Information and stories addressing children.

Education and poverty crisis in SudanOver three million children in Sudan do not attend school. The severe gap in the education system continues the cycle of poverty in the country. Chronic underdevelopment and conflict are two of the most significant reasons children in Sudan are out of school. Girls face additional hurdles such as cultural pressures and traditional views that prevent them from receiving an education. While 76% of primary age children attend school, in secondary, the number drops drastically to 28%. The Sudanese government and organizations such as UNICEF have stepped in to resolve the education and poverty crisis in Sudan.

The Education Crisis in Sudan

In South and East Darfur, there are 7,315 employed teachers, 3,692 of which are unqualified. In essence, half of the teachers that are employed in South and East Darfur are unqualified. Furthermore, many teachers in Sudan were  found to be “untrained, under supervised and unequally distributed between rural and urban areas.” Not only do schools often have teachers who are unqualified but the curriculum lacks active learning and teaching materials are either outdated or nonexistent.

The Relationship Between Education and Poverty

In their haste to escape poverty, people drop out of school in search of employment so that they can provide for themselves and their families. While a higher education often proves fruitful in finding a good-paying job, those in poverty do not have time to wait. Without an education, people living in poverty lack literacy and numeracy skills which are needed to advance in the working world. This cycle is repeated generation after generation, inextricably linking education and poverty.

Families living in this cycle of poverty often make the choice for their children, otherwise, they will not be able to provide food, water or shelter. And while some schools may be free of cost, the added costs of uniforms, books and supplies must be taken into consideration.

While poverty may have a negative effect on education, education has an increasingly positive effect on poverty. Proper education will increase one’s skill set and open the door to a world of new employment opportunities and increase the potential for higher income. With each additional year of schooling, earnings increase by about 10%. And for every dollar invested in an additional year of schooling “earnings increase by $5 in low-income countries and $2.5 in lower-middle-income countries.” UNESCO found that if all adults had two more years of schooling or completed secondary school, nearly 60 million people could escape poverty and 420 million could be lifted out of poverty, respectively.

Improving Education in the Region

The Federal Ministry of Education will implement nine strategies to improve the education and poverty crisis in Sudan. Based on these strategies, the following has been projected for the years 2018-2023: pre-school coverage will increase by 19%, basic education by 16% and secondary education by 7%.

Sudan will invest in enrollment programs and work to retain those already enrolled. The government will expand opportunities for education at every level to ensure that students do not drop out due to a lack of space. And in collaboration with global partners, the Federal Ministry of Education will work toward quality education that is accessible to all.

UNICEF’s Educational Efforts

By 2021, UNICEF intends to provide more children with the opportunity to have a quality education starting at a young age, in a learning environment that is inclusive and safe.

The organization will work with communities, parents, teachers and children to promote a socially cohesive atmosphere that even the most vulnerable of children can access. The Learning and Development Programme and the Ministries of Education will advocate for evidence-based surveys, field reports, community discussions and evaluations to mold policy reform in favor of inclusion. UNICEF and its partners will ensure the safety of schools by providing water, health and sanitation facilities. Additionally, children will be taught the proper behaviors surrounding health, nutrition and child protection. Schools will receive the support needed to ensure schools are free of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.

The undeniable education and poverty crisis in Sudan has prevented most people from achieving a proper education and reaching their true earning potential. While most agree that education is important, many Sudanese people find that it is a luxury outweighed by life’s bare necessities. With the five-year plan developed by the Federal Ministry of Education and the help of organizations like UNICEF, the toxic cycle between education and poverty will come to an end.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

Top 6 Facts about Child Poverty in FranceChildren are among the first victims of poverty. Even in France, one of the world’s most affluent countries, child poverty is still a serious issue today, if not an increasingly urgent emergency. Here are six facts about child poverty in France.

