.

Online classes do not factor in the country’s digital divide where 16% females have internet access, compared to 36% males, according to the National Sample Survey 2017-18. This gap can sometimes have tragic consequences as in Kerala where a 14-year-old girl, a merit scholar, committed suicide when she couldn’t access her online classes.

Even before COVID19 crisis, it was found that girls who engage in two hours of housework per day had a lesser probability of finishing secondary school in the country. With social stigma associated with menstruation, girls have been discouraged from continued learning. In India where limited social security nets are in place, the financial and social hardships caused by COVID19 can only exacerbate the gender inequality in education. And now India’s digital divide on top of the ever-growing gender divide, will only further enhance the education gap that already exists.

And yet India could add a whopping $770 billion to the country’s GDP by 2025 by encouraging girls to study and participate in the workforce according to McKinsey’s gender parity report. And that can happen if India adopts a gendered approach in planning for the post crisis reconstruction of education that will mitigate the large-scale consequences of COVID19 on girls. Special attention has to be given to accelerate girls’ return to school. It is important that sex-disaggregated and decentralised data is locally collected to monitor girl’s attendance on the reopening of schools. Remedial and additional courses can be adopted to catch up with the lost academic schedule. Rigorous evidence from across the globe can help support Indian policy makers in designing programs to protect girls during the crisis and help them build resilience for future shocks.

This paper will further explore the alternate inclusive models that exist in India and examine how such models can be replicated across the country.
Girl education, impact of COVID19 on girl education, genered impact of COVID, COVID19 and gender equality.