Cambodia Job FoundationBetween 1975 and 1979, Cambodia was ruled by communist leader Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime. Under his administration, millions of Cambodians were forced to labor without adequate food. In order to improve the lives of Cambodians who are recovering from the regime’s rule and help impoverished people become self-reliant, The Cambodia Job Foundation (CJF) is using steady employment to empower people. 

Cambodia’s History of Struggle

During Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime’s rule, those who were educated–or those who appeared so–were seen as a threat. People were profiled by something as simple as wearing glasses and many were killed. The majority of teachers at the time were murdered; thus, the education system was largely destroyed. 

Cambodia is still in the process of recovery from the Khmer Rouge. 37.2% of the country still lives in poverty, according to the2019 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index issued by the United Nations. Many Cambodians are also illiterate. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that the 2015 literacy rate in Cambodia for the population over age 65, most of whom lived through the Khmer Rouge, was only 53%.

Many NGOs have been working to alleviate poverty in Cambodia, and one in particular labors to help educate and create jobs for Cambodians. 

The Cambodia Job Foundation

The Cambodia Job Foundation aims to help impoverished young Cambodians become more self-reliant. According to its mission, the organization “empowers individuals to improve their lives and support their families through quality and stable employment.”

With teams in both Cambodia and the United States, the foundation mentors Cambodians, specifically those aged 30 and younger, with a focus on business startup and operation as well as financial management. It also provides access to information and resources, to which those learning the programs can apply what they are taught. In 2018, the foundation helped 131 families complete financial training lessons, mentored 66 individuals in starting a business and led 80 individuals to graduate from an IT class.

A Former Intern’s Experience

A native of Kampong Cham, Cambodia, Theary Leng was an intern for CJF during the summer of 2019. Leng has helped the organization with various training and mentoring programs as well as grant approvals. She’s seen the foundation’s impacts in her country. 

“They have helped some of the low-income families to get on their [feet] by giving them a $500 grant to start up a small business,” she said.

Leng said she believes a variety of obstacles prevent Cambodians from obtaining work, including a lack of vocational training skills and education, gender inequality in the workplace and government corruption. But through the Cambodia Job Foundation, she is able to help those in her country.

“As someone who grew up in Cambodia and as a direct witness who has been impacted by poverty, I understand and know how hard it would be to live in poverty,” Leng said. “That’s why I want to help Cambodians to become self-reliant.”

The Cambodian people are still recovering from the Khmer Rouge regime. Many people still live in poverty and lack literacy skills. CJF is working to lift up Cambodians by empowering them through resources that can help them gain and retain stable employment. 

Emma Benson
Photo: Unsplash

Literacy in TuvaluThe World Bank has awarded a grant to improve early childhood development and literacy in Tuvalu. The grant will help Tuvalu provide a better educational infrastructure for its citizens, while also preserving aspects of Tuvaluan culture. There are only 198 teachers on the island leading to a high ratio of pupils to teachers at 18:1. The scarcity of educators creates a disadvantage for students whose one-on-one time with teachers is crucial to their development.

Tuvalu’s Educational System

Tuvalu became independent from Britain in 1978; Tuvalu’s colonial past has greatly influenced the country’s modern society and culture. For instance, although both Tuvaluan and English are the official languages of Tuvalu, many schools only teach in English. The current system may cause the next generation to forget their native language. Consequently, some citizens worry the current educational system may lead to the disappearance of the Tuvaluan language altogether. 

The World Bank initiative will foster more teacher training and activities for children. Moreover, The Tuvalu Learning Project will aid communities in educating the population on the importance of health and physical activity in early childhood.

The Tuvalu Reading Program

The World Bank believes that early reading is critical to ensure a promising future and build a better society. This mission is addressed by the Tuvalu Reading Program, which teaches students to read in Tuvaluan. The curriculum introduces students to new reading material and relies on teacher-led lectures. The program exposes students to a robust curriculum and assesses them on what they have learned.

The Tuvalu Learning Project and Reading Program expand on existing initiatives, including the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Project (PEARL), which was initiated in 2014. The Tuvalu Reading Project enhances PEARL by focusing on Tuvaluan children and preserving their native language. 

Helping the Tuvaluan Community

The World Bank will direct additional funds toward increasing community access to education overall. For example, schools located in outer-island regions will recieve funding to increase their internet connectivity. Better internet in these areas will increase students’ access to valuable educational tools and improve their communication with teachers. Furthermore, The Tuvalu Learning Project also hopes to add more school activities that benefit students through the availability of technology. 