6 Things to Know about Child Poverty in France

  1. According to a 2015 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one out of five children under 18 years old in France live below the poverty line. This means that more than three million children in France suffer from their parents’ financial weakness and live on less than about €1000 per month, with many of them actually living on much less. This statistic is astonishing especially considering that the total population of poverty in France was 8.8 million in 2017.
  2. In France, 20% of households have difficulties paying for their children’s meals at the school canteen. To cope with this problem, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an €8 billion national anti-poverty plan in September 2018. As a result of this plan, primary schools provided free breakfast to the poorest students as well as subsidized lunches for €1 each in the school canteen.
  3. Child poverty in France is closely related to single-parent families who usually lack financial sources than the rest of the population. One-third of impoverished children live in single-parent families, especially those made up of single women and children. As of 2018, single mothers are among the most affected by poverty in France, before immigrants and elderly people. The fraught financial situation and high educational expenses have sadly led some young women to pay for their children’s studies through prostitution. The students’ union SUD Etudient estimated in 2006 that the number of single mothers struggling to pay for their children’s’ education was around 40,000 and continues to rise.
  4. The impoverished family background may reproduce further inequalities in education and employment. According to the 2015 UNICEF report, 140,000 children were dropping out of school each year. UNICEF also criticized France’s educational system, in which children from unprivileged families have less chance to enter universities, for failing to gear up social mobility and widening the gap between the rich and the poor instead. It estimated that it takes six generations for children born in impoverished families to attain an average income in France.
  5. There are about 30,000 children in France who are homeless and 9,000 who live in slums, many of whom are foreigners without legal status. The charitable organization Secours Catholique, which helps more than 67,000 impecunious people in need in France, claims that more than 40% of the families they assisted are immigrants, and only less than half of them have legal status in France. As a result, they do not have the right to work or benefit from social welfare.
  6. Nevertheless, thanks to its social service and healthcare, France remains one of the countries with the lowest child mortality rates despite its issue of child poverty. In fact, the 4% rate of child mortality in France is the same as that in Germany, Spain and Italy, lower than 6% in Canada and 8% in the United States.

These six facts about child poverty in France shed light on the growing poverty problem in a country that is as wealthy as France. However, by shedding light on child poverty in France the government and charity organizations will work to alleviate youth poverty in its early stages.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr 

CCT Programs in NigeriaDespite having some of the greatest potential for development in Africa and a vast amount of resources, Nigeria remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over the years, the Nigerian Government has attempted to implement various poverty alleviation strategies in order to diminish poverty. Unfortunately, little progress has been made. However, more recently, the Nigerian Government has started implementing a new strategy in order to fight the persistent poverty in the country through Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programs. It is hopeful that CCT programs in Nigeria will bring lasting benefits for impoverished communities.

The Success Rates of CCT Programs

Around the world, CCT programs have become increasingly popular and have been overwhelmingly successful. Positive results have also been seen in certain regions in Africa. As explained by the World Bank, “Cash transfers targeted to the poor, particularly children and other vulnerable groups, now help millions of Africans to support their basic consumption, avoid destitution and respond to shocks.” To achieve this success, most programs focus efforts toward providing cash transfers to poor families with children. In return for these transfers, families must maintain their children’s school attendance as well as keep up with regular health checkups. As a result, the country profits through an increase in the value of its human capital.

The COPE CCT Program

Beginning in 2007, the Nigerian Government implemented the In Care of the People (COPE) CCT program, which at the time was the only nationwide government-sponsored CCT program. The program was launched across 12 Nigerian states and aimed to break intergeneration poverty through cash transfers with the conditions that households maintained their children’s school attendance of at least 80% and receive regular immunizations and healthcare visits.

In the development of COPE, one of the main goals that the Nigerian Government was hoping to achieve was to reduce poverty short-term and promote an increase in the value of human capital in the long-term. Although many Nigerian citizens benefited from the CCT program, there were complications in the execution of the program. One key example that is necessary for the program to succeed is to extend the length of time in which households participate in the program. When first implemented, the program only lasted a year for participating families. However, in order to effectively assist these households, it is important that the Nigerian Government expand the period of time in which families can benefit from the cash transfers.

The Kano State CCT Program

While the COPE CCT program was designed to impact different states across Nigeria, the Kano CCT program took a different approach. The Kano State government implemented a pilot of this CCT program from 2010 to 2012 in order to increase female school attendance and reduce female drop-out rates in the specific region.

