COVID 19: Prioritizing the needs of adolescents
As of today, Nigeria has recorded more than 300 confirmed cases of COVID 19 infection with few recoveries and deaths. To prevent the spread of the disease, the federal government has shut down schools and asked citizens to stay at home in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun states. In addition to the stay at home regulations, the government has also provided guidelines such as social distancing and prohibited religious and social gatherings.
This stay at home order, of course, means different things to different people. An average person may find this period as a time to rest and bond with family, evaluate their businesses, restrategize and improve their skills, while others find this period tiring and boring because of the change in lifestyle.
However, the lockdown is taking a negative toll on teenagers especially girls. According to UNESCO, more than 80% of students in the world are currently out of school due to the lockdown. It is worthy of note that a lot of these students (Teenagers) were preparing for examinations before the lockdown. Although Teachers are putting in efforts to promote homeschooling, we also know that over 346million young people still do not have access to technology (UNICEF).
Teenagers are known to be social beings, energetic and outgoing. Staying at home could have psychological effects on them by predisposing them to depression. A lot of new habits will be formed at this time to overcome boredom; some may get involved in substance abuse, online dating, cyberbullying e.t.c.
Also, a large number of teenagers are at risk of being sexually abused during this period. 90% of abusers are known to be in close relationship with their victims, this implies that the lockdown has brought a lot of girls closer to their abusers with little or no opportunities to seek help.
There is a need to develop an inclusive strategy that is sensitive to the needs of adolescents in the management of the covid19 pandemic. Education must continue, the Government must design a medium to ensure young people have access to learning even as they stay at home, both the traditional and new media must be effectively put to use. Also, the mental health of adolescents must be prioritized as well as their sexual and reproductive health rights. We must continue to advocate and take actions to sensitize the general public on the dangers of gender-based violence and to ensure that violators are brought to book.
Written by Juliet Onoja. Program officer, Teenage Network.