Education is the key to transformation. It unlocks opportunity, and has the power to unleash potential. And when a girl is educated, she can do more than choose her own future — she can change the world.
However, around the globe, more than 130 million girls are not receiving an education, and it’s estimated that another 20 million secondary-aged girls have been pushed out of school as a result of the pandemic.
16-year-old Monica is one of 1.5 million displaced people living in South Sudan, where conflict, and a lack of money and food are part of everyday life. For girls like Monica, education is everything — a lifeline protecting her from early and forced marriage, early pregnancy and gender based violence, and the key to reaching her full potential.
But COVID-19 school closures and lockdowns, though necessary, have taken away this safety net, as well as girls’ hopes for a brighter future.
Out of school and with friends getting married and falling pregnant around her, Monica was afraid she too might never return to school. “I was depressed for two months following the closure of schools. I did not know what my future would look like.”
“I would wake up and do the house chores and revise using my books. But there came a time when I felt as though I had read every note in my books and felt bored just looking at them” shares Monica.
Luckily, Monica had a good support system around her. “I decided to ask my aunt for guidance. She was very supportive and took me through her life story and how she ended up where she is now. I found so much inspiration from her struggles even though she did not go far with education. I realised that this pandemic is a temporary obstacle which will go someday.”
Monica listened to her aunt’s advice, and post-lockdown, her education is back on track.
“Today, I am back in school. I still have three more months before I can take my final exams. I feel so happy and as if I have pushed a great burden off my back.”
Plan International is working in South Sudan providing girls — like Monica — and their communities with information on COVID-19 prevention and sexual and reproductive health rights, to ensure girls and young women can make informed decisions. We’re also supporting girls to resume their studies post-COVID, so that they can complete their education.