Although the COPE CCT program did not have overwhelming success, the Kano CCT program did see some success. For example, data from the World Bank shows that the number of girls enrolled in school slightly increased from 47% in 2009 to 50%  in 2011. However, there were also unexpected decreases in rates despite the CCT program. In Kano, in 2009, 47% of girls enrolled in class one enrolled in class six in, while in 2011, only 41% of those enrolled in class one were in class six.

Regardless of conflicting outcomes, the World Bank still rates the program’s efficiency as substantial. In Kano, the savings from the CCT program were also spent on the construction of additional boreholes and toilets in the schools.

Although the program itself still needs further development, the Kano CCT program has the potential to benefit households living in poverty as well as further improve female education attendance and drop-out rates.

The Potential of CCT Programs in Nigeria

Although these CCT programs still need improvement with regard to execution and development, the programs show great promise in reducing poverty rates, breaking intergeneration cycles of poverty and increasing the value of human capital in Nigeria. This is especially hopeful considering the success of the programs in other African countries. Because these programs target the health and education of youth living in poverty, these strategies help to create a strong foundation for children, thus creating a path for them to escape poverty in the future. With continued efforts to improve and develop these CCT programs in Nigeria, there is potential to greatly expand and improve Nigeria’s economy over time and reduce poverty in the region.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Australia
Despite ranking as one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world, Australia continues to struggle with implementing solutions to nationwide poverty. Specifically, child poverty in Australia has begun an upward trend in the past five years despite overall national economic growth as well as declining unemployment rates.

Data from the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) reports that over the past two decades, child poverty levels reached a high of 18.1% in 2007, substantially higher than the overall national poverty level of 12.6% in that same year. Child poverty levels dropped by almost 3% in 2013-2014 data in response to improved social security and unemployment plans, however, most recent reporting from 2017-2018 indicates another increase in child poverty to 16.9%; almost 4% higher than the national level. Though employment rates have gone up specifically for Australian mothers, a rapid increase in housing costs, as well as growing earnings inequalities, have left one in six Australian children under 15 below the national poverty line.

Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage: The Smith Family

With social security and unemployment programs only providing minimal financial assistance that still falls below the poverty line, opportunities for educational advancement are crucial for Australian children to break out of these cycles of poverty. Education is one of the great equalizers in society, however, unequal educational opportunities only further broaden nationwide earning inequalities and further disadvantage impoverished Australian children. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority data indicates that children living in poverty have around a 30% negative difference in educational outcomes based on Year 12 graduation rates and standardized testing scores. Technological advancements and increasing skill-level requirements for jobs will only further contribute to the financial burden for impoverished families and will surely lessen educational outcomes.

To combat these inequalities, an independent nonprofit organization called The Smith Family has implemented a successful national campaign to combat child poverty in Australia by addressing educational disparities and providing more equal opportunities for students in the lowest socioeconomic status. Started in 1922, this organization has dedicated its mission to improving the lives of Australian children in a multitude of different ways. For the past 30 years, the primary focus of the organization has shifted to providing educational opportunities to give Australian children the best chance to achieve their potential and reduce child poverty in Australia. Current programs include the Learning for Life Program, literacy and numeracy programs and technology programs.

Learning for Life Program

The Learning for Life Program involves a long-term approach to addressing the educational needs of those suffering from child poverty in Australia. Sponsorships from the community go towards providing much needed financial support for disadvantaged children, as well as guidance and resources for the families of these children. This program implements both literacy and technology programs as well as introducing further opportunities in art and career experience. This program focuses on the first two decades of a child’s life to help improve graduation rates and university enrollments to provide the framework for future economic success. Every year, this Learning for Life Program reaches around 34,000 of the most disadvantaged Australian children in communities throughout the nation.

Literacy and Numeracy Programs

Research has proven that impoverished children in Australia are more likely to start school at a literacy disadvantage, and lacking these literary foundations hinders overall future cognitive development as these children progress through higher levels of education. The Smith Family has implemented research-based programs that pair students with low reading abilities with more advanced peers to help encourage reading through collaboration. The Smith Family also provides disadvantaged families books and mathematics resources to further promote and support early age cognitive development outside of the classroom.

