Education in KenyaThe World Bank reported in 2015 that 36.8% of people in Kenya lived below the international poverty line, set at $1.90 per day. Estimates from April 2020 predicted that this level would continue to follow a slow downward trend to approximately 33.1% in 2020 and 32.4% in 2021. These recent statistics tend to vary across sources, however. For example, Statista reports that in 2020, 27.3% of Kenyans lived in poverty. Ultimately, sources seem to broadly agree that more than a quarter of the population in Kenya lives under the international poverty line. However, poverty rates could reduce by increasing opportunities for education in Kenya. The potential of education in Kenya reflects in the country’s successes over the years.

Poverty Reduction Progress in Kenya

Though the number of Kenyan citizens in poverty is undoubtedly high, Kenya has made great progress in reducing poverty in the last 15 years. In 2005, the World Bank found 46.8% of people living in poverty. This means that according to the World Bank statistics, poverty in Kenya has decreased by more than 10% in slightly more than 15 years. However, there is still a significant need for further poverty reduction progress in Kenya.

Eliminating poverty is crucial for a number of reasons as poverty has an irrefutable impact on other areas of life. One of these impacted areas is education. Global Citizen argues that poverty is the greatest barrier to education for children. Families living on less than $1.90 a day often cannot afford to send their children to school, whether that be due to high attendance fees, the cost of school materials or the need for the child to contribute to the family farm or business. Hence, addressing education is intertwined with addressing poverty in countries such as Kenya.

Educational Success: Free Primary School

Located in East Africa, Kenya is part of a region where harsh climate, violence and general instability lead to high poverty rates and limited access to education. Yet, in the education spectrum, the country has made great progress in recent years, showing the overall potential of education in Kenya. One successful initiative began in 2003, when the Kenyan government rolled out the Free Primary Education (FPE) program, waiving all primary school fees for students. As a result, Olympic Primary School in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi reported that enrollment nearly tripled. This growth in attendance seems to have occurred nationwide as UNICEF reports that before the COVID-19 pandemic closed many schools in early 2020, primary school enrollment in Kenya stood at 99%.

World Bank statistics show Kenya’s successes in improving education through FPE and other programs, with the most recent data from 2018 showing a literacy rate of almost 82% for people older than 15. This is up significantly from 72.16% in 2007 and 78.73% in 2014. Yet, despite these improvements in literacy and primary school enrollment rates, Kenya still struggles to provide high-quality education and see children through to secondary school. Though nearly all children in Kenya attend primary school at some point, many of them drop out to supplement the family income. In 2017, the Kenya Climate Innovation Center reported a 27% dropout rate in primary school.

Even if students complete primary school, very few of them go on to any further education. Statista reports that in 2019, 10.1 million children attended primary school in Kenya. However, only 3.26 million children enrolled in secondary school the same year and only 509,000 Kenyan students attended college in 2019. More recent data is not available due to widespread school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Potential of Education in Kenya

Getting students into primary schools was the first step to improving education in Kenya. But, while the most recent World Bank data states that, in 2018, the Kenyan government spent 5.3% of the country’s GDP on education, schools are still short on resources and teachers. In some classrooms, the teacher-to-student ratio exceeds 1:100, leaving teachers overworked and overwhelmed. The government is working hard to increase the percentage of students who transition to secondary school but requires more resources to employ enough teachers and support high-quality education for students.

Overall, education in Kenya has seen a vast improvement in the number of students attending primary school in the last 20 years as a result of FPE and other work. Now, Kenya must look to improve in other areas of education in order to fully empower students with the tools and knowledge to rise out of poverty.

– Julia Welp
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in ZimbabweThe COVID-19 pandemic tremendously affected the lives of children in Zimbabwe. From food and health insecurities to school shutdowns, the children of this nation are in an economic, health and educational crisis. According to the World Bank, in 2019, 38.3% of  Zimbabwe’s citizens lived in poverty. Moreover, since schools closed down in Zimbabwe due to COVID-19, only 27% of impoverished children continued to engage in education and learning. However, nonprofit organizations such as Makomborero and Save the Children are taking the initiative of tackling child poverty in Zimbabwe amid COVID-19. These nonprofits offer hope for positive change through their praiseworthy work.