The World Banks’ contribution of $14 million is estimated to benefit 10 thousand people on the island. New job opportunities from the program will extend to teachers, community leaders, and the department of education.  In Tuvalu, 26.3% of people live below the poverty line. For this reason, the expanded education sector can create more opportunities, increase literacy in Tuvalu, and eventually raise the country’s overall standard of living. 

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Wikimedia

The Fight Against Learning PovertyLearning poverty is defined as not being able to read or understand a simple text by the age of 10. It is common in developing countries. As of 2017, 262 million children from ages six to 17 were not in school. More than 50 percent of children are not meeting the minimum standards in reading and math. In addition, their teachers and the teaching quality have not improved over time. Especially elementary school teachers, who are arguably the most important. As a result of this plateau, around 750 million adults were illiterate as of 2016. The vast majority of them are women. The largest populations of illiterate people are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Many schools in developing countries cannot provide efficient learning environments because they do not have access to computers, electricity, drinking water or basic facilities and infrastructure.

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 4

The United Nations created Sustainable Development Goal 4 to fully address the issue and solve the problem of learning poverty around the world. It consists of five pillars.

  1. Make sure students are prepared and motivated to learn: The first pillar focuses on motivating students to learn when they attend school. The parts that contribute to making this successful are Early Childhood Education (ECE), nutrition and stimulation. There has been much evidence to show that intervening during a child’s earliest years is the best time to build a strong foundation for the future, especially for children who are less fortunate than their peers.
  2. Effective teachers at every level: The second pillar focuses on increasing the number of quality teachers available. Incentives must be made more to entice more people to the field of teaching. Thus, improving its compensation policies and making it easier to transfer into will help with this issue. Selecting and hiring based on talent, effort and achievements will ensure that these are high-quality teachers. Once in a teaching position, teachers should continue to improve. Additionally, teachers should be educated on how to use tech resources.
  3. Equipped classrooms: The third pillar emphasizes on providing classrooms with a simple but efficient curriculum. This includes increasing access to books and technology and coaching. In addition, teachers are urged to “teach to the right level.” This means they should start with a one-size-fits-all approach and adapt to students’ needs as necessary. It enables children of all different learning levels and styles to learn at the same time. Teachers should also provide feedback to the students so they can further improve their personal education.
  4. Safe and inclusive: The fourth pillar focuses on maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all students. Many countries are falling into crises, violence and fragility. Schools do not need to be added to the list of places where a child does not feel safe. An unsafe environment makes a child want to stay home. When they do attend, they are more unwilling to learn. Also, unsafe environments from violence or discrimination do not foster learning. As for inclusivity, teachers and staff should not stereotype a student based on their gender, race or disability. Schools must be inclusive to those who have trouble keeping up with their peers.
  5. Well-managed education systems: The fifth pillar is focused on good management in education systems. Principals should show how to further their careers and how to become better leaders for their schools. Moreover, there should be clear authority and accountability in schools.

The World Bank’s Literacy Policy

The World Bank has introduced a Literary Policy package outlining interventions to boost literacy. So far, a few countries have already started following it, including Egypt and Brazil. Egypt has begun the Egypt Education Reform Project. The project focuses on four core values:

  1. Expanding access to quality kindergarten
  2. Improving education delivery through digital learning content
  3. Developing educational professionals
  4. Developing computer-based assessment systems

There are many expectations for this program in the future. For example, the project predicts that it will be able to serve around 500,000 more kindergarten students including those from poorer districts. There will be a 50 percent improvement in early education. Additionally, there will be two million new quality teachers and two million students in secondary school.

Furthermore, the past 10 years have been good for Brazil as a result of its increased efforts in elementary school education. Their rate of learning poverty has been rapidly declining but is currently at 48 percent. Consequently, Brazil plans to increase quality and labor productivity. This necessitates increasing its quality of education. As a result, they are working on improving early education, teacher training and providing more financing.

Overcoming learning poverty is an essential step in the Sustainable Development Goals. It will not only improve the lives of the children learning but it will also decrease poverty rates and increase economic development. Hopefully, programs like the World Bank’s Literacy Policy and SDG 4 will motivate more countries to make education a priority.

