Child Poverty in FijiFiji is an archipelago or chain of islands. Many tourists worldwide know its remote beaches as a tropical paradise. While Fiji’s geography makes it a popular vacation spot for celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Tony Hawk, its geography has adverse effects on the children living there. However, organizations are taking steps to combat child poverty in Fiji.

Child Poverty in Fiji

Child poverty in Fiji is widespread throughout its rural areas. The United Nations released a report that displays rural child poverty rates at 40.92%, almost double urban rates of 22.22%. The extent of the discrepancy between those living in rural and urban areas is clear. There is a similar difference in the ages of those experiencing poverty in Fiji. The United Nations report highlights that 32.1% of children younger than the age of 14 experience poverty.

Poverty in Fiji has an unparalleled effect on young children in rural areas. This has led to a stunting rate tallied at 7.5% among infants and young children in 2004. Infants and young children are not the only ones affected by malnourishment as 22% of adolescents in Fiji were underweight as of 2005.

The Effects of Geography on Child Poverty in Fiji

In Fiji, there is a clear connection between poverty, geography and education. Fiji’s remote location impacts the price of uniforms, books and transportation. Although education is free up to the second level, the secondary costs of education present additional barriers for children living in poverty.

Even if rural Fijian families scrape together money for their children’s education, underdeveloped road and sea transportation prevent easy accessibility. Children often have to travel through three or more towns on foot to reach the nearest school.

Furthermore, children do not receive consistent protection against violations and abuse. Many children work as domestic servants and face domestic or sexual violence. Authorities underreport these conditions, and oftentimes, local authorities dismiss the crimes with little supervision from the country’s federal policing system.

Solutions to Child Poverty in Fiji

Many efforts are in place to help combat child poverty in Fiji. Several Fijian children in poverty reside in rural areas where the lack of access to quality education perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Understanding this issue, the Australian High Commissioner administered the Australian Direct Aid Program. The program seeks to help improve educational opportunities for these children. This project gifts items like new furniture, library books, water tanks and dormitory renovations that provide better education resources to students in rural Fiji.

Similarly, help from volunteer groups such as the Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross and student initiatives, such as Rustic Pathways, greatly impacts these Fijian communities. For example, the Peace Corps states that close to 90% of the communities improved in livelihood security and sanitation.

Another significant step in combating child poverty in Fiji occurred when Fiji joined the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership. The partnership made access to clean water a constitutional right. This led to 70.1% of Fijian households having access to clean water. Increased access to clean water means children can go to school and receive an education instead of spending time collecting water for the home.

Moreover, the World Bank has approved the Fiji Transport Infrastructure Investment Project. It awarded the Fijian government $50 million to make improvements to land and sea infrastructure. The expected outcome is easier and safer travel, which in turn, allows children facing poverty in rural areas of Fiji better access to education.

The Future of Poverty in Fiji

Fiji’s geography negatively influences impoverished children within its borders. Through improvements to the education system, increased sanitation, access to clean water and better infrastructure, children facing poverty in Fiji have a greater opportunity to attend and complete school. Through education, children are able to break cycles of poverty.

– Lily Vassalo
Photo: Flickr

Canada’s Childcare FacilitiesOn April 19, 2021, the Canadian Government announced a new budget that includes increased support for Canada’s childcare facilities. The proposed financial support would reduce the average cost of childcare, granting the greatest benefit to Canada’s most economically vulnerable families. Though arranged by the federal government, the changes were advocated for by several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including Child Care Now.

Government Promises

The government’s commitment to increasing childcare affordability is part of a newly proposed budget written to address the economic ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new budget would allot $30 billion to childcare spending over the next five years.

The goal of the sizable expenditure is to nationally reduce the cost of childcare to an average of just $10 per day by 2025. If passed, federal money would be used in conjunction with provincial funding to subsidize Canada’s childcare facilities, thereby lowering the cost to parents. A portion of the $30 billion would also go toward improving the quality and accessibility of Canada’s childcare facilities.

Presently, costs for childcare vary widely across Canada. In Quebec’s cities, the monthly cost of childcare is less than $200 due to an initiative passed in 1997 that standardized childcare costs. Outside of Quebec, the average monthly cost can range anywhere from $451 in Winnipeg to more than $1,500 in Toronto. The high prices are burdensome for all Canadians, but particularly so for the nation’s impoverished communities.

Child Care, Poverty and the Pandemic

Though not the pandemic’s most obvious impact, a lack of affordable childcare has strained Canada’s economy over the past year. Some of the strain stems from Canada’s childcare facilities and schools being closed to prevent the spread of the virus. As a result, many working parents, particularly mothers, have had to take care of children instead of working.

The pressure that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on women and mothers is reflected in Canada’s 2020 labor statistics, which show that women have exited the workforce at higher rates than men. In fact, the number of men in Canada’s workforce has increased by more than 60,000, while the female workforce has shrunk by at least 20,000.

Impact on Mothers

A large proportion of the women impacted by job losses are low-income mothers. A review of labor statistics found that among mothers ages 25 to 54 who had children younger than 12 years old, the mothers making less than $1,200 per week accounted for most jobs lost within that maternal demographic. Mothers in that group who made more than $1,200 per week actually increased representation in the workforce by almost 12%.

The same report also shows that mothers left the workforce at higher rates than other Canadian women in 2020. For instance, among women ages 25 to 54 who make between $500 and $799 per week, there was an almost 34% decrease in employment among mothers compared to a 21% decrease among women without children. This trend holds true for other earning brackets below $1,200.

While not all job loss among Canadian women can be attributed to maternal responsibilities, motherhood has clearly been a contributing factor for many women who have lost jobs during the pandemic. The fact is particularly true for low-income mothers who are least likely to have a job that will allow them to work from home. Without access to affordable childcare, mothers will continue to remain stuck between joblessness and caring for their children. The new Canadian budget and its advocates aim to solve this bind.

Child Care Now

One of the NGOs that gave support to the new budgetary spending on childcare was Child Care Now. Child Care Now is a Canadian nonprofit organization founded in 1982. The organization advocates for increased government spending on public and nonprofit childcare facilities. The nonprofit’s membership is made up of parents, childcare professionals and all parties concerned with the availability of accessible, affordable and safe childcare. Among the most pressing goals is the expansion of public childcare options throughout Canada.

On February 19, 2021, Child Care Now submitted a budgetary consultation to the Federal Ministry of Finance. In this consultation, Child Care Now made a case for increased federal spending on Canadian childcare, both in response to the impacts of COVID-19 and as an investment in the future of Canada’s childcare system.

Among the recommendations made by Child Care Now is the allotment of $2 billion in emergency spending to bolster Canada’s childcare facilities as well as the allocation of an additional $10 billion over the next three years to increase the access and affordability of public and nonprofit childcare options. When the government announced $30 billion in new spending on childcare, the response from Child Care Now was enthusiastic.

The Road Ahead

While the new budget still needs to be passed by the Canadian House of Commons, Canada’s investment in affordable childcare shows that the government is committed to the well-being of Canadian families. Should the budget pass into law, it will undoubtedly benefit the low-income mothers who have suffered the brunt of the pandemics’ economic hardships.

Joseph Cavanagh
Photo: Flickr

SPOON, Helping Children With Feeding DifficultiesApproximately 93 million children worldwide have been diagnosed with a disability. A total of 80% of these children have problems with feeding processes. Children with disabilities often suffer from medical conditions like anemia and, along with children who do not receive nutrition through a caregiver, are among the groups that are most likely to be malnourished. However, two women from Portland, Oregon, founded the nonprofit organization SPOON to address children’s malnutrition.

Providing Nutritional Assistance for Children Worldwide

SPOON was founded in 2007 when Cindy Kaplan and Mishelle Rudzinski adopted two children from Kazakhstan who were diagnosed with severe malnutrition. They created SPOON to ensure that all children across the globe receive nourishment. SPOON aims to provide help for caregivers through nutrition programs and assessing the needs of children with feeding difficulties. As the most important part of their mission, the organization puts a special focus on nutrition support for children who do not have a family to care for them or those with a disability.

Helping Children With Feeding Difficulties

Children diagnosed with a disability are three times as likely to suffer from undernourishment than those without any disabilities. Furthermore, one of SPOON’s studies showed that approximately 91% of children in institutions and without family care do not receive the nutrition they need.

Carolyn Moore, the Policy and Advocacy Advisor for SPOON, told The Borgen Project that the two groups often overlap since “institutionalization and separation are more common for children with disabilities.” Moore further explained that the lack of training regarding children with special needs is a significant contributor to feeding difficulties and nutritional health conditions.

The population of children in need of the help SPOON has to offer is immense. Approximately 250 million children who live in developing countries are at immediate risk of stunting. Additionally, 53 million under the age of 5 received diagnoses with cognitive delays, reduced motor skills and other disabilities.