Makomborero’s Work

Makomborero focuses on eradicating poverty in Zimbabwe. This organization specifically tailors toward the needs of Zimbabwean children. It allocates the necessary educational resources to enable students to achieve their educational goals and ultimately escape poverty. Makomborero, meaning “blessings” in Shona, provides girls with an opportunity to engage in a mentorship program. The organization also funds the education of 10 students every year through its scholarship program. Recently, the organization built a science laboratory for students. Children got to practice and apply what they learned in a modern lab.

Despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19, Makomborero successfully persevered. This nonprofit organization was able to lift children out of poverty in myriad ways. Makomborero’s team donated “backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, toiletries, stationery, hand sanitizer, masks, solar lamps and food packs” to students on March 20, 2021. Additionally, 80 girls were also given “sustainable sanitary wear” due to Makomborero’s outreach efforts. As of September 2020, the organization’s sponsored students were able to attend in-person classes, thus increasing access to and quality of education.

Save the Children’s Efforts

Save the Children is an international nonprofit organization focused on reducing child poverty in Zimbabwe and other nations amid COVID-19. The nonprofit provides both short-term and long-term solutions. It has served children in Zimbabwe since 1983 by addressing the urgent food, health and educational insecurities nationwide. For example, Save the Children constructed a family tracing and reunification program to ensure the safety of Zimbabwean children. Furthermore, its emergency response program provides highly effective emergency relief aid to all children in Zimbabwe.

In 2020 alone, Save the Children positively impacted the lives of 246,000 children by allocating educational, health and other necessary resources to lift them out of poverty. Moreover, the child sponsorship program attempts to decrease the number of children living in poverty, which is currently more than 3.8 million Zimbabwean children, according to Save the Children.

Positive Progression and Outcomes

Save the Children educated 82,000 Zimbabwean children and lifted 31,000 children from poverty, according to its recorded data from 2020.. In general, approximately one million children are sponsored by U.S. citizens alone through this child sponsorship program. The positive progression of lifting children out of poverty in Zimbabwe, especially amid COVID-19, translates over to the achievements of the Makomborero organization as well.

These organizations address the urgent short-term needs of children in Zimbabwe along with long-term endeavors. The organizations are succeeding in eradicating child poverty in Zimbabwe amid COVID-19. Nonprofit organizations such as Makomborero and Save the Children play essential roles in lifting children out of poverty in Zimbabwe. The positive progression of Zimbabwean children since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic continues because of the applaudable service of organizations.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

help women in poverty Across the globe, poverty comes in different forms. Over the years, individuals and companies have developed products to help those in poverty. Since poverty disproportionately impacts women, several companies are inventing products that address the specific tribulations of women. Flo, Hemafuse, Embrace and fashionable iodine dots are inventions that aim to help impoverished women across the globe.

4 Empowering Inventions to Help Impoverished Women

  1. Flo: The Reusable Menstrual Kit. Flo is an inexpensive, reusable menstrual kit designed by Mariko Higaki Iwai. The discreet kit allows girls to “wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads.” In developing nations such as Kenya, female students miss about five days of education a month due to a lack of access to menstrual products to properly manage their periods. The Flo kit aims to reduce the risk of infections due to inadequate menstrual hygiene and address period poverty to keep girls in school. With girls able to consistently attend school, they are able to acquire the tools and knowledge to rise out of poverty.
  2. Hemafuse: The Blood Recycler. Hemafuse is an affordable syringe-like device that collects and filters blood that can then be used in a blood transfusion. Since developing nations lack a “reliable blood supply” for emergency blood transfusions, Hemafuse serves to reduce preventable deaths due to blood loss. Hemafuse is particularly valuable in “ruptured ectopic pregnancies,” a common occurrence in the developing world. During ectopic pregnancies, a woman “can lose half of her blood volume,” necessitating an emergency blood transfusion that Hemafuse can help facilitate in countries with limited resources. In this way, Hemafuse can save the lives of millions of impoverished women in lower-income countries.
  3. Embrace: The Portable Incubator. One of the leading causes of newborn death is unregulated body temperature, which can lead to a newborn death every 10 seconds. Incubators are designed to address this issue, however, high costs make incubators inaccessible to hospitals that cannot afford the technology. Embrace is an affordable, portable incubator that serves as an alternative to this necessity. The inexpensive incubator is reusable and “does not require stable electricity,” making it ideal for impoverished and remote hospitals with limited resources. The design also “allows for close mother-child interaction” as a mother can hold the newborn instead of placing the baby in a conventional incubator. Embrace has saved the lives of more than 350,000 babies and aims to continue this trend with the goal of saving “one million babies by 2026.” Overall, Embrace reduces mortality rates among children of impoverished women.
  4. Life-Saving Dots: Fashionable Iodine. In India, many women face iodine deficiencies due to a lack of trust in foreign medicine. As a result, “pregnancy complications and fibrocystic breast disease” are not uncommon. The life-saving dot functions not only as a source of iodine for women but also as a bindi. Without having to take medication, women can wear these iodine dots on their foreheads to supplement the nutrients they need to maintain good health.