Technology Programs

The COVID-19 global pandemic has amplified how access to technology is a massive barrier for impoverished children. To combat this matter, workers from The Smith Family have distributed over 5,000 computers and internet packages to the homes of disadvantaged families in Australia between 2007 and 2019. Not only have these packages helped improve educational access for impoverished children but they have also proven effective at increasing feelings of social inclusion and connectedness to the rest of society.

Proven Success

The Smith Project uses qualitative results to analyze the efficacy of its programs through directly measurable statistics. Recent reporting shows attendance rates for children in the program hovering around 90% each year, which is above the national Australian average. These consistent attendance rates provide a firm foundation for future academic success, resulting in close to 70% of The Smith Family students graduating Year 12, almost 10% higher than the national average from the lowest socioeconomic backgrounds. High Year 12 graduation rates have led to greater employment and higher education rates than the national averages, both vital to escaping poverty and breaking the cycle of disadvantage. The most recent five-year plan from The Smith Family includes a continuation of current programs while hoping to reach 30% more youths currently suffering from growing child poverty in Australia.

– Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

Child Protection SystemThe child protection system in Greece has long been criticized for its lack of consistency and the inability to provide adequate protection for abused children. The lack of investigations, follow-up from social service professionals and incidents of returning children to the care of abusers are not uncommon.

A Lacking Child Protection System

While the lack of a sufficient child protection system has been attributed to the financial crisis, in Greece, child protection services were underfunded before the financial collapse. The inability to develop a structured and cohesive child protective system has denied many children of their rights. Reduction in personnel, lack of funds, insufficient resources and inadequate collaboration among social service entities have caused dysfunction within the child protection system.

The Institute of Child Health

The Institute of Child Health has taken a stand in many cases impacting the lives of the youth in Greece. The Institute of Child Health is overseen by the Greek Ministry of Health and has advocated for funding and mental health support for abused children. This entity has developed a protocol to allow the networking of services to meet the needs of children that are victims of abuse. Through unified procedures and the development of a digital records system, the organization has made efforts in the modification of the child protection system.

While the efforts made by the Institute of Child Health have been ignored by the Greek government, the government has implemented an initiative that will streamline processes and improve the conditions for child abuse survivors. Yet, the Greek government has been slow in implementing changes that will impact the lives of children systemwide. Currently, children of abuse are required to repeat their stories multiple times, risking retraumatization. With the implementation of the Child Houses or Child Advocacy Centers, testimonies are recorded. Through this method, children will only need to provide their testimony once. The implementation of this process is one step in addressing a significant problem within the child protection system.

Greece Implements New Adoption and Fostering System

For decades, many children entering the child protection administration have been placed in hospitals due to an incomplete foster care system. In Greece, the child protection system relies upon institutions, children’s homes operated by the state, the Greek Orthodox Church and NGOs, to provide care for children removed from their families. However, the lack of an adequate foster care system and institutionalizing children removed from their families presents another problem in the child protection system in Greece. Institutionalized children are subject to inadequate living conditions, living in wooden cages or tied to their beds, leaving children with life long trauma and further victimization. The children spend months in an institution due to being removed from their families and the inability to locate a suitable foster or adoption home.

In July 2020, Greece implemented a new adoption and fostering system that demonstrates progress toward revamping a crippled child protection system. With this new system, a more effective process will allow more accuracy in the evaluation of applications from prospective applicants. The new system establishes full transparency, documentation and expert control of the process. The Greek prime minister believes this implementation addresses past bureaucratic hurdles and will expedite the process of connecting children with families. Other steps that are in the works include the registration of minors in child protection and training of professionals that will work with prospective foster and adoptive parents.

The Need for Further Progress

Lacking child protection in Greece has jeopardized the safety and wellbeing of many children. Due to the lack of uniform protocol, collaboration among service providers and unclear mandates and responsibilities, children that enter the custody of child protective services continue to relive their abuse. While steps have been taken to rectify this problem, Greeks remain positive that further progress within the child protection system will come.

– Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare for Greek ChildrenIn Lesbos, Greece, children suffering from life-threatening illnesses are being deprived of healthcare. Concerns regarding the Greek government’s stance on providing adequate healthcare to children suffering from chronic, complex and life-threatening diseases at the Moria camp are on the rise. Many camps are overcrowded and have limited resources available for the growing vulnerable population. Children make up 30% of asylum seekers and those diagnosed with diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, heart disease and other severe illnesses, are being neglected. Forced to live in tents under concerning conditions, children have no access to specialized healthcare to meet their medical needs.

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is advocating on behalf of Greek children, urging the government to evacuate children with serious illnesses to the Greek mainland or other European Union states that are equipped to provide adequate care. Since 1996, MSF has been providing healthcare and fighting for the welfare of asylum seekers and migrants in Greece. MSF recognized the growing need in Greece and expanded its efforts, providing treatment of chronic diseases, sexual and reproductive healthcare, physiotherapy, clinical psychology and psychiatric care.

MSF is ensuring the government is aware of the urgency of proper healthcare for Greek children. Dr. Hilde Vochten, an MSF medical coordinator, urges a prompt call of action from the government that will address the immediate healthcare needs of these children while also addressing a systemic problem within healthcare for Greek children. Without proper care, many children face lifelong consequences, or in critical cases, death.

Greek Government Healthcare Restrictions

In 2019, the Greek government restricted healthcare access to asylum seekers and those arriving in Greece that are undocumented. Since this time, MSF doctors have seen over 270 children suffering from chronic and complex diseases. The MSF pediatric clinic located outside the Moria camp has helped many children, however, the clinic has been unable to provide specialized care for children diagnosed with more critical illnesses. MSF argues that restricting access to adequate care is a result of government policy that is creating unsafe and inhumane conditions for children and their families. MSF demands the need to remove limitations for access to public healthcare and implement a system that will provide immediate care for children suffering from chronic and complex medical conditions.

The Smile of the Child

Another organization fighting for the healthcare rights of this vulnerable population is The Smile of the Child. The organization was founded in 1995, in memory of Andreas Yannopoulos, a young boy diagnosed with cancer. Before Yannopoulos died, he expressed his vision of creating an organization that would bring smiles to the faces of Greek children. The Smile of the Child has taken a stand to improve the health and wellbeing of children in Greece. The organization has raised awareness through its Mobile Laboratory of Information, Education and Technology by conducting seminars and instruction on first aid. The Smile of the Child delivers support to children with health problems by providing access to ambulances throughout Greece. The organization partners with law enforcement, social groups and other public entities to advocate for the safety and wellbeing of children.

While Greek authorities have been criticized for obstructing access to healthcare, organizations are taking a stand to ensure the healthcare needs of Greek children are met. As the need for adequate healthcare rises, the Greece government will be challenged in addressing the growing demand.

– Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Care in BangladeshBack in 1972, Fazlé Hasan Abed started a small organization called the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee (BRAC). Originally dedicated to helping refugees after Bangladesh’s war for independence against Pakistan, the organization has since grown to serve 11 countries across Asia and Africa. One of the key focuses of BRAC is poverty alleviation and includes categories such as improving maternal care in Bangladesh.

BRAC’s Strategies for Poverty Reduction

BRAC engages several strategies to combat poverty, such as social enterprises. Social enterprises are self-sustaining cause-driven business entities that create social impact by offering solutions to social challenges and reinvesting surplus to sustain and generate greater impact. Some social enterprises include those seeking to promote access to fisheries, give people access to jobs in the silk industry and businesses that give seed access to farmers.

BRAC also prioritizes social development. These initiatives refer to BRAC’s on-the-ground programs. Social development efforts aim to build communities up by attempting to foster long-term development through the promotion of microfinance and gender equality and by eradicating extreme poverty.

The third focus of BRAC is investments. BRAC seeks to invest in local companies in order to create as much social impact as possible. This includes initiatives to expand affordable internet access for all and a range of other financial support services.

Finally, the organization founded a tertiary education institution called Brac University. The University, located in Bangladesh, aims to use its liberal arts curriculum in order to try and advance human capital development and help students develop solutions to local problems.

