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Five things you need to know this week about global education (November 27, 2020)

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Schools in Pakistan had reopened in September after being closed for months © UN Photo

The pandemic has forced Pakistan to close classrooms again, while campaigners are going to court to ensure pregnant girls can go to school in Tanzania.

Pakistan shuts schools again in pandemic spike

Pakistan closed all schools yesterday and moved to online-only classes as the country tackles a spike in Covid-19 cases.

All exams due to be held in December will be postponed until the following month. Schools had reopened in September after being shut since March.

"All efforts will be made to make sure that education continues from home," said Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, adding that "if the situation improves" schools will reopen on January 11.

Of the more than 50 million children in Pakistan aged five to 16, about 45% were out of school before the pandemic.

In Turkey, preschools will continue face-to-face education despite a recent surge in coronavirus cases. The education ministry said classes can be held five days a week in all public and private kindergartens and nurseries. But public and private schools will continue teaching remotely until January.

Poland announced schools will remain closed until December 24 and Bulgaria will move to online teaching only from today until December 21.

Ban on pregnant schoolgirls goes to court

A Tanzanian law that bans pregnant girls and teenage mothers from going to school is being challenged in Africa's top rights court by an international women's charity.

Campaigners have been trying for years to lift the ban, which denies girls access to education and keeps many trapped in a cycle of poverty. Tanzania has one of the world's highest teen pregnancy rates - about 27% of girls aged 15 to 19 are pregnant.

"We have advocated for more than three years for the government of Tanzania to lift the ban on pregnant girls and adolescent mothers accessing school but without success," said Equality Now's Africa director Faiza Mohamed.

A year ago, Equality Now and its local partners won a similar case against Sierra Leone over a ban on pregnant students in West Africa's highest court. The country then repealed the ban in March.

Where 15% of teachers are regularly absent

A new report has provided insights into the issue of absenteeism by primary school teachers in Eastern and Southern Africa, which prevents many children getting an education in some of the world's poorest countries.

Across the region, 15.5% of surveyed teachers reported being absent from school at least once a week. Sickness, weather and family reasons were among the main reasons for absenteeism.

The Time to Teach report makes recommendations on training, monitoring, community involvement, workload and other issues.

"This research identifies promising practices for supporting teachers and improving policies for a more motivated and effective teaching workforce, one of the most important factors for addressing the learning crisis," said Matt Brossard, Chief Education Researcher at UNICEF Innocenti.

Learning boost for Cambodian children

More than 100,000 children who are out of school are being targeted by a project to deliver quality education in Cambodia.

The Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) will support a programme by Education Above All to help children of primary school age.

The project will construct and rehabilitate schools, train teachers, provide educational materials and build learning and educational capacities to meet the needs of special population groups.

"We hope that it will have results in increasing the number of children deprived of primary education in remote areas where schools are only long-distance walking of more than two and a half hours," said His Excellency Khalifa bin Jassim Al- Kuwari, Director General of QFFD.

South Sudan, Chad and Eritrea are the worst African countries to be a girl, a new "Girl-Friendliness Index" has found - with researchers warning the pandemic could set back efforts to keep girls in school, out of work and safe from violence.

The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) ranked 52 African nations based on the rights and wellbeing of girls. The research institute judged governments on several factors including healthcare, education and laws and policies that protect girls.

Mauritius, Tunisia, South Africa, Seychelles and Algeria topped the index. The ACPF said African governments had broadly made some progress on girls' rights but that most countries were failing, citing issues ranging from malnutrition to early marriage.

The United Nations says 23% of African girls are not in primary school against 19% of boys. Nearly four in 10 girls marry before turning 18. The pandemic has left girls more vulnerable to child labour, human trafficking, missing out on healthcare and dropping out of school.