Overall, these four innovations provide significant support for women in poverty. Through creative and innovative solutions, the world can see more progress in reducing global poverty.

– Maddie Rhodes
Photo: Flickr

National Learning Assessment SystemEducation quality and learning outcomes are often key to explaining income differences across countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, about 88% of primary and lower secondary school children are “not proficient in reading.” Liberia’s Ministry of Education and the U.S.-based nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) are developing Liberia’s first National Learning Assessment System (NLAS) for the primary learning level. This assessment will help Liberia’s schools switch from a content-based curriculum to a competency-based curriculum that values learning over memorization. The assessment itself will highlight which areas students are learning least to hopefully close the learning gap.

Education’s Role in Poverty Reduction

Education is important for reducing poverty because it increases the rate of return in the economy. Improving access and quality of education ensures a greater development of skills among the population. Using education as a tool for breaking cycles of poverty, the nation’s standard of living increases, accelerating economic growth.

With education, those employed in the formal sector of the economy have the potential to earn higher wages and secure higher-paying jobs as their careers progress. Illustrating this point, every “one year of education is associated with a 10% increase in wages.” Furthermore, research finds that “primary education has a higher rate of return than secondary education.”

Education in Liberia

Emerging from a destructive period of civil unrest and the Ebola epidemic in 2015, the Liberian education system has suffered considerably. Only 44% of primary-age students currently attend school in Liberia. Of the children who attend school, only 54% complete primary education. In addition, there are no national school quality standards in Liberia. According to the Global Partnership for Education, the largest global fund dedicated to education initiatives, “resourcing at county and district levels require improvement.” With the understanding that education is the key to reducing poverty, it is imperative for Liberia’s education system to improve.

The National Learning Assessment System’s Purpose

The purpose of the NLAS is to try to maximize primary education learning by assessing areas where learners are not performing well. This will create the framework for a national standard. Further, the assessment will serve as a reference point for Liberia’s new national curriculum and help the government decide which reforms to undertake in order to produce beneficial educational outcomes.

Pilot Assessment

In a trial of the assessment with the Liberian government, the IPA reached 874 students across six Liberian counties. Students received both oral and written assesments. The healthy distribution of scores suggested that the assessment was neither too difficult nor too easy. Overall, the results found that “in the oral exam, the average sixth grader answered 36% of the questions correctly in language and 61%” in mathematics. However, in the written assessment, the average sixth grader achieved 47% in language and 40% in mathematics.

Given the fact that more than 90% of students “were over-age for their grade,” the trial illustrates that assessments should not be organized by age. Moreover, because of the significant difference in scores between the oral assessment and written assessment, students should be assessed on both types. The pilot project generally recommends written assessments as these tests are “cheaper and easier to administer” but emphasizes the importance of oral examinations to assess oral fluency.

Education as the Key to Poverty Reduction

Initiating a national learning assessment strategy is the first step toward rebuilding Liberia’s education system after years of turmoil. The assessment provides a basis for education reform according to the learning styles, literacy levels and knowledge gaps among students. More importantly, the initiative demonstrates the government’s interest in the advancement of Liberia’s youth and the hope to help disadvantaged citizens rise out of poverty.

