Following the release of an International Labour Organization (ILO) report on how the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is disproportionately affecting young people, especially women, Senator Win Gatchalian said the Department of Education (DepEd) should have a targeted approach to prevent more girls from dropping out of school as the schools enter the final stretch of enrollment.

At this point, class advisers in charge of enrollment should be mobilized to target vulnerable girls who are at risk of dropping out, Gatchalian said.

The veteran legislator added that DepEd should implement its Learning Continuity Plan (LCP) in a way that allows flexibility and self-paced learning, especially for women who shoulder the burden of care.

While the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2020 revealed that the Philippines retains the smallest gender gap in Asia, the seasoned lawmaker said the country’s gains on gender equality would suffer without interventions to keep girls in school.

“Girls’ enrollment tends to decline in the midst of crises.”

The senator explained that girls’ enrollment tends to decline in the midst of crises. He recalled that when the Asian crisis of 1998-1999 hit the Philippines, secondary school enrollment rates fell by 8 percent for girls and nearly 7 percent for boys.

Gatchalian also shared that during the Ebola outbreak, girls aged 12-17 in Sierra Leone were 16 percentage points less likely to be in school when classes reopened. Lessons from the Ebola crisis also revealed that when girls drop out of school, they are more exposed to teenage pregnancy, child labor, physical and sexual abuse. Girls also tend to take on the burden of care-related tasks, which affect their ability to continue their education in the long term.

“DepEd should have an inclusive policy on allowing pregnant learners and young mothers back to school.”

He also said DepEd should have an inclusive policy on allowing pregnant learners and young mothers back to school, especially since they already face stigma and discrimination that hinder their access to education.

If more girls drop out of school and fail to complete their education, Gatchalian warned that they will not be able to access opportunities to make a decent living, which increases their likelihood of falling into poverty.

“Sa nalalapit na pagbubukas ng klase ngayong panahon ng pandemya, dapat siguruhin natin na hindi mapag-iwanan ang mga batang kababaihan dahil kung susuriin natin ang karanasan natin at ng ibang mga bansa, sila ang mas nanganganib na tumigil sa pag-aaral,” said the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

“Dapat siguruhin natin na ang mga batang kababaihang nangangailangan ay makakapag-enrol. Dapat maging angkop din sa kanilang mga pangangailangan ang magiging sistema ng pagtuturo,” he concluded.

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