The BRAC Manoshi Maternal Care Initiative

Founded in 2007, the Manoshi program is specifically tailored to serve mothers and newborns by providing accessible care. There are a couple of unique methods that make this maternal healthcare initiative especially effective in reaching its goals of improving maternal care in Bangladesh.

One-third of people in Bangladesh live under the poverty line and a greater part of this group live in slums, making it difficult to access and afford necessary healthcare. Manoshi focuses primarily on empowering communities, particularly women, in order to develop a system of essential healthcare interventions for mothers and babies.

Manoshi’s Focal Areas for Community Development

  • Providing basic healthcare for pregnant and lactating women, newborns and children under 5
  • Building a referral system to connect women with quality health facilities when complications arise
  • Creating women’s groups to drive community empowerment
  • Skills development and capacity building for healthcare workers and birth attendants
  • Connecting community organizations with governmental and non-governmental organizations to further their goals

The main methods used in the Manoshi project to achieve desired outcomes are social mapping, census taking and community engagement.

Manoshi’s Impact on Maternal Care in Bangladesh

BRAC projected that improvement in healthcare access would cause neonatal mortality to decline by 40-50% and the most recent data from the Manoshi program shows just that. Manoshi’s data shows that from 2008 to 2013, both the maternal and neonatal death rates dropped by more than half. From 2007 to 2011, the percentage of births at health facilities increased from 15% to 59%, while national averages only increased from 25% to 28%, suggesting that mothers served by Manoshi have more access to resources and facilities for safe deliveries. Prenatal care also increased from 27% to 52% in the same years.

With the substantial impact of organizational programs like Manoshi prioritizing the wellbeing of women and children, advancements with regard to maternal care in Bangladesh will hopefully only continue upward.

– Thomas Gill
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child Labor in cocoaGhana and Côte d’Ivoire are responsible for collecting around 70% of the world’s supply of cocoa beans and the industry as a whole is worth over $100 billion. However, despite the economic importance of cocoa farming for these nations, there has been controversy surrounding the people doing the farming. A large proportion of those working at these cocoa farms are children, some as young as 5 years old. These children are subjected to health and safety hazards in the form of unsafe pesticides and dangerous tools. They are also exploited and paid less than adults doing the same job. Additionally, this practice pulls children away from possible education. In a broad sense, this issue of child labor in cocoa production has gone unsolved and ignored by the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire as well as the companies profiting off of the work. The World Cocoa Foundation has asserted its commitment to ending child labor in cocoa production.

Child Labor in Cocoa Farms

According to a recent study done by NORC, the number of children working in cocoa farms has not been improving and could possibly have increased in the past few years. It found that nearly 45% of children living in agricultural homes of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire work in cocoa production. This adds up to about  1.5 million children. The same study found that in the last decade, the proportion of child labor in cocoa production has increased from 31% to 45%. As the cocoa industry continues to rapidly grow, there are no signs that child labor will decrease unless there is immediate and substantial intervention.

Past attempts to eradicate child labor in cocoa production have been poorly implemented. In 2001, a number of the largest producers of African cocoa agreed to end 70% of child labor by 2020. Significant progress toward this goal has not been achieved. A similar pledge was made in 2010 but has seen the same shortcomings. When asked of past failures in these areas, the president of the World Cocoa Foundation, Richard Scobey, said that targets were set “without fully understanding the complexity and scale” of issues of poverty and child labor in these African countries. With studies by the NORC and other groups, it seems as though the issues are better understood now than they were in past decades.

Response by the World Cocoa Foundation

In October 2020, the World Cocoa Foundation responded to the situation of child labor in cocoa farming. The Foundation came out strongly against the practice of child labor in cocoa production and set new goals to deal with the issue. Focused on Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the first goal set is an increase in the availability of anti-child labor monitoring to 100% of locations and farms by 2025.

The World Cocoa Foundation has also announced other efforts to combat child labor that include efforts from companies, the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and other stakeholders. Firstly, the Living Income Differential pricing policy is expected to provide $1.2 billion in additional revenue for cocoa farmers. For children specifically, the government of Côte d’Ivoire will launch a $120 million pooled funding facility for primary education that aims to reach five million children, with $25 million expected from the cocoa industry. Additionally, to boost household incomes and yields, leading companies will supply training, coaching or farm development plans to local farmers.

The Road Ahead

Past attempts to end child labor show that the situation in the cocoa industry is severe and complicated and therefore must be prioritized. As the World Cocoa Foundation recommits to ending child labor in cocoa production, collaboration and commitment will serve as important factors for the success of the endeavor.

– Matthew McKee
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

Transforming Education in South SudanAround 1.8 million children in South Sudan are not in school; the majority of children are utilized for manual work to provide for their families. This prevents millions of children, especially young girls, from receiving an adequate education. As the world’s youngest country, South Sudan struggles with many pressing issues, such as an unstable political environment and scarce food access. However, the need for educational reform grows increasingly urgent every day. These inadequate educational circumstances can be attributed to many years of war that left behind devastating conditions for the country and its civilians. However, organizations have committed to transforming education in South Sudan.

The Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)

Founded in 2004, HART exists to help countries suffering from national conflicts that are not typically served by major aid organizations. A significant amount of its aid is directed toward South Sudan and the country’s unfavorable education status. In its 2020 report, the organization emphasized how many leaders in South Sudan are unable to access funds from large-scale donors. In response to this, the organization stresses that donating funds for essential services in South Sudan should take top priority, especially education funds, considering the substantial number of children displaced from normal learning environments. The organization works directly with partners in South Sudan to get problems solved through direct communication. 

According to HART, a girl raised in South Sudan is more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than complete her primary education. More than two million children are not in school, which is the worst number the country has seen yet. If these rates continue, the future generation of South Sudan will not be equipped with the skills that come from an educational background, which also statistically places them as more likely to fall into generational poverty. Organizations such as HART use advocacy as the strongest tool. By bringing light to these startling statistics, it hopes to educate the public on the dire need to allocate funds to South Sudan and reform the educational system through donations.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF has been a global leader in transforming education in South Sudan, as it provides funds for classroom materials and teacher training. A primary focus is to intervene in South Sudanese communities to emphasize the importance of educating their children. The organization understands that when children are educated, it benefits not only them but the entirety of the country.

However, learning in South Sudan has been extremely different since the start of COVID-19 as roughly 1.5 million children have been learning through radio lessons instead of the traditional classrooms. In 2020 alone, UNICEF provided over 40,000 radio sets to be distributed to underprivileged children who do not have access to radios in their homes. Amid these unconventional education times, UNICEF continues to deliver essential services to benefit learning in remote locations under the Government of South Sudan’s “Back to School Initiative”. At the end of 2020, UNICEF plans to have provided 729,000 out of school children in crisis access to education.

Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

The Global Partnership for Education has been partnered with South Sudan since 2012. It emphasizes the high demands placed on the education system in South Sudan’s national plans. The General Education Strategic Plan (GESP), developed by the Ministry of General Education and Instruction of South Sudan, lays out situation analyses, policy frameworks, implementation structures and financing plans. However, there is insufficient public expenditure to cover these projects. In fact, South Sudan possesses one of the lowest education funds in the world. 

The GPE recognizes this need for funding and believes in the vision of The General Education Strategic Plan. In March of 2020, the GPE gifted $7 million in support of the Ministry of Education’s learning plan in response to COVID-19. In particular, the grant goes to support guidelines and policies in place to reopen schools in South Sudan. Other focal points revolve around awareness campaigns on COVID-19 prevention, remote learning materials for students, radio programs for at-home learning, hygiene facilities and back to school campaigns. As the GPE continues backing The General Education Strategic Plan, there is an expected expansion of secondary and technical education and institutionalizing teacher training within the next three years. 

The Need for Improved Education

Right now, over 80% of the South Sudanese population live on less than a dollar per day. In the middle of a humanitarian crisis, many basic necessities fail to be met for this vulnerable population. An increasing urgency around transforming education in South Sudan has caused an abundance of organizations to take a special interest in reforming the education system in the world’s youngest country. While the road to a prospering education system is still long, South Sudan is taking substantial steps toward a better future for its children with the help of humanitarian organizations.

– Hope Shourd
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