7 Education Reforms Happening in EgyptEgypt has the largest school system in the Middle East with more than 18 million students. Additionally, the school system’s gender attendance rate is nearly equal due to Egypt’s open access to primary schools. However, as Egypt’s population rapidly grows, the quality of its education system decreases. The World Bank created the term “Learning Poverty” to describe children who lack basic reading comprehension skills by the age of 10. Egypt has had a significant problem with learning poverty. As a result, the Egyptian government has created the “Education 2.0” system to tackle this issue.

The Egyptian Ministry of Education has worked closely with the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) to create seven education reforms in Egypt. This is a $500 million reform investment and its reforms stretch from kindergarten to secondary school.

7 Education Reforms in Egypt

  1. Expanding Access to Early Childhood Learning: The Education 2.0 program works to build schools that include an early education program in students’ villages. The aim is for students to have an adequate grasp on the essential skills of reading, comprehension, writing, math and English by the third grade. These skills are especially critical for children to learn in their early childhood.
  2. Remedial Reading Programs: Egypt’s education reform stretches beyond incoming students by seeking out students in grades 4-9 who have fallen behind on the essential skills mentioned above. These programs intend to bring these students up to the same educational standard as the rest of their grade level.
  3. Implementing Learning Villages: Egypt has adopted the innovative approach of intergenerational education reform in vulnerable rural areas by teaching primary-aged children how to read as well as their mothers. This allows children to be able to be engaged in literacy work at school and at home.
  4. Improving General Assessment Skills: Previously, students were asked to directly memorize exam answers and the exams were often leaked beforehand. This severely limited long-term comprehension. The reformed education program endeavors to test students on understanding as opposed to memorization capacity.
  5. Revamping Teacher Training Programs: Teachers will be re-trained and re-licensed because it is crucial that their methodology changes to match education reform programming. Teachers must help convince students and parents that it is imperative for the education system to have a goal beyond passing exams. They also need adequate resources to focus their attention on students who are falling behind.
  6. Linking Education and Technology: While the Education 2.0 program was initially stagnant, the COVID-19 crisis has actually accelerated technological advances due to social distancing guidelines. Two companies, Promethean and the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, have also aided in digitizing education resources by respectively creating free online spaces to get educational content and providing educational technology to 26,000 classrooms.
  7. Educating Refugees: Of the 200,000 refugees who have sought asylum in Egypt, 40% of them are children who become reliant on the Egyptian education system. The Egyptian government is using the model created by the U.N.’s Refugee Resilience Response Plan to help these vulnerable children. The government plans to give refugees a combined formal and informal, community-based education system that can bring stability to their lives.

Education 2.0 focuses on bringing children out of learning poverty by focusing on vulnerable communities, re-training teachers and giving students greater access to education through technology. Education reform is essential to the long-term growth and success of a country, so programs like Egypt’s Education 2.0 is incredibly important.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr


Agribusinesses in Trifinio, Guatemala renovated cattle and pasture lands into crops for exports which dramatically changed the area. The transformation drove approximately 25,000 people into this remote area in the southwest rural region of Guatemala and employed thousands of people who sought an opportunity in this growing business. The University of Colorado created a healthcare alliance to provide quality medical treatments in the now booming community.

Trifinio, Guatemala

Few people know about Trifinio, Guatemala even though it is a major producer for AgroAmerica’s Chiquita bananas. The town is made up of small concrete houses and only a few paved roads. Most homes are single-room units. When it comes to cultural development, the town’s only form of entertainment is a local bar.

This small and highly impoverished community suffers from the reality of poor health care access. With its nearest hospital one hour away in the town of Coatepeque Guatemala, the residents of this area face the challenges of malnutrition, high infant mortality rates, and a range of infectious diseases. More than 46% of children have intestinal parasites, 38.7% of children have anemia and one-third of women are affected by pregnancy complications. The numbers could not say it clearly enough; this community needed help. Fortunately, AgroAmerica teamed up with the University of Colorado to find a solution.

University of Colorado partners with AgroAmerica

In 2011 Fernando and Gustavo Bolaños, brothers and CEOs and COOs of AgroAmerica, became frustrated by the lack of health care access in their community. With Guatemala’s history of little investment in healthcare, they found themselves unable to ask the public sector for help. Gustavo Bolaños himself addressed this issue in an interview where he claimed, “In Guatemala, we have a lot of inequality and poverty, the government hasn’t been able to really cover the basic needs of the population. We as a private company, see all the needs of our people, and the biggest problem we are facing is education and health”. Therefore, rather than going to the government, they turned to the University of Colorado’s Global Health Center.

With an investment of 1 million U.S. dollars, the Bolaños made a healthcare alliance with the Colorado School of Public Health. Their goal was to build a medical center on their banana plantation. Three years later, the Bolaños proudly stood before the new medical facility. It houses a clinic, laboratory and conference space. The Trifinio Center for Human Development serves around 4,500 plantation workers, along with the 24,000 residents of the neighboring villages, and is “staffed by CU doctors, nurses, midwives, students and other health professionals rotating through Guatemala”.

The Last Six Years

Before Trifinio’s Center for Human Development (CHD) a visit to a health professional cost people in this community at least $25 USD. This did not include transportation fees and the loss of a day’s wages. With the medical facility, that cost has dropped to less than $5 USD. Families now have access to health resources without a geographical and economic barrier. The clinic is committed to decreasing neonatal morbidity, childhood mortality and increasing safe delivery practices and childhood growth and development. Along with these medical goals, the center hopes to impact the health education and social realities of its community.

In 2017, the CHD began a youth leadership program run by participating high-school students from the area. This initiative provided an opportunity for future leaders to learn about community organizing and advocacy that could improve human development. The program not just helps the community, but “students selected for this program receive a scholarship to cover their school fees,” promoting access for educational attainment.

Along with the youth program, the center provides sexual health education to neighboring schools in the area. For mothers, it has a maternal and child health program. This provides quality prenatal care and gives families a direct line for medical professionals to track both the mother’s and child’s health.

The center also conducts research to serve the needs of the community and bring new knowledge to the rest of the world. Their Student Health Survey, taken in late June and early July of 2019 “enrolled 1,414 participants from 15 Trifinio middle and high schools” to better understand the health and social realities of these children, and hopefully address the needs that are found.

The Future

In 2013 Stephen Berman, the director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Colorado said, “The solutions we develop through this program may someday be replicated in communities all over the world”. The program has had measurable benefits for its community, which is a good reason for its replication in other regions. Health care accessibility is not an easy system. But we saw major success through the healthcare alliance of a privately run company and a public institution. There are possibilities for new solutions to address the needs of those most vulnerable.

Ana Paola Asturias
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in PanamaPanama — the narrow bridge of land that connects North and South America. The tropical country is renowned for its natural beauty and diverse plant, animal and bird life. Yet, all that sparkles, is not glitter. Panama’s economy is highly unequal and there’s a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Poverty in Panama is as much of a prominent feature of the country as its landscape.

Rural Poverty

Ethnicity and geographic location determine one’s poverty in Panama. Panamanians who live in rural areas do not have adequate access to resources, such as hospitals and schools. This is a result of the lack of professional doctors and teachers or mentors in rural areas.

Panama is the second worst in income distribution in Latin America, which leads to sector-specific poverty. Unpaved roads in the country make it are especially difficult for farmers. Accordingly, they do not end up selling their crops in big cities where they can earn a large income. Thus, begins a chain of poverty in Panama that devolves into poor hygiene, sanitation, child labor, malnutrition and eventually yet another generation submerged in loans.

Child Poverty

About 27.7% of Panamanian children live in poverty and 12% experience malnutrition. Failure to register children at birth causes many to go without citizenship. Thus, the government is ignorant on its exact child population and cannot justly allocate money to the “nonexistent.”

