The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, has expressed fears that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to affect girl-child education and increase number of school drop-outs in the country.

The Minister expressed the fear on Friday while flagging off the 2020 National Children’s Day celebration, themed: “Promoting Girl-Child Education for Sustainable Development’’, in Abuja.

She said the pandemic with the subsequent closure of schools has exposed the girl-child to all forms of violence and likely to affect the girl-child education.

“As we are all aware, the country is already facing the struggle of getting the girl-child enrolled and retained in school, the COVID-19 pandemic has a high tendency to set us back as the likelihood for increased school drop-out rates of those already enrolled.

“These issues will further widen the gender gaps in education and lead to increase in all forms of violence such as sexual, physical and emotional exploitation, early and forced marriages, child trafficking and child labour,” she said.

Tallen therefore appealed to parents to ensure their children returned to school as soon as academic activities commenced, to bridge gender gaps in line with the SDGs 4 and expressed concerns over the plights of Almajiri children, who were subjected to inhumane conditions, calling on state governments to develop strategies that would address the situation.

“Apart from hunger and starvation, the Almajiris are saddled with the inhuman treatment of transporting them to their states of origin in trucks meant to convey cargo, the trauma of being rejected by their own state government is painful, shameful and unacceptable,’’ she said.

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