– Annarosa Zampaglione
Photo: Pixabay

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

Improve Girls' Education in NigeriaFor women in Nigeria, education is a privilege because not all of them have access to it. Some people in Nigeria see education as a commodity and there are many children currently out of school. The Malala Fund estimates that 30% of girls aged 9-12 in Nigeria have never been to school. The children who are in school are more likely to be male. Some families have faced violence for sending their daughters to school. Nigeria faces several challenges in education but organizations are fighting to improve girls’ education in Nigeria.

Fears of Retaliation

In 2018, 13.2 million Nigerian children were out of school and 60% of them were girls. At the time, this was the highest number in the world. Many parents cannot afford to send their children to school and often do not have access to transportation. Free primary education helps, but it is not enough. Others fear retaliation from sending their daughters to school. In 2018, Boko Haram abducted 110 schoolgirls as a message to parents. Boko Haram was very vocal when speaking out against Western education.

In 2021, Boko Haram still controls much of the northeastern part of Nigeria. Boko Haram has a distaste for Western education. In fact, the Islamist militant group’s name loosely translates to “western education is forbidden.” The 2018 kidnapping of 110 schoolgirls was not the group’s first attempt to stop girls’ education in Nigeria. Almost seven years ago, Boko Haram “took 276 girls from their school in Chibok in northeast Nigeria.” Many of these girls are still missing. Inciting fear is one of the ways Boko Haram keeps parents from sending their daughters to school.

Societal Norms

Girls accounted for 60% of children out of school in Nigeria. Poverty, child marriage, societal norms and violence are some of the reasons this rate is so high. Some of these girls had never been to school at all. Not seeing the value in sending their daughters to school if students are not receiving a quality education, families frequently marry girls off instead. Girls’ education in Nigeria has societal impacts as well. When girls have a secondary education, child mortality rates drop, child marriage rates decline and the lifetime earnings of girls increase. These positive outcomes help better society.

Ties With Poverty

One can also tie the lack of girls’ education in Nigeria to its poverty rate. In 2019, the poverty rate in Nigeria was 40% of the population, which equaled roughly 83 million people living below the poverty line. Northern Nigeria has low-quality education, which often means girls often do not get the education they need to thrive.

Period poverty is another factor that has impacted girls’ education in Nigeria over the years. Not being able to afford menstrual products has discouraged girls from going to school when menstruating. Menstrual products are a luxury that many cannot afford. Period poverty leads to many girls and women skipping work or school. Poor menstrual hygiene can lead to urinary tract infections and period poverty can cause depression or anxiety. All these factors can affect a girl’s education.

Previous Projects to Improve Girls’ Education in Nigeria

The Girls’ Education Project initially began in Nigeria in 2004. The focus was on supporting the Nigerian government in its efforts to achieve universal basic and primary education. A subsection of the project was the Girls’ Education Project 3 Cash Transfer Programme. Nigeria implemented it from 2014 to 2016 to improve girls’ education in Nigeria. The program mitigated the impact poverty had on girls’ enrollment in school. Through this program, social and economic opportunities for girls increased. More girls in Nigeria also completed basic education.

In 2020, UNICEF in Nigeria received a grant of $140,000. The grant went toward an online digital platform and strengthening states’ radio and television education programs as well as providing activity books, worksheets and assessment cards. The aid came amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a major impact on the education of children. UNICEF also provides “psychosocial support to children and teachers” and secures wash and hygiene resources for schools.

Today’s Efforts

UNICEF has implemented a program that aims to give all children access to quality education in a safe learning environment. This will take time, but its goal is to help the government achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The key areas of focus for the program are access, learning and skills for emergencies and fragile contexts.

This means providing “gender-equitable access to quality education from a young age, quality learning outcomes and skills development and improved learning and protection for children in emergencies and on the move.” In 2021, 60 million schoolchildren gained access to primary or secondary education.

