With the number of girls dropping out of school in the upper primary classes (6-10) seeing an increase post-COVID, Dia Mirza, Nandana Sen, and Sanjana Sanghi are backing a petition by Save the Children on Change.org to protect girl child education in India. Addressed to India’s Education Minister, Sri Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, they are joined by prominent public figures like Neha Dhupia, Huma Qureshi, Nakuul Mehta, Adil Hussain, Ashish Sharma, Dr. Prannoy Roy, Sagarika Ghose, Nidhi Razdan, RJ Sayema, RJ Rohini, Kalikesh Singh Deo, Julie Singh, Sourabh Choudhary, Charu Pragya, Tehseen Poonawala, Aashish Yadav, Santhosh Kolkunda, Nikhil Taneja, Elsa Marie D’Silva, Priya Malik, etc.
With the support of over 16000 allies in a month from networks and organizations like Breakthrough, Safety, Red Dot Foundation, Right to Education Forum, Centre for Social Research, Yuval and Girl Rising India, the campaign #AllyUpForHer #100DaysofAction is urging the government to ensure that girls are not forced to discontinue their education because of the pandemic. In support of the petition, Dia Mirza, Actor, Brand Ambassador, Save the Children added, “We need to design a clear strategy to ensure that decades of work in child education does not go waste. Schools and AWCs (Anganwadi Centers) should be protected as learning institutions and not permanently used for public health emergencies. India needs to look forward and, just like any disaster, focus on mitigating the aftermath. For the sake of our children, education has to be seen as the next most important challenge. Together, we can save education and protect a generation”.
Globally, as many as 10 million girls are at risk of never returning to school. The effects of the COVID-19 crisis have put the promise of ‘education for all into jeopardy, casting a long shadow on their future. While school closures are an effective precautionary measure to contain the spread of COVID-19, evidence from previous emergencies suggests that the longer children are unable to attend learning facilities, the more likely it is they will never return to school. The risk of children dropping out of school applies especially to girls and the most marginalized including children of migrant families.
According to data released by UNESCO in October 2020, an estimated 320 million learners were affected by the pandemic in India. They are battling not just gender discrimination and the digital divide, but also the risk of early marriage, early pregnancy, poverty, hunger, trafficking, and harmful labor.
Save the Children will culminate the #100DaysofAction on 8 September, which is marked as International Literacy Day by handing over the voices and recommendations to India’s Education Minister.