According to Moore, there are additional tens of millions of children who live “in institutions or … on the streets.” One of the main challenges in making sure that all children receive the nutrition they need is that caregivers often do not understand the importance of finding the right feeding process. This is especially important since nutrition is the main contributor to ensure a child’s health. It also affects the development of their brain and body.

Teaching People Important Feeding Skills

SPOON operates with several different methods. The first step of its work includes helping local partners and caregivers of children with disabilities. This is “to build their skills in the specific nutrition eating needs and techniques.” The initial training period covers many different aspects, including learning how to improve feeding techniques, correctly assessing the specific problems a child is facing and adapting diets and nutrition accordingly to individual needs.

Another part of SPOON’s work is the organization’s mobile app called Count Me In. The tool assesses the growth and problems of children with feeding difficulties, especially those with disabilities and in institutions. The app is then able to offer appropriate solutions to caregivers. Moore explained that Count Me In “can recommend improvements around positioning and texture” of the food. It is also a very efficient way for the organization to collect valuable data. By 2019, many orphanages in countries such as Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia have used Count Me In.

Advocacy and the Global Child Thrive Act

The third important component of SPOON’s work is advocacy. Moore explains the need for children with disabilities worldwide to have access to nutrition and support with their feeding difficulties. She emphasizes the need for nonprofit organizations to look at how to “change policies and change systems” permanently. For example, SPOON was part of the Thrive Coalition, a group of nonprofit organizations that advocated for the Global Child Thrive Act, which was passed into law in January of 2021.

The coalition continuously met with congress and the media. This resulted in more than 100 Republican and Democratic members of the House and Senate co-sponsoring the bill. The Global Child Thrive Act assures that the United States government will contribute to strengthening early childhood development. This is for 250 million children under 5 in low-to-middle-income countries. According to Moore, the act was especially important to SPOON, since it specifically included support for “children with disabilities or without family care.”

Helping Children All Across the Globe

In addition to helping with the passage of the Thrive Act, SPOON has seen many successes throughout the years. After working in countries like Vietnam, China and India for two years, the rate of stunting in the children decreased from 55% to 23% and the percentage of children with anemia went down from 41% to 13%. Furthermore, SPOON’s advocacy efforts significantly contributed to a policy change in Kazakhstan that resulted in better nutrition for children without family care.

Also, data collected through Count Me In in 2020 showed a 35% improvement in the growth of kids and found that 82% of caregivers had adjusted feeding positions according to the children’s needs. Another 2020 success was the development of the SPOON chair. The chair will help children with disabilities by allowing them to sit upright during the feeding process.

Partnering With Other Organizations to Help Children

SPOON has also seen much success through collaborations with local partners. In Zambia, SPOON worked together with CMMB, a nonprofit organization that aims to help children with diseases by improving their nutrition. Together, the two organizations were in charge of the Improving Nutrition and Safe Feeding Practices project. This project specifically focused on children with disabilities and without family care.

Moore explained that SPOON and CMMB provided “specialized training in the nutrition and feeding issues” that are common for the two groups of children. The project worked with nutritionists and clinicians who had no prior experience in this specific field. Data pulled from Count Me In in Zambia from 225 surveyed children shows that between the years 2017 and 2020, the feeding positions improved in more than half of all cases for children with disabilities. There was a reduction in malnutrition for every child that was evaluated more than once through the application.

SPOON’s work has significantly contributed to improving the health and lives of many children with feeding difficulties. SPOON has displayed solutions for helping disadvantaged children and has revealed the need for further organizations to join their cause. Moore noted with the “big shift in food insecurity,” due to COVID-19, SPOON’s work is incredibly vital.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: With permission from Carolyn Moore

Children's Programs in VietnamChildren’s programs in Vietnam are vital to the country’s development. The country is home to 26.2 million children, 21.1% of whom currently live in multidimensional poverty, according to UNICEF. Vietnam has made progress on child welfare since 1990 when it was the first Asian country and the second global country to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The majority of children in Vietnam attend primary and secondary school, have access to adequate healthcare and have a longer life expectancy than their parents had. But, a significant population of Vietnam’s children still live in impoverished conditions and are deprived of basic needs. Fortunately, there are several standout children’s programs in Vietnam addressing this issue.

Children of Vietnam

Children of Vietnam was founded in 1998 by two friends bringing essential items to children and families by scooter. These two individuals, Ben Wilson and Luong Thi Huong, rode all the way to the Vietnam countryside. They brought food, medicine and clothing to ensure a brighter future for children growing up in poverty.