Nyssa Jordan

Photo: Flickr

Education in SpainThe Spanish education system does not match up to the standards of the rest of Europe or other developed nations. However, the government is doing its best to put measures in place aimed at improving these standards. Below are eight facts about education in Spain:

8 Facts About Education in Spain

  1. The current system of education in Spain, also known as the Ley Orgánica de Educación (LOE), or the Fundamental Law of Education, means that education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. This system also typically requires parents to pay for books and other materials such as uniforms.
  2. It is estimated that as of 2016, 98.3 percent of the population in Spain is literate. This is largely attributable to the 10 years of compulsory education.
  3. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport generally oversees education in Spain. However, each of the 17 autonomous regions in the country can make most of the decisions regarding their systems.
  4. Schools are categorized in three ways, there are state schools that are fully funded by the state, privately-run schools which are funded partly by the state and partly by private investors and purely private schools. A majority of Spanish students, 68 percent to be exact, attend state schools. This compares to only 6 percent of students who attend purely private schools.
  5. There are four levels of education in Spain. The first is a nursery or preschool, which is optional. Next comes six years of primary, which is the first stage of compulsory education, followed by compulsory secondary education for four years. Finally, there is an optional level of upper secondary education. At the primary level, the average number of students per class is around 25. While in secondary, the average number of students per class is around 30.
  6. A 2019 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Spain experiences more class time than both the European Union and OECD averages. The difference is more pronounced in high school, where Spain’s class time per year is 1,045 hours. This compares to the EU average of 893 hours, while the OECD average consists of 910 hours. This doesn’t seem to have any positive outcome, considering Spanish students perform worse on average than other students regarding the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. PISA experts believe the problem lies in the teaching methods, as Spanish students tend to memorize information instead of trying to find their own solution to problems.
  7. From pre-primary to secondary education, the enrollment rate was above 90 percent at each level in 2017. However, for tertiary education, the enrollment rate falls to 88.85 percent during the same period. Again, this is attributable to the fact that tertiary education is neither compulsory nor free. Interestingly, more girls than boys enrolled at each stage of education. This includes a marked difference at the tertiary level where the enrolment rate for females is 97 percent compared to 81 percent for males.  However, Spain also faces the greatest number of school dropouts in the EU.
  8. The government expenditure on education has steadily declined since 2009, including spending of 4.87 percent of the GDP on education, compared to 4.21 percent in 2016. This puts makes Spain on the tail-end of European countries when it comes to governmental education spending

While there are positives surrounding education in Spain, the situation requires additional efforts. With increased investment by the government and improved policies, schools will be able to afford more resources, hire more teachers and reduce the ratio of students to teachers. In doing so, students can receive more personalized attention and a better academic experience. Further, this will improve the quality of education and possibly reduce the time spent by students in the class. Finally, these enhancements will likely decrease the unemployment rate and greatly improve the quality of life in Spain.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

young advocates

Today, some of the most innovative, forward-thinking change-makers happen to be under the age of 18. Keep reading to learn more about these three top young advocates who are doing their part to address global issues from poverty to gender equality and education.

3 Young Advocates Who are Changing the World

  1. Zuriel Oduwole
    Since the age of 10, Zuriel Oduwole has been using her voice to spread awareness about the importance of educating young girls in developing countries. Now 17 years old, Oduwole has made a difference in girls’ education and gender issues in Africa by meeting with and interviewing important political figures like presidents, prime ministers and first ladies. To date, Oduwole has spoken in 14 countries to address the importance of educating young girls in developing countries, including Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria. “They need an education so they can have good jobs when they get older,” Oduwole said in a 2013 interview with Forbes. “Especially the girl child. I am really hoping that with the interviews I do with presidents, they would see that an African girl child like me is doing things that girls in their countries can do also.”
  2. Yash Gupta
    After breaking his glasses as a high school freshman, Yash Gupta realized how much seeing affects education. He did some research and found out that millions of children do not have access to prescription lenses that would help them to excel in their studies. Gupta then founded Sight Learning, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes eyeglasses to children in Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and India.

  3. Amika George
    At the age of 18, Amika George led a protest outside of former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s home to convince policymakers to end “period poverty.” Period poverty is the unavailability of feminine sanitary products for girls who cannot afford them. Girls who can’t afford these products are often left to use rags or wads of tissue, which not only raises health concerns but also keeps girls from their education. In order to combat this issue, George created a petition with the goal for schools to provide feminine products to girls who receive a free or reduced lunch. As of now, George has mobilized over 200,000 signatures and helped catapult the conversation of period poverty at the political level in the U.K.

These three world-changing children prove that age does not matter when it comes to making a difference in the world.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

peace and stability in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. The government estimates that 43.6 percent of the country’s total population in rural areas lives below the national poverty line. According to the latest United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs data, about 2.9 million Afghans are internally displaced, 22 percent of whom fled their homes in 2016 alone.

Despite improvements over the past decade, Afghanistan, maintains the lowest educational outcomes in South Asia. The country continues to lag in average educational attainment compared to other low-income and fragile countries. Moreover, girls fall further behind in educational outcomes. As of 2013-14, only 20.3 percent of Afghan women above the age of 15 are literate. The major cause of poverty and the lag in primary education in Afghanistan is the ongoing conflict that has lasted for over three decades.

Instability and Conflicts in Afghanistan

Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, the country endured many conflicts that stunted its ability to prosper and improve. For the past 20 years, the Taliban government became the leading cause of poverty and the prevention of peace and stability for Afghanistan.

After the refusal to turn in terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden to the United States after the 9/11 attacks, the extremist military organization joined countless conflicts with the U.S. whilst refusing any ethical attempts toward peace. Nevertheless, many provided aid to the Afghan people and looked for a peaceful solution.

At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit and at the donors’ conference on Afghanistan in Brussels in 2016, Afghanistan received reassurances of continued international assistance for its security and development needs. The United Nations is part of this group of leaders as it deployed a team in the ground called the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). UNAMA, which Afghanistan leads, promotes security, stability and development in Afghanistan. It looks forward to peace negotiations between the Afghan Government and armed opposition groups.

USAID is another organization that works toward peace and stability for Afghanistan. The agency provided food security by implementing an agriculture program that increased agricultural productivity and rural employment. It also provided access to a healthier lifestyle for Afghans by getting health care professionals and introducing people to healthier habits. The ability to build roads, schools and clinics is a huge step toward peace and stability for Afghanistan. USAID is helping make Afghanistan a better place for younger generations.

The Afghan Institute of Learning

The Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) shares in USAID’s goals and made great strides toward a sustainable future for children. The AIL helps local people set up centers of learning and provides high-quality teacher training and administrative skills training so these centers can thrive. The centers give the Afghan people the opportunity to have literacy skills. Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, currently estimated at 31 percent of the adult population. AIL addresses this issue by giving children education from preschool and having discussions with adults about current world problems. Children who study at AIL’s learning centers joined government schools at age-appropriate grade levels. Gaining literacy is life-changing for adults and children who often go on to study other subjects increasing their capacity to support themselves.

Many other organizations are addressing the increasing poverty rates and helping toward achieving peace and stability for Afghanistan. As the Afghan government and other international governments involve themselves, there is hope for Afghan people.

Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in Nepal

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal has an estimated population of more than 26 million and is known for its mountain peaks that include the legendary Mount Everest. Agriculture in Nepal is a major aspect of the economy, employing more than 66 percent of the workforce. Because so many of Nepal’s citizens rely on agriculture for their income, many economic development initiatives in Nepal are focused on efficient, sustainable agricultural practices. Here are four organizations supporting agriculture in Nepal:

4 Organizations Supporting Agriculture in Nepal

  1. Educate the Children – Founded by Pamela Carson in 1989, Educate the Children Nepal (ETC) focuses on three main goals: children’s education, women’s empowerment and agricultural development. ETC’s agricultural programs assist rural Nepali women in furthering their knowledge of sustainable practices. Women learn methods for composting and for making pesticides. ETC also provides tools and seeds so that women can expand their crops. Importantly, the organization tailors its methods to different regions, emphasizing locally viable crops. In the first half of 2019, ETC reports that 31 rural women were able to increase their household income by 10 to 25 percent by growing and selling mushrooms.
  2. FORWARD Nepal – The Forum for Rural Welfare and Agricultural Reform for Development (FORWARD) has been working to aid Nepalis living in poverty since 1997. Committed to promoting economic equality, FORWARD provides vocational training for workers in several industries, including forestry, fishing and agriculture. Its website emphasizes an intent to “utilize and promote local knowledge and skills” and to develop community organizations and resource centers. Some of FORWARD’s agricultural programs have included distributing seeds to earthquake victims, training people to cultivate dry riverbeds and promoting climate-smart rice-lentil cropping systems. In the fiscal year 2017-2018, FORWARD Nepal’s riverbed farming program reached 200 households and its rice-fallow crop program benefited 459. The same year, the organization ran a project focused on dairy production techniques, which reached an estimated 5,000 households.
  3. U.N. Women – The Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment (RWEE) Joint Programme is a collaboration between U.N. Women, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.  The RWEE program is focused on supporting rural women in seven countries, including Nepal. According to U.N. Women, the program supports 3,400 women. One RWEE project involved water access in the village of Paltuwa where water scarcity had resulted in women farmers devoting large portions of their day to carrying water to their farms from the river. As a consequence, crop yields were low and farmers struggled economically. A 2016 RWEE project resulted in the building of an irrigation system in Paltuwa, which has improved agricultural production. The RWEE program also employs women to work on construction projects related to agriculture. During the building of the Community Agriculture Extension Service Centre in Ranichuri, 130 women were employed.
  4. SADP-Nepal – Established in 2004, Sustainable Agriculture Development Program, Nepal (SADP-Nepal) is headquartered in Pokhara, Nepal. SADP-Nepal promotes sustainable agricultural practices, lobbies for organic agriculture and supports collaboration among farmers. The organization’s motto, “Happy Soil, Happy Life,” shows an emphasis on sustainable practices. Some of the SADP-Nepal’s projects include community farms, awareness-raising campaigns and disaster-relief programs. In the wake of the April 2015 earthquake, SADP-Nepal provided rice, lentils, noodles and tents to thirteen families affected by the earthquake. SADP-Nepal also promotes eco-tourism as a way to generate income for local farmers by providing organic food for visitors.

Final Thoughts

While many Nepalis struggle economically, the poverty rate has been decreasing in recent years, dropping from 25 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2018. With continued support for agricultural workers, hopefully, the economic situation in Nepal will continue to improve.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Wikimedia

Technology to promote literacy

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is an independent state comprised of about 600 small islands, that also shares a land border with Indonesia. PNG uses technology to promote literacy in a number of ways. PNG broke off from Australia in 1975 but still receives substantial economic, geographical and educational gains from the country. However, the Australian government reports that in spite of their economic growth and middle-income country status (due to agricultural and mineral wealth), “PNG’s social indicators are among the worst in the Asia Pacific. Approximately 85 percent of PNG’s mainly rural population is poor and an estimated 18 percent of people are extremely poor.”

The World Bank details that PNG also faces a “vexing” situation regarding their remoteness and number of languages. Communities in PNG are very closed off from one another and land travel is strenuous. PNG has 563 airports and air travel has proven to be the common way to get from one place to another. At over 800 languages, PNG is recognized as “the most linguistically diverse country in the world.” As a result of these two factors, PNG’s education system faces a variety of challenges. PNG was ranked 153 on the Human Development Index in 2017, and its adult literacy rate was reported to be 63.4 percent in 2015. Australian Aid and the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) cooperated to produce The SMS Story research project, a way to use technology to promote literacy.

The goal of the SMS Story Research Project was to ascertain whether daily text message stories and lessons would improve the reading ability of children in grades 1 and 2 in Papua New Guinea. The text messages were sent to elementary school teachers in the Madang Province and Simbu Province using a free, open-source software program called Frontline SMS. The project was a controlled trial with two groups, one group of teachers received the message and the other did not. About 2500 students were evaluated before and after the trial. Using statistical testing, it was determined that the reading ability of the group who received text messages was higher than that of the group that did not.

It was found that the schools participating in the study had little to no reading books in the classroom and that students in groups without an SMS story were “twice as likely to be unable to read a single word of three sub-tests (decodable words, sight words and oral reading).” It seemed that many classrooms in PNG did not provide easy access to reading materials or proper reading lessons.

Amanda Watson, a researcher involved with the project stated that the SMS stories were helpful to the teachers as well. She says, “The teachers actually received almost like a reminder to teach, a bit of a motivator to keep teaching and they received that every single day and we think that really helped them to realize that they’re supposed to be teaching reading every single day, five days a week.” This suggests that before the trial, some of the teachers may not have promoted reading as much as they should have, either due to lack of access to materials or not realizing its importance.

Daniel A. Wagner, of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues, detail the importance of using technology to promote literacy in countries with minimal access to education or educational materials in their paper, “Mobiles for Literacy in Developing Countries: An Effectiveness Framework”. He underlines the importance of promoting literacy through information and communications technologies (ICTs) in today’s world where there are “more connected mobile devices than people” and provides several examples of organizations that are working towards increasing literacy through ICTs.

The Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI) is run in South Africa by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy. They aim to “improve literacy through interactive, computer-based lessons” created by the University of Pennsylvania’s International Literacy Institute (ILI). They provide access to educational materials and issue students with “mother-tongue resources” in regions where computer sources or books are mostly in English. Comparably, Ustad Mobile is an application in Afghanistan that runs offline on phones. They center around instructing reading comprehension, listening, and numeracy. Teachers and students can download and share lessons; the app also includes exercises, videos and interactive quizzes in order to “mobilize education for all”.

BBC Janala is another project using technology to promote literacy in Bangladesh. It is a multi-platform service and can be accessed through TV, internet, print and mobile phones. BBC Janala concentrates on teaching English through three-minute audio lessons, quizzes, TV shows, newspapers, textbooks and CDs.

Illiteracy is an issue in Papua New Guinea; most likely due to the lack of reading materials and importance placed on literacy. However projects like, “The SMS Story” are all over the world and are working towards using technology to promote literacy one step at a time.

Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr