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Girls’ Education in the COVID-19 Pandemic

For many girls in East Africa the COVID-19 pandemic is yet another challenge to face in the struggle for education.

One such girl is Tracy. Tracy is a P7 child living in Uganda, who dreams of becoming a doctor when she grows up. When her school closed in March, the teachers didn’t have enough notice to prepare a comprehensive at-home learning plan, so her class was simply told to study their notes from the school year so far. Tracy worked so hard at her studies that she had completely revised her whole body of work within two weeks!

When the government produced home-schooling materials earlier this year, the school was not given enough copies for every pupil, placing Tracy’s mum in a difficult position:

“We had heard of the study materials, but we could not afford them. We had to photocopy, and, in our area, there was no photocopying machine… It wasn’t until Fields of Life came that the situation was saved.”

Fields of Life has been at work in 20 districts of Uganda, printing the government-approved home-school materials and distributing them to over 10,000 children. Tracy got straight to work once she received the materials from our staff, determined that she would not have fallen behind when she returns to school. Her mother attested that as soon as she finishes her chores, Tracy is working hard at her new resources.

Unfortunately, not every mother is as supportive of her daughter’s education. As part of our COVID-19 response in East Africa, Fields of Life set up a help and advice phoneline to assist communities in their fight against the virus. One of the main problems identified by our call-centre team is the sharp rise in adolescent pregnancies. For many of the teenage girls in our programmes, school provides a safe haven from the threat of abuse and early marriage. Many teachers fear that a large number of girls will not be able to return when schools do reopen, especially if they have fallen behind due to a lack of support, increased pressure to take on domestic chores at home or have fallen pregnant. Our I AM GIRL programme specifically focuses on the problems facing adolescent girls in their education, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic this work will be more important than ever. You can learn more about our I AM GIRL programme.