2020 was a year like no other. According to the UN 1.6 billion students across 190 countries have been affected by school closures due to the pandemic. Kenya is no different and schools were closed, some have now reopened in a limited way and the government is insisting on increasing safety standards, which many schools cannot afford to introduce. The burden of closures has impacted girls with an increased rate of pregnancies and unfortunately also of rape.
It has been estimated that girls miss 10-20% of their education due to lack of adequate sanitary protection and that over all boys attend 23% more school than girls. Once that amount of education has been lost it is difficult to make up even without a pandemic. This is why we are working to try and reduce that inequality by supplying reusable washable sanitary pads. Girls’ education has been proven to be one of the most beneficial strategies to enhance developmental and economic growth, thereby breaking the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.
In 2003 free primary education was introduced in Kenya and there was a corresponding increase of 84% in pupil registrations. However, the balance of those registrations was heavily weighted towards boys, especially in poor rural areas. Parents did not realise that education for all was a human right (Article 26 UN Declaration of Human Rights). In poor areas many parents prioritised educating their sons over their daughters as the girls were expected to stay home and help feed and care for the family and were encouraged to marry young. However times are changing and more girls are thankfully attending school.
In 2021 a lot of effort will have to be made to catch up the lost time and ensure that girls’ education is part of the solution.