Today, Children of Vietnam has grown into an NGO that aims to “assist children, families and communities in breaking the cycle of poverty, ill health and homelessness.” It has several initiatives offering aid to children in Vietnam including education, healthcare, housing and nutrition. It also offers support systems for struggling single mothers and children with disabilities.

In 2019, Children of Vietnam successfully completed its Cycling Out Child Poverty tour. The organization was able to raise $146,974 to help Vietnamese children living in poverty.

Room to Read

Room to Read is an organization that aims to empower millions of children in low-income communities by improving literacy and gender equality in education. It operates in developing countries like Tanzania, South Africa, Bangladesh and Cambodia. Almost 90% of the staff are from the countries the organization works in. The organization particularly prioritizes the education of girls, ensuring girls receive equal opportunities for education, no matter their financial background. Room to Read supports young girls so that they can finish secondary school and learn essential life skills that can help them progress and advance.

The organization launched in Vietnam in 2001. Since then, 1.1 million children in Vietnam have benefited from the program. Almost 1,000 schools in Vietnam partnered with the Room to Read Literacy Program and 98% of students passed the program’s “gatekeeping exam” and advanced to the next level in their schooling.

Save the Children

Another organization that works to help children in multiple countries is Save the Children. Founded in 1919, the mission of Save the Children is to ensure a future for children where they grow up healthy, safe and educated. Working in more than 100 different countries, Save the Children has helped more than 144 million children around the world in 2019 alone.

Working in Vietnam since 1990, Save the Children has launched several initiatives to give Vietnamese children the opportunity for quality education, a healthier life and protection from harm. Save the Children has positively affected more than seven million Vietnamese children in 2020. In specific, Save the Children ensured:

  • Roughly 7,110,000 children were healthy and nourished
  • About 179,000 children were educated and empowered
  • Approximately 64,000 children were protected from harm

These standout children’s programs in Vietnam have made significant strides in improving the lives of Vietnamese children over the years. From health to education and safety, organizations have committed to protecting vulnerable children.

Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

Band Members from BTS who renewed LOVE MYSELF campaignGrammy-nominated, South Korean group, BTS recently announced the renewal of their partnership with UNICEF and their LOVE MYSELF campaign, which was first introduced on November 1, 2017. Originally, BTS used the partnership to sponsor UNICEF’s #ENDViolence campaign that sought to ensure safety for children everywhere in the world. UNICEF and BTS raised awareness for the recurrent issues of sexual assault and domestic violence for teens and children through the #ENDViolence and BTS’s LOVE MYSELF campaign.

Working with UNICEF

As the years went by, BTS hosted UNICEF booths around the world to educate the public about violence against children. The group also held a world tour under the campaign’s name. Their booth in Seoul’s Olympic Stadium was especially impactful and gathered the largest crowd in UNICEF’s event history. This places in perspective BTS’s critical role in assisting UNICEF in its goal of protecting children’s rights, especially children in poverty, across the world. BTS even took their influence to the United Nations, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly in New York where they shared their own experiences and the importance of self-love, stating, “no matter who you are, where you are from, your skin color, gender identity: speak yourself.”

Renewing the UNICEF Partnership

As of March 2021, through an announcement video on their Youtube channel, BTS renewed their commitment to the cause, donating $1 million to UNICEF, as well as profits from the LOVE MYSELF campaign’s merchandise and a portion of the proceeds from their album sales of the same name. Since 2017, this partnership has raised $2.98 million for UNICEF’s global mission and the hashtag #BTSLoveMyself has been mentioned more than 11,800,000 times, showing significant impact and success in spreading awareness.

In their announcement video, the BTS members shared the importance of their campaign and partnership, making it clear they value the UNICEF partnership and the issues the humanitarian organization stands for. V, one of the beloved band members, said “LOVE MYSELF starts with a message to love yourself, but ultimately it’s a message of loving each other and loving everyone.” J-hope added his heartfelt comment, “If our campaign just gives people the chance to think about how they can love themselves and share love to others, I think that will have a great impact.”

LOVE MYSELF Campaign Amid COVID-19

With COVID-19 still affecting our daily lives, the LOVE MYSELF campaign’s renewal is especially significant. COVID-19 has a negative impact on children across the world. Approximately 168 million schoolchildren were home as a result of school closures, with one in three being unable to access remote learning through the pandemic. Furthermore, in November 2020, UNICEF estimated that the number of children living in poverty-stricken households would increase by 140 million by the end of 2020. Supportive and successful campaigns like LOVE MYSELF are crucial during these challenging times.

As UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, “COVID-19 is taking an enormous toll on all our lives and emotional well-being… Through their music and messages, BTS has said to their global audience, ‘You are not alone. This is a difficult time for all of us. And together, with love and kindness, we will get through it.’”

– Juan Vargas
Photo: Flickr

STEM Education Can Reduce povertyEducation has long been proven as a tool for poverty reduction. In fact, UNESCO estimates that if all people in low-income countries had basic reading skills, an estimated 171 million people could escape poverty. Education allows for upward socioeconomic mobility for those in poverty by providing access to more skilled, higher-paying jobs. In particular, STEM education can reduce poverty.

STEM Education

STEM refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Because of the shifting focus toward STEM in the job market, millions of STEM jobs are opening up in developing countries. However, many go unfilled because of gaps in the STEM education pipeline. These jobs could be the key to helping the poor to improve their standards of living, but those in poverty often lack the education necessary for these jobs, such as in rural China.

Education Disparities in China

Education in China is becoming more accessible and comprehensive. Since the 1980s, the adult literacy rate has risen from 65% to 96% and the rate of high school graduates seeking higher education has risen from 20% to 60%. However, these gains are not equal across the country. Rural students in China have often been left behind in the education reform movement. More than 70% of urban students attend college while less than 5% of rural students do, partly because urban residents make about three times more than rural residents. Another reason has to do with parental support; a researcher at the University of Oslo found that over 95% of urban parents wanted their children to attend college, while under 60% of rural parents wanted the same.

Rural students also receive lower-quality education than urban students. Despite China’s Compulsory Education Law in 1986, rural schools often lack the ability to put the proposed reforms in place because they do not have the educational resources. Teachers are scarcer in village schools as most qualified professionals flock to the urban areas where there is a higher standard of living and higher pay. As a result, fewer rural students get into top colleges and therefore lose out on opportunities for advancement.

Generational Poverty and the Effect of STEM

Generational poverty refers to families that have spent two or more generations in poverty. This is especially common in rural areas where parents have a harder time generating the necessary income for their children’s education, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty when the children grow up. In rural China, about 5.1 million people live in the throes of generational poverty. This is due to a number of factors but a major one is lack of educational opportunities in the rural provinces.

STEM education can reduce poverty by helping children in rural provinces break the cycle of generational poverty. Since 2016, 248 high schools in poor areas have tuned into live lessons hosted by one of the top high schools in China, giving poor students the ability to receive the same education as their upper-middle-class peers. As a result, 88 of the participating rural students were admitted into China’s top two universities — universities that are estimated to have a rural population of only 1%.

Organizations for STEM Education

Some groups are working to bring STEM education to even younger students. In 2019, Lenovo, a technology company started in China, donated 652 sets of scientific toolboxes to primary schools in Huangzhong County, Qinghai Province, an area that is over 90% agrarian. The toolboxes contained materials that helped children perform science experiments and solved the problem of the lack of equipment in rural schools. Each toolbox, spread over 122 schools, helped 12 children at once and was reusable. In total, it enabled about 43,903 primary and secondary school students to become more scientifically literate and will prepare them better for future education and employment.

The Green & Shine Foundation is also helping teachers better instruct their students. It trains rural teachers in teaching necessary STEM skills to help lay the foundation for more STEM education later in their students’ lives. It also helps to develop curriculums and hold exchange programs with STEM schools so that rural teachers can observe and discuss new teaching methods. These efforts have helped 1,411,292 rural teachers and students across China.

STEM for Ending Generational Poverty

China has made strides in alleviating poverty, reducing its poverty rate every year since implementing major reforms. The Chinese government needs to prioritize investment in STEM education in rural provinces to close the education gap between rural and urban students and help bring an end to generational poverty. STEM education can reduce poverty globally.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Education in Guinea-BissauWith a population of 1.8 million, about 69% of people in Guinea-Bissau live below the poverty line and 25% experience chronic malnutrition. In addition to working toward reducing poverty, there is a focus to improve education in Guinea-Bissau, which faces many struggles, including low enrollment rates, limited financial support and gender inequality.

