The closure of schools in the Caribbean and Latin America because of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought several challenges upon the learning population in the region, especially for young girls.

Some of whom have become teen mothers after schools closed because of the coronavirus.

A survey conducted by UNICEF last year revealed that 64 per cent of adolescent girls in the region said national, municipal and government have not considered their lives and needs in the COVID-19 response, while 67 per cent said they were afraid that their education would be delayed.

This as further research by the humanitarian aid organisation showed that since the closure of schools teen pregnancy, child marriage or early unions and gender-based violence increased by almost nine per cent.

The stats presented on Wednesday by UNICEF’s Regional Gender Advisor Shelly N Abdool-Zerezeghi also said that the pandemic has drawn girls into caregiving limiting their time for education and free time.

At the webinar hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat on Comprehensive Sexuality Education activities in the Caribbean, young girls attended and shared their ordeals since the pandemic.

“That affects their school and performance when compared to boys,” one girl said.

The girls told UNICEF that many families do not support their desire to stay in school with virtual learning as it seems like a waste of time.

“They cut off the wings of the girls,” another girl shared.

One of the girls said that they were stuck at home with relatives who harass them.

“Before the pandemic, they were able to distract themselves a little and protect themselves in schools, now they suffer more domestic violence,” one girl told UNICEF.

The physical closure of schools also brought a decrease to mental and sexual health programmes.

But there are areas where the closure of schools are affecting both sexes. Research showed that the longer marginalised children are out of school the less likely they are to return.

The separation of peers has also affected socialisation skills in younger children and caused depression for older children.

Abdool-Zerezeghi said these gender issues should be in all key dimensions in a framework for the reopening of schools developed by UNICEF, the World Food Programme, World Bank and UNESCO.