At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, 53 African Union (AU) Member States shut down all educational institutions to curb the spread of the virus, affecting over 250 million students in sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of which were girls.
In spite of setting up continued learning spaces in Member States, anecdotal evidence shows that girls have experienced difficulties in accessing these distance learning facilities amidst this health crisis and have faced increased exposure to child marriage and teen pregnancy.
It is estimated that over 1 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa could face the possibility of being barred from school due to policies and practices that ban pregnant girls and young mothers from attending classes according to a brief published in February 2021 by the GPE Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) Observatory on COVID-19 Responses in Africa's Educational Systems.
In September 2020, the AU/CIEFFA launched a campaign to rally AU Member States and key education stakeholders to take action towards ensuring girls’ continued learning and re-entry to school during and post COVID-19. The campaign has garnered responses from education actors and youth across Africa, who took pledges to act in their communities and areas of influence to ensure girls can return to school.
The #AfricaEducatesHer campaign was also spotlighted during the 5th High Level Dialogue on Gender and Education in February 2021, featuring AU-CIEFFA youth champions, artist Youssou N’dour, and the Cabinet Secretary for Gender in Kenya speaking on behalf of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Co-hosted with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Norway, UNICEF, UNESCO and Save the Children, it was an opportunity to discuss about domestic and external financing, plus the investments needed to get girls back into school and sustain their learning in the COVID recovery.
As we marked the International Women’s Day 2021, whose theme was “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” we celebrate four African women who have been taking action and leading the fight to ensure girls and women continue learning during and after the pandemic.