Education Statistics in Guinea-Bissau

In Guinea-Bissau, the literacy rate is around 53%. Only 30% of children begin school at the specified age of six. According to a study conducted by UNICEF, as a result of late enrollment, a significant proportion of children in lower primary grades are overage. As of 2010, 62% of children finished their basic education. About 14% of those in grade one end up completing grade 12. Additionally, out of the 55% of children who attend secondary school, about 22% complete it. As of 2014, the net primary school attendance was 62.4%. Lack of accessibility to school, especially in terms of secondary education outside of urban areas, contributes to these statistics.

Schools also receive insufficient funds for quality education and have to rely on families for support. Adequate standards for physical school buildings and textbooks are also lacking. Teachers tend to lack a proper level of competency in regard to the subject they teach and have insufficient teaching materials. According to a text published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “At a level corresponding to the fifth year of primary education, teachers fail to answer a quarter of the questions on Portuguese and under a half of those in mathematics arising from the syllabus for their pupils.” Furthermore, many schools fail to offer a full curriculum and 46% of teaching days from 2016 to 2017 were lost because of teacher strikes. More than 20% of students aged 7 to 14 years old reside over half an hour from a school and distance decreases their likelihood of attending. Furthermore, many students, the majority being girls, drop out of school due to early marriage and child labor.

Gender Inequality

A gender gap is prevalent within Guinea-Bissau’s education system. Of children aged 10 to 11 years old, 17.5% of boys are not attending school as opposed to 25.7% of girls. Among impoverished families, boys are 1.8 more likely to reach grade six than girls. In general, boys are 1.5 times more likely than girls to take part in General Secondary Education. Moreover, boys obtain 59% of public resources for education, while girls get 41%.

The gender inequality in Guinea-Bissau’s education system leads to consequences, such as child marriage among girls. About 54% of women without an education experienced child marriage, as opposed to the 9% of women who achieved secondary education or higher. The average age of a woman without education for the first delivery of a child is 18.2 years old as opposed to 21.4 years old for a woman who studied for 14 years. Women who received an education of 14 years have an average of about 1.2 kids. On the other hand, women without education have an average of 3.3 children.

Decreasing the gender gap in Guinea-Bissau’s education system would lead to benefits for not only women but the entirety of the population. Women who achieve higher education are 50% likely to vaccinate their children under the age of 5, whereas the likelihood for women without an education is 26%. Furthermore, the likelihood of women who did not attend school using a net to prevent malaria for their children under the age of 5 is 71%, as opposed to 81% among women who studied for at least six years.

The Quality Education for All Project

In July 2018, the World Bank developed the Quality Education for All Project in Guinea-Bissau. The goal of the Project is to improve the overall environment of schools for students from grade one to grade four. Through the Project, the World Bank aims to reduce teacher strikes by providing training. The World Bank also plans to update the curriculum taught as well as educational supplies and materials. Furthermore, the Project encourages greater community involvement in the management of schools.

UNICEF’s Educational Efforts

UNICEF aims to improve the quality of education in Guinea-Bissau, especially with regard to early childhood, through partnership and the rehabilitation of classrooms. Alongside PLAN international, Handicap International and Fundação Fé e Cooperação (FEC), UNICEF monitors schools by training 180 inspectors who are responsible for over 1,700 schools. The monitors focus on teacher attendance as well as the process in the classroom. In order to establish standards, such as National Quality Standards and Early Learning Development Standards, UNICEF also partnered with the Ministry of Education. UNICEF launched Campaign “6/6” to encourage the enrollment of children in school beginning at age 6 and maintaining their attendance throughout primary education.

Response to COVID-19

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which coordinates with UNICEF, allocated $3.5 million to Guinea-Bissau for a COVID-19 response from 2020 to 2021. Through its grant, GPE plans to achieve greater health standards in schools and training among community members to increase awareness of COVID-19 prevention. GPE also supports a radio distance education program as well as a distance program that addresses gender-based violence and the inclusion of children with disabilities. UNICEF broadcasts programs three times a day for radio distance learning. Additionally, GPE aims to assess preschool and primary age students to gather further information about learning loss and to create a program for children out of school.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

Greek teachers are making a differenceIn Greece, the debt crisis and political breakdown have triggered inequalities throughout the education system. While education is free, public schools have suffered from budget cuts due to bailout agreements. The result has been a decline in the quality of education. The aftermath of the social crisis in Europe has also led to educational poverty and students failing to achieve minimum education standards. Many students with only basic education often face poverty or unemployment. This is exemplary of the strong correlation between educational attainment and social outcomes. Greek teachers are making a difference in the way their country approaches education to combat this issue.