UNICEF has also established a girls’ education program that focuses on gender equality in education. By giving girls access to a safe education, inequality is reduced, allowing girls to reach their full potential. UNICEF helps governments and schools eliminate gender gaps in education, focusing on teacher training and removing gender stereotypes from learning materials. With help from organizations such as UNICEF, girls’ education in Nigeria will soon become commonplace.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Separatists in Cameroon
Cameroon is located in Central Africa, bordered by Nigeria. The southwest and northwest regions of Cameroon are Anglophone, while the rest of the country is Francophone. This split in language has been a source of conflict for separatists in Cameroon. Politically, the ruling party within the country is the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement. The party holds 152 of the 180 seats in the National Assembly. In Congress, CPDM rules more than 81% of the Senate. Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, is serving his seventh term since 1982.

Poverty in Cameroon

The poverty rate in Cameroon increased by 12% between 2007 and 2014. A total of 8.1 million people lived in poverty in 2014, with about 56% residing within the country’s northern regions. The Central African Economic and Monetary Community reports Cameroon as having the largest economy within the area that is experiencing an economic crisis. In April 2017, the World Bank’s Country Economic Memorandum stated that Cameroon would become an “upper-middle-income” country by 2035.

Who Are the Separatists?

Separatists in Cameroon are a group in the north Anglophone regions. They aggressively seek independence against Cameroon’s security forces. Starting in September 2017, this fight has progressively displaced more than 500,000 people and killed nearly 400 civilians and more than 200 military and police officers. In March 2019, the U.N. Refugee Agency claimed that 32,602 Cameroonian refugees reside in Nigeria. Of these refugees, 51% are children and 53% are women.

Separatists in Cameroon have kidnapped and killed children at school. In November 2019, the U.N. Children’s Fund found that 855,000 students were not going to school in English-speaking regions. About 90% of primary schools and 77% of secondary schools run by the state were dysfunctional or shut down.

Open to Communication

Currently, the separatist movement has left about 800,000 people homeless and 3 million lives uprooted. COVID-19 increased those numbers, and separatists in Cameroon have recently been fighting for mutual peace through this pandemic. Even though President Biya disapproves of separatists, as he considers them terrorists, a small pro-talks group led by intelligence chief Maxime Eko Eko and Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute has tried to communicate with separatist leaders.

In April 2020, a man named Sisiku Julius AyukTabe, a separatist who is serving a life sentence for terrorism, agreed to talk with Cameroon’s government to explore ways to end the conflict. The meeting occurred his prison cell and accomplished an agreement of understanding. The terms of the agreement are to keep security forces within separatist barracks, to release all prisoners and to always have a third party mediating future discussions between separatists and the Cameroonian government.

The separatist group in Cameroon formed during World War I and started taking greater action against the Cameroonian government in 2017. With the rate of poverty in Cameroon increasing due to COVID-19, the separatists and the government have tried to find common ground in their conflict. With advocates on both sides coming together to communicate with each other, there is greater hope for a peaceful future for both parties.

Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Accessible education in HaitiToday, about 10% of the Haitian population struggles with one or more disabilities. This prevents them from receiving a proper education. Out of the 120,000 children in Haiti, only 3% of Haitian children have access to basic education. This is compounded by the fact that people are still struggling to rebuild their lives after Hurricane Matthew demolished most of Haiti’s infrastructure. There is hope, however, as USAID continues to offer support through developmental research. USAID also provides support for new programs dedicated to providing accessible education to Haiti.

Struggles in Haiti

Haitian people continue to suffer from the impacts of the many natural disasters that hit the nation. The country is in a constant state of development due to the frequency of natural disasters. Its location in the Caribbean makes Haiti a hotspot for flooding, earthquakes and hurricanes. Accessibility to education is seemingly unattainable for the Haitian population. This is due to the lack of funding to rebuild schools that lay in ruins. Furthermore, natural disasters increase the risk of cognitive and behavioral disabilities in those who survive, due to the trauma.

Children are the most at risk of developing disabilities due to the physically and mentally destructive effects of countless hurricanes. Between 1998 and 2018 Haiti experienced 10 hurricanes and other tropical storms. The countless calamities and damage often result in mental disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with disabilities struggle to receive accessible education in Haiti as well as societal acceptance within their own communities. Additionally, studies show that for every 10,000 employees, four people have disabilities.

