While increasing global temperatures, catastrophic weather events and destruction of ecosystems are visible impacts of the climate crisis, the ripple effect they cause – such as poor access to education – can be less evident.
To help shed a light on this issue during Climate Month and this year’s education-themed World Creativity and Innovation Week, SAS South Africa built the Girls’ Education and Climate Challenges Index with Malala Fund, a girls’ education non-profit co-founded by Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. The analysis identifies countries where girls are most at risk of experiencing educational interruptions, and predicts lowering of completion rates of girls’ primary and secondary education due to climate change.
When natural disasters occur, young female students are often more at risk of educational disruption than their male counterparts. When access to water is scarce, girls are most often responsible for traveling the long distances to collect water, keeping them away from the classroom. When temperatures rise and income-producing agriculture is lost, girls most often leave their schooling behind because families can no longer afford to pay educational fees.
The Girls’ Education and Climate Challenges Index
Incorporated as an extension of Malala Fund’s annual Girls’ Education Challenges Index, the Girls’ Education and Climate Challenges Index predicts, by year, which countries are at most risk of girls’ education disruption. The index considers educational information like grade-level completion rates and environmental factors, including likelihood of flooding, tsunamis and earthquakes in each particular country.
With this information, the non-profit intends to engage in dialogue with the wider development sector about where to target technical and financial support both for climate adaptation and better girls’ education outcomes. Based on the combined indices, the region most affected is sub-Saharan Africa, though this region contributes the least to climate change. Countries in other regions, including the Philippines, Mongolia and Kiribati, are also strongly affected.
Susan Ellis, brand director at SAS says:
We continue to witness the impact of climate change on our environment, whether in the form of drought, shifting ecosystems, severity of storms or the devastation caused by forest fires that are double or triple the size of those we’ve experienced in the past.
Industries are also attempting to calculate the risks associated with climate change. Climate change will affect the most vulnerable populations first. We want to do everything we can to support organisations like Malala Fund to ensure that the education of girls remains a priority.
An imminent threat
The analysis includes breakdowns by education level – primary, lower secondary and upper secondary – as well as by specific country, focusing on low- and lower middle-income countries. Unless progress is made, a Malala Fund’s report estimates that in 2021, climate-related events will prevent at least four million girls in low- and lower middle-income countries from completing their education. If current trends continue, by 2025, climate change will play a part in preventing at least 12.5 million girls from completing their education each year.
‘Our new report confirms that girls’ education is one of the most powerful strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change,’ said Naomi Nyamweya, research officer at Malala Fund. ‘But, as this data project with SAS shows, climate-related events are keeping millions of girls from learning. To create a greener, fairer future for us all, we need leaders to take urgent climate action and support girls’ education.’
Malala Fund plans to use these insights to encourage leaders at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference and beyond to take action and bring education into the global climate change discussion.