The Current Situation in Greece

Currently, the level of teaching in Greek schools is being criticized due to the lack of teacher evaluation standards and teaching structures. As a result, more Greeks fear obtaining adequate education in public schools to prepare for higher education. The Panhellenic exams required for university admission in Greece have caused an increase in Greeks pursuing more expensive private education classes. However, with the rise in unemployment rates and a decrease in salaries, poor and middle-class families are unable to pursue private education. In 2015, according to the World Economic Forum Inclusive Growth Development Report, Greece was ranked last of 30 economies due to the relationship between student performance and parent income.

The Varkey Foundation

Greek educators are identifying ways to leverage education through creative curriculum approaches. The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Award recognizes Greek teachers making a difference through their work across the globe. These teachers work with students to promote inclusivity and integration of migrants in the classroom. Additionally, these educators advocate for child rights and focus on the well-being of the student.

One recipient, Andria Zafirakou, received the Varkey Foundation 1M Global Teacher Prize in 2018. Her commitment to education has led to new initiatives to encourage creativity in schools. Born to Greek-Cypriot parents, Zafirakou has dedicated her entire teaching career to educating students from ethnically diverse communities. She has a passion for education advocacy and changing the lives of young people from underprivileged communities through creativity and art. Following that creative drive has led to her great success as the best teacher in the world.

Artists in Residence

In an amazing act of charity, Andria Zafirakou used her 2018 prize winnings to found Artists in Residence (AIR). She recognized the decline in the number of students demonstrating an interest in art and students pursuing careers in art. As such, the charity focuses on individual student well-being and outcomes in school by providing a curriculum encompassing art education.

AIR strives to increase student aspirations, provide inspirational life opportunities, and prepare students for jobs in creative industries. The program develops a rounded curriculum that supports social and cognitive learning through engagement in art activities. Firstly, it establishes partnerships with schools in developing academic and holistic educational programs. Then, artists and professionals in the creative sector provide their expertise to students by inspiring learning in art.

This collaborative approach exposes students to new skills and opportunities in art, which are truly key to a well-rounded education. Moreover, AIR has been effective in enhancing public awareness and engagement in developing programs to support art education.

Lack of proper education in Greece has proven to be hazardous to societal functions. Nevertheless, through collaborative efforts in educational reform and the people of Greece’s commitment to education, Greece’s educational system is expected to see improvements. However, teachers are indispensable in addressing these issues. Greek teachers make a crucial difference by discovering innovative ways to implement change within the education system one school at a time.

Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

Open Heart OrphanageIn the midst of COVID-19 sweeping through Uganda, six children at Open Heart Orphanage have died. However, it was not the virus that claimed their lives. The tragic deaths were a result of hunger and fever, collateral effects of the pandemic.

Food Struggles During the Pandemic

The people of Uganda must fight to stay healthy during the pandemic as well as combat food insecurity. The issue of food affordability is not only an organic result of the pandemic. Back in April, four Ugandan government officials were arrested for conspiring to inflate COVID-19 relief food prices. The effects are far-reaching. According to UNICEF, 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from life-threatening malnutrition in 2020.

The Hidden Victims

Uganda has consistently ranked among the countries with the greatest number of orphaned children in the world, and it has not gone without its controversy. Last year, VICE reported that there are at least 300 “children’s homes” operating without government oversight. Four out of five of these orphans have at least one living parent. Questions arise over the exploitation of these children and the quality of the care they receive. During the coronavirus pandemic, the children are even more vulnerable. Orphans are oftentimes the faces of Facebook scams targeting donors from Western countries.

Children are the “hidden victims” of the virus. They are not particularly susceptible to contracting the disease, but they will be the ones to bear its effects on the social and economic systems. Domestic struggles within the family, surging food prices and a shortage of available medical care have led to malnutrition and displacement, especially in developing countries like Uganda. The result is many children are being left in orphanages.

Open Heart Orphanage

The Borgen Project interviewed Hassan Mubiru, a pastor at Open Heart Orphanage in Bulenga, Kampala, Uganda. Its mission is to help orphans experience a full and productive life. Currently, the organization serves 175 “needy” or orphaned children. The Christian nonprofit aims to provide these children with education, medical assistance, housing, clothing, food and water and the love of God. Due to the pandemic, there have been some obstacles in achieving these goals.

“Coronavirus has crippled most of our activities because we were absolutely unprepared when the lockdown was announced,” said Mubiru. The pastor explains that the organization has always worked below its budget and did not store supplies ahead of time. When COVID-19 hit, they did not have enough resources to sustain themselves.

Even more challenging was the shortage of volunteers. Mubiru stated, “Those who used to individually help are no longer helping. We cannot guarantee salary or their payments.” Unstable payments met with mandates to stay in quarantine have deterred many volunteers from coming to Open Heart Orphanage.

Mubiru says that the biggest issue for Open Heart Orphanage is the lack of available food. “It is extremely difficult or impossible to get food as prices went higher and almost nothing was coming into us. We have so far lost six children due to hunger and fever since the pandemic started. These are things we would have prevented if we had enough food and means of getting treatment in time.”

Open Heart Orphanage strives to help children reach their fullest potential. The nonprofit is a stepping stone for the children and not a final destination. Mubiru believes that children are better off in a home than an orphanage, especially in these times. Mubiru emphasized, “We encourage families to adopt even if this is another crisis because the law governing adoption is tough and high fees.”

Miska Salemann
Photo: Flickr

Educating Children to Become World CitizensThere has been generally positive growth in the awareness of global issues for a long time now. Global poverty is one such issue. Cases of successful poverty reduction can be used as inspiration for encouraging global engagement from a young age. Educating children to become world citizens may very well inspire them to become future leaders for positive changes worldwide.

However, the subject of poverty can be a difficult concept for students to grasp. It is especially challenging for those who have no exposure to a world beyond their own. Teachers who feel passionate about exposing children to global poverty must consider the age of their students. Depending on the class’s age, teachers can determine the best methods and approaches for introducing such an important topic.

Potential Curriculums

  • Ages 6-10: For children at such a young age, the concept must be sensitively introduced. One such way to do this is by framing poverty through a story. A storybook allows children to make comparisons between someone their own age living in poverty and their own lives. Afterward, the lesson encourages them to ask questions and relate their own experiences to what they are learning about.
  • Ages 11-13: Children at this age are already more aware of the small differences between themselves and others. This awareness makes 11-13 the perfect age range to introduce children to cultures apart from their own. For the lesson, instructors may assign children a specific country that is facing extreme poverty and ask them to research schools in that country. Students may then compare the resources, teacher’s education and accessibility of the school they are researching to their own school. Documenting these differences in a notebook allows the children to then use the notebook as a reflection of what they have learned.
  • Ages 14-18: As young adults explore their lives and their futures, they are excited to explore different and new concepts. They are also developing their own opinions about their passions and beliefs. Exposing them to different artistic observations of poverty through documentaries and photography helps young adults see impoverished countries as unique and vibrant rather than poor and helpless. Additionally, young adults become more aware of their own finances at this age. Students making their own money for the first time are able to sympathize with lessons on the economy of poor countries, such as microfinancing and budgeting less than $1 a day.

Organizations Educating Children to Become Global Citizens

Exposure is critical when educating children to become world citizens. Introducing pertinent organizations and speakers who have been affected by global poverty or work closely in fighting it makes lessons come to life.

  • Edutopia, founded by George Lucas, this foundation is on a mission to transform education. One of its goals is to provide children with the knowledge that will help them in the real world when they grow up. The website provides teaching strategies including how to diversify what students are taught. The 5 Minute Film Festival is a resource through Edutopia that gives teachers access to various documentaries. The festival also includes the Change Series, published by the creators of the documentary Living on One Dollar. This includes episodes on the challenges developing countries face. Some such challenges include access to clean water, resources for natural disasters, and the prevalence of malnutrition.
  • CARE is an organization that works to make a difference in countries facing extreme poverty. They recognize education as a primary resource in poverty eradication and provide a toolkit for teachers addressing some of the major challenges in making poverty a thing of the past. CARE uses the United Nation’s Millenium Development Goals as guidelines for lessons and activities such as women empowerment, disabilities and diseases. 
  • TV Programs: Journalist David Brancaccio hosts PBS NOW, a program that addresses domestic issues but also goes beyond by looking at the world as a whole. The show addresses foreign affairs, the environment and health. Teachers can use the show’s various topics, such as child brides and climate change, to assist in educating children to become world citizens.

Hope for the Future

Children’s rising interest in international issues from an early age allows them to see the world from a different perspective. There has already been a lot of success in reducing global poverty. Yet, understanding challenges across the globe is often overlooked – even by people in wealthier countries that are given the luxury of education. By exposing children and allowing them to explore the world, teachers are educating children to become world citizens.

Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Flickr