USAID’s PEER Program

USAID is working to bring more awareness to this issue in order to help provide more inclusive, quality education for children with disabilities. With the creation of Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) in 2011, USAID has been able to offer more support for approaching the issue. About $50 million has already gone toward the funding of more than 250 projects in more than 50 countries to re-evaluate the exclusivities of social ecosystems globally.

The PEER program partnered with the Initiative Group for the Study of Cognition, Language, Learning and Disorders (GIECLAT) to conduct a large-scale survey of the needs of students with disabilities in southern Haiti, areas gravely impacted by Hurricane Matthew. This effort also included the support of Haiti’s Ministry of Education through the Commission for School Adaptation and Social Support (CASAS), an organization led by disabled youth and other integral bodies. The study indicates that learning disabilities and social and emotional difficulties are prevalent in schools. In several public schools surveyed, more than 50% of the learners displayed a form of a disability yet many of the educators reported no students with disabilities. Despite these findings of disabilities, few teachers were trained in inclusive education and support services were lacking. The locally-led research projected helped change perceptions and spark change.

The Impact

USAID provided assistance to improve teacher-student dynamics. For the first time, southern Haiti now has comprehensive information on learners with disabilities and their needs. Using this data, programs are underway to provide extensive training for inclusive education to teachers and principals. Haiti’s Ministry of Education is also excited about the project. The research team published a book of the findings and recommendations for inclusive educational reforms. The PEER program is also helping to train professors and university students in inclusive education. Now, more inclusive pedagogies are being adopted in order to provide accessible education.

Today, USAID has reformed almost 20 primary schools in Haiti to accommodate those with various learning disabilities. USAID provided disability awareness training to more than 660 teachers and principals. More than 62,000 community members also participated in disability awareness initiatives. As a result of these efforts, Haiti is beginning to see a brighter future of accessible education for all.

Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

How 2 Organizations Are Improving Virtual Learning in the PhilippinesThe Philippines, a country with a weak education system, faces the issue of educating 28 million young students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual learning in the Philippines is particularly difficult for students from lower-income households. These students face financial and technological hurdles. According to a Filipino Department of Education survey, 20% of students who have access to the internet still need to go outside of the home for computer access. Many more students lack an internet connection.

Isy Faingold, chief of education at UNICEF, reported that the Philippines already had low reading comprehension scores before the pandemic. Among 79 countries, the Philippines ranked last. According to UNICEF, national emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, increase the number of students who drop out of school.

Public schools have adopted modular learning and blended learning styles since transitioning to virtual learning in the Philippines. In modular learning, teachers print out class materials for students to fill out at home and turn in later. Blended learning uses both online and offline methods of teaching. Schools are struggling to find a way to efficiently use available resources amid COVID-19. Currently, printing module packets has amounted to $1.9 billion. According to the Teachers Dignity Coalition in the Philippines, a national association for teachers, teachers are unable to meet the printing costs. Communicating with students through Facebook and text messaging also wears teachers out emotionally.

The Philippines Schools Project

Fortunately, the Philippines has organizations helping navigate the difficulties of virtual learning. The Philippines Schools Project is a small charity run by a couple who have family ties to the village of Botao. The couple’s work focuses on two schools in this rural and low-income area. They donate school resources as well as raise funds through various friends and connections from the U.K.

The couple has also provided furniture, equipment, school supplies, clothes and help with home improvement projects. Their charity began when they visited the Philippines on vacation and noticed the need for classroom upgrades and better sanitation in restrooms. When they returned to the U.K., the couple started shipping useful resources to help the schools.

After some time, the couple registered their work as a charity, allowing them to send monetary donations to be used for scholarships to send students to school. As costs grew, they invited their friends to help hold fundraising activities for the couple’s childhood town. The couple has been adamant about funneling all monetary gains back into the area. One of their initiatives included arranging for local craftsmen to build any required furniture, such as stands for computers and chairs for students. In this way, the Philippines Schools Project contributes back to the community in its operations to aid children’s learning.

Read Right Now (RRN)

The Education Development Center (EDC) funds the RRN program in the Philippines. The program provides training for educators in areas where there are few resources and impacted classrooms. The strategies and training modules reach beyond the classroom to connect with communities and students’ families to achieve learning goals. Students’ reading comprehension increased by 24% since the program was implemented, providing the program with quantifiable results. Exams provided additional results. Comparing students who participated in RRN with those that did not, 17% more passed reading fluency exams in the RRN program.

