Duke of Sussex tells Malala of worries about impact of Covid on girls’ education

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have expressed their concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on girls’ education with activist Malala Yousafzai.

Harry and Meghan’s video chat with the renowned 23-year-old education campaigner was released on Sunday to mark the International Day Of The Girl.

The trio spoke about how the Covid-19 outbreak has impacted young women’s access to education and the importance of learning.

Harry said: “We do take it for granted and it is a privilege but every single person, every single child, every single young person needs an education.

“To know there’s over 130 million girls out of education right now, before the pandemic, and the numbers are only going to go up, it worries me and it probably worries all of us, the effect that is going to have not just on the individual, but on the family, and community, for the country and the world at large.”

Meghan stressed that the problems with girls having unequal access to education did not start with the pandemic, but said the public health crisis has merely added to it.

She said: “So much is at stake if we don’t give a young woman an opportunity to learn and to get an education.

“I think there’s no greater time for all of us to acknowledge that with everything else happening with Covid, on International Day of the Girl, for each of us to make a commitment that yes, the layers upon layers that are happening in this context of Covid-19 are immense but all it has done is add on top of the problems that already existed.”

Research by the Malala Fund has suggested 20 million secondary-school aged girls may never return to the classroom after the pandemic.

In the fundraising video, the duke and duchess spoke for around 13 minutes with Ms Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman at the age of 15 after campaigning for girls to be educated in her native Pakistan.

She later founded the non-profit Malala Fund to support her work raising awareness of the difficulties facing girls accessing education, and went on to become the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2014.

Ms Yousafzai called for a commitment towards girls education and protection to be made as the world handles and recovers from the pandemic.

She told the duke and duchess: “Covid has made things worse, we cannot ignore this, this is an emergency right now and this is a crisis right now, we need to ensure that in this time we do not ignore the issue of girls education.”

Harry later spoke about the importance of girls being educated when dealing with climate change, describing it as “absolutely critical”, adding he and Meghan would throw their weight behind important causes.

He told Ms Yousafzai: “With an education, it provides money, it provides an income, which makes you less susceptible to disaster, less consumption, so all of these things are so deeply connected to one another that I think education at a young age opens up so many doors and so many opportunities and so many possibilities.

“And whether it’s within science, whether it’s within government, women are needed more and more to be able to fill those gaps because the opportunity is vast and I think, well we know, that the world will benefit exponentially from it.”