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