Modular and blended learning come with unforeseen difficulties, but the students’ and teachers’ struggles are mitigated by these sources of aid that supplement their education. Communication between the government and Filipino schools is vital. The added support from the Philippines Schools Project and EDC’s Read Right Now program have contributed fundamentally to virtual learning in the Philippines.

– Alyssa Ranola
Photo: Pexel

Ending Child Labor in Pakistan
Child labor is a prevalent issue in the world’s most impoverished countries, including Pakistan. Pakistan ranks in the top 20 for countries with the worst rates of child labor. This measurement does not include children with general employment or beneficial jobs. People frequently only deem employment for children as “child labor” when it results in deprivation. Child labor is work that denies children education and other vital childhood opportunities. This type of exploitative work poses detrimental effects on their mental and physical health. The effects linger later in life and create a cyclical pattern. In Pakistan, unemployment, lack of education and high poverty rates contribute to a higher prevalence of forced labor. There needs to be an end to this devastating cycle, an end to child labor in Pakistan. Luckily, the Pakistani government and NGOs are working toward ending child labor in Pakistan.

Unemployment Takes a Toll

As of 2020, the unemployment rate in Pakistan was 4.4%, which is a substantial decrease from the 2018 rate. However, this is an increase from the 2019 4.1% unemployment rate. The country needs to get back on the path of boosting its employment. One way to achieve this is by ending child labor in Pakistan as child labor increases adult unemployment. One of the main reasons why children have to work at such a young age is due to their parents not being able to find substantial work. Another cause of unemployment is the rapid growth in population. Multiple reasons exist for the increase in population and they all contribute to the high unemployment rate, exacerbating child labor. Some of the factors include a lack of education, high fertility rates and poverty.

Lack of Education

Pakistan ranks second highest in terms of the number of children not in school. UNICEF estimates that 22.8 million children aged 5-16 are not attending school. One of the primary reasons Pakistani children do not receive an education is due to a lack of funding for school systems. Further, educational disparities exist across different demographics. Pakistani girls fall behind boys at every stage in the schooling process. Also, underdeveloped regions in Pakistan experience more of an economic struggle when it comes to education than more developed parts. This leaves the disadvantaged more vulnerable to working at a very young age instead of receiving an education. To combat this, UNICEF is working closely with Pakistan’s government to help create effective educational programming. The plans include quality alternatives to traditional learning pathways, equitable planning and budgeting, strengthening data and assessment systems and policy advocacy.

The Impact of Poverty

Nearly a quarter of Pakistani natives live below the poverty line. Many families in Pakistan struggle financially. As a result, children are often vulnerable to numerous developmental struggles, such as inconsistent access to clean drinking water and malnutrition. The fight to end child labor in Pakistan has become increasingly difficult due to childhood poverty and the lack of governmental support. According to Humanium, the Pakistani government allocated only 3% of its budget to health services and only 3% to education in 2018. The government needs to take more steps to provide aid for children. Increased funding is necessary so children can access essential resources for mental and physical development. Families should have the finances to be able to allow their children to experience childhood rather than the woes of child labor.

Looking Toward the Future

The Pakistani government has made strides towards ending child labor in Pakistan, such as creating labor laws. Pakistan’s constitution prohibits minors working in dangerous conditions, such as factories and mines. The constitution also requires that children receive an education from the state. However, Pakistan’s economy is suffering and many in the country still see child labor as a culturally acceptable practice. Moreover, economic challenges force many households to rely on their children’s income, making child labor a prevalent issue today.

Fortunately, organizations like the Child Care Foundation of Pakistan (CCFP) are taking steps to mitigate the issue. The Foundation has a mission to offer Pakistani children a more stable life through “education, health and vocational training sectors for the poverty alleviation, women’s empowerment and elimination and rehabilitation of all forms of child labor in the country.” Founded in October 1996, CCFP has helped serve 235,161 people through its instrumental programs. More accountability and acknowledgment from Pakistan’s government, in conjunction with aid from CCFP, will help make child labor in Pakistan a thing of the past.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr