Parents have the role of protecting their children and providing them with the tools and opportunities they need to become independent adults.
However, many a time, well-meaning parents get in the way of this objective, creating obstacles to the same children.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated this state of affairs by creating many more obstacles for learning following the government order for immediate closure of all learning institutions in mid-March to prevent further transmission of the virus.
More than 17 million students and about half a million teachers are now at home.
The prolonged closure of schools has increased child labour with the pressure to balance household chores and homeschooling trickling down to many girls.
For instance, under-age girls are now required to accompany their parents in search of daily work. They also assume the role of caretakers and temporary guardians for their siblings and dependent relatives as parents go out in search of daily wages.
In many cases, girls have to facilitate uninterrupted learning of their siblings while they participate in what is presumed to be ‘being groomed into future homemakers’.
Another worrying fact is that many vulnerable children are faced with human rights abuses at the very hands of their parents, who are supposed to be protecting them.
The anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) board has called on village elders and chiefs to be extra vigilance during this time and to report any incidents of FGM and early marriages.
Many girls who had sought shelter from FGM and early marriage have had to go back home, putting them at risk.
Despite criminalisation of FGM in 2011, some communities still continue with this practice.
After FGM, a child is considered ready for marriage and, with the movement restrictions in place for the past three months, many girls are seeing an end to their education dream. Sadly, all this is done under their parents’ watch.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 advocates inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all.
But with the pandemic, it is increasingly eminent that the government’s efforts to achieve this goal could fall by the wayside.
It is upon the parents to ensure that girls and boys have equal opportunity to continue learning at home. Otherwise, we will find ourselves walking back into the dark ages, where girls did household chores as boys got an education. Even in case of limited capacity, prioritisation of these resources could be unknowingly skewed against the girl-child.
As teachers, parents and students grapple with the modus operandi for digital learning while awaiting the school reopening, stakeholders need to ensure that the gains to make education universally free are not thwarted in just a matter of weeks.
Dorcas Wambui, gender and develop-ment specialist. [email protected]