Around 15% of children are victims to early marriages. The legal age to marry in Panama is 16 for boys and 14 for girls. However, most of these children are not registered with the government, so kids are married off at ages as young as 10.

The minimum age for working in Panama is 15. Even with this being the case, 5-year-old children can be seen carrying bricks in construction sites. Severally underage workers — child laborers — even appear in big cities like Panama City and Tocumen. To earn a few dollars more, families force their children to work. However, it’s at the cost of children being mentally and physically exploited.

The Rays of Light

Panama has done much to fight poverty. From 2015-2017, poverty in Panama declined from 15.4%  to 14.1%. In the same time span, extreme poverty decreased from 6.7% to 6.6%. Additionally, there are currently multiple NGOs working to help poverty and other problems in Panama. One is to Educate Women in Panama. The organization’s goal is to help lower poverty in the future through more women and girls getting their education. Education will help these women find jobs easier, lowering the poverty rate.

The country, with aid of NGOs and the government, has the potential to bridge the income inequality gap and make itself an equitable society for all, regardless of class, region or ethnicity. Panama can be as bright and colorful as its beaches for not only the urbanites but also the rurals.

Riddhi Bhattacharya
Photo: Flickr

Quality and Inclusive Education in India, an Update on the fourth SDGThe fourth Sustainable Development Goal laid out by the U.N. is “Quality Education.” This SDG aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” India has made remarkable progress in increasing the enrolment of students for primary education over the last decade. Various schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have played a major role in universalizing education in India. The Right to Education Act which makes free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14 years under Article 21 (A) of the Constitution of India has made education in India a fundamental right. In India, Kerala is the best-performing state, whereas Bihar is the worst performing state with respect to the index score of the fourth sustainable development goal.

Efforts to Build Quality and Inclusive Education in India

  1. A mid-day meal scheme was launched in India for students in government and government-aided primary schools to increase enrolment, retention and attendance along with improving children’s nutritional status. It is a centrally sponsored scheme which was launched on August 15, 1995, to improve education in India. In 2008, the benefits of the scheme were extended to all areas across the country.
  2. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (save the daughter, educate the daughter) is a 2015 initiative that was undertaken to primarily spread awareness about the current state of girls’ education in India. In the mass communication campaign, education was highlighted as a tool for women empowerment and how it would ensure a bright future for girls. The objectives of the scheme also include ensuring the survival and protection of girls and eliminating gender-biased sex selection.
  3. Over the past two decades, the Government of India has launched various schemes to ameliorate the predicament of gender and social gaps in education. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All Movement) was a flagship program launched in 2000-2001 to make education universally accessible and to bridge the gap in education between gender and social categories. The intervention included investment in school infrastructure, such as opening new schools, construction of additional classrooms, toilets and drinking water, among other factors that would result in improvement of education outcomes.
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced education to be shifted online in India. The shift to the online medium of learning has been challenging for students all across the country. But the effect of this crisis has had the worst implications on poverty-stricken people in remote villages who do not have internet connectivity, electricity or resources to access quality education.

The implementation of such schemes launched by the central government has led to significant progress in achieving universal primary education enrolment for both girls and boys in India. Despite an increase in inclusive education in India, it is imperative to study whether quality education is provided universally. With an increase in the enrolment for primary education, there is a need to ensure that issues, such as low absenteeism of teachers, lack of proper infrastructure, unsafe drinking water and improper sanitation facilities, are overcome.

The COVID-19 pandemic throws light at how disproportionally it affects the marginalized communities and economically weaker sections of the society by making education inaccessible. The need of the hour is to invest in education by making it inclusive and accessible, bridge the gap in education outcomes that arises due to inequality of income, and ensure quality education is provided to everybody.

-Anandita Bardia
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in CongoThe Republic of the Congo is a country located in central Africa, right next door to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo River separates the capital, Brazzaville, from the neighboring country’s capital, Kinshasa. Both cities were formerly one capital under French Equatorial territory. After the Republic of the Congo gained independence in 1960, a series of coup d’états and successive rulers from 1963-1997 lead to political and economic instability throughout the country, eventually culminating in a civil war in 1997 and ending in 2001. The inefficient political rule that followed the war exacerbated the economic devastation of the country. A dictatorial leadership under Denis Sassou Nguesso began when he became president in peace agreements formulated in 2001. The political instability in the Republic of the Congo is necessary for understanding the economic disarray throughout the population. It is also important for understanding why poverty in Congo remains rife despite international aid interventions.

What Poverty Looks Like in the Republic of the Congo

Poverty in Congo is vast and covers all areas of the country. This is mostly because the civil war displaced over one-third of the population. The return of natives to a weakened Congo led to many facing poverty and disease from poor infrastructure and government.

Rural areas are affected most out of the country, as there are many people who do not have efficient access to clean water sources or sanitation. Artesian wells or unclarified water sources account for over 20% of all water access throughout the entire country. In addition, there is little improvement in urban areas. Much of the population, almost 1.5 million, live in unplanned settlements with little sanitation procedure or adequate housing throughout the two largest cities of the country, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. This creates a difficult atmosphere to combat preventable diseases like malaria and various respiratory or parasitic diseases.

Another problem facing is the country is the lack of, and lack of access to, education. Over a third of the population never enrolled or completed primary school. Higher education has even less attendance, with only about 3% completing. This is mostly because there is a severe lack of access to basic educational materials. Also, many girls have little to no encouragement to get an education. This leaves half of the population out of school. This impacts the Republic of Congo’s human capital, which makes it harder for people to find jobs domestically or internationally. Therefore, this leads to a higher unemployment rate across the country. Lack of education leads to a lack of opportunity.

The Good News

The Republic of the Congo has been making great strides in trying to counteract its issues since 2001. It created The Future Path project with the aim of modernizing society as a whole. The plan also aims to industrialize the economy to help the Congo gain international footing. Increasing jobs and economic performance through large-scale building projects and international cooperation are the goals of the government.

The World Bank is currently assisting the Republic of the Congo with economics and societal development projects with 10 current national projects worth $451 million. The new Country Partnership Framework will help improve the Congo’s economic management, help create “economic diversification and strengthen its human capital and basic service provision, particularly in the areas of health, education and social protection.” Improvement of water sources and better sanitation is a priority of the government and also many initiatives funded by the World Bank. The World Bank is also financing $61.31 million in emergency COVID-19 funding to help combat the pandemic in the country. The current levels of poverty in Congo and the level of disease exposed to people exacerbate the issue of COVID-19.

What Needs to be Done

The overall gross national income of the country has improved by 50% since 2011. In addition, improvements in education account for 14% of poverty reduction as a direct result of improved standards of living. Educational skill gains and an uptick in the enrollment of girls in urban areas also attributed to lowering unemployment levels. This subsequently increased educational enrollment levels across the country. However, rural education slightly deteriorated. This is because the rural population with only primary or no educational achievement increased from 46% to 53%. This highlights how the government needs to focus the fight on poverty in Congo in rural areas. The government needs to focus on encouraging more students into education past the primary level. They must also reduce gender disparities in school to create a more holistic student body and future workforce.

Overall, the Republic of the Congo has been making great strides toward leveling its poverty numbers. While the current situation is not perfect, the reduction of poverty in Congo and the improved standards of living are miles away from what the country experienced in 2001.

– Avery Benton
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Education in Kenya
Kenya has seen great success in combating poverty, with the national poverty rate declining from 46.8% to 36.1% between 2005 and 2016. Over this same period, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 5.3%. An increased focus on education accompanied this economic success. In line with this new focus — changing education in Kenya is now at the forefront of one nonprofit’s agenda.

Educational Improvements and Barriers

Increased education and poverty reduction closely connect in the developing world. Education gives students the skills to seek better-paying jobs and improve their lives. Acknowledging this, the Kenyan government opted to make primary education free in 2003. It followed up by making secondary education free in 2008 as well. Due to these policies, 94% of rural Kenyans younger than age 13 now enroll in school. However, the quality of education these students receive is highly variable. For example, only 47% of primary school graduates can successfully test into secondary school.

Challenges exist because while school is free, poor children often struggle with difficult home environments. They often must support their families at the expense of their education. Additionally, weak oversight and insufficient government support mean that many areas suffer from poor quality education, lacking recourses or qualified teachers.

Flying Kites

Flying Kites is one organization with the aim of changing education in Kenya — specifically, education quality. The organization is a Kenyan nonprofit that runs a program to educate teachers and works with Kenya’s ministry of education. Importantly, it is trying to make education more accessible to poor students. Flying Kites partners with “high potential, resource-poor” schools to invite teachers to attend workshops and sit in on classrooms at the Flying Kites Academy. These teachers go through a program to teach them how to improve their classrooms and provide more support to students.

The Borgen Project recently had the opportunity to talk with Katie Quinn, the Director of Operations in the U.S. for Flying Kites. She explained how Flying Kites originally began in 2007 with a primary school catered toward disadvantaged students in central Kenya. Today, its school has evolved into one of the highest regarded academies in Kenya. Flying Kites is attempting to replicate that success across the country.

So far, Flying Kites has seen great success in improving education in Kenya with its Teacher Training Center. It evaluates the classroom skills of incoming teachers and has found that only 12% of them are proficient in all skills. However, after a year in the program, 67% of teachers achieved classroom proficiency.

According to Quinn, focusing on teachers is the best way to improve the education system.“The delivery of quality education by engaged and supported teachers dramatically improves student outcomes, empowering even the most vulnerable students to become curious and critical thinkers and to develop the skills they need to become life-long learners and positively impact their families and communities.”

Flying Kites’ Approach During COVID-19

COVID-19 has undoubtedly been a disruption to the lives of Fly Kites’ students. However, the organization is working hard to make sure that every student stays on track. It has provided direct relief to more than 6,000 local families. Also, it has been distributing meals to students in need. The organization has also pledged to cover all back-to-school expenses for students at its partner schools. This will include uniforms, school supplies and more. It hopes to guide its students through this difficult time and ensure that none of them give up their education.

Once the pandemic ends, Flying Kites hopes to continue to expand its reach to schools — changing education in Kenya. Quinn explained how the organization is planning to create a “model schools district” by working with all 45 local primary schools as well as the Kenyan government. The aim is to create a better environment for teachers and their students. By doing so, Flying Kites seeks to create a repeatable model for education in Kenya that improves student outcomes and creates better opportunities to escape poverty.

– Jack McMahon
Photo: Flickr

5G Wireless

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world in many ways. Not only has the pandemic generated a loss of life and economic growth, but it has also shifted social dynamics. One of the most affected sectors has been education. Today, more than ever, education is dependent almost entirely on internet access or wireless cellular network coverage. Unfortunately, 51% of the world population lacks access to the internet. Many of those without internet access live in rural areas and low-income regions. In most cases, these areas lack investment in key infrastructure such as internet access. Fortunately, 5G wireless has the potential to guarantee a fast and efficient connection. The subsequent increase in access to high-speed internet will likely spur socio-economic growth worldwide, especially in rural areas.

Efficiency and Cost Reduction

The 5G network enhances WIFI capabilities; it is 10 times faster than any average WIFI network and has 100 times more capacity than 4G. The pandemic and the uptick in remote education have intensified the need to improve internet access. 5G Technology can take homeschooling to another level as it can eliminate the downside of face-to-face classes. The changing demands of the world’s population is an opportunity to transform rural communities through technologies, such as 5G wireless. Previous generations of wireless aimed to revolutionize the mobile phone sector. 5G, however, can deeply transform a wide range of industries.

The use of 5G will allow students immediate access to educational content without the common hindrances of Wi-Fi connectivity. The students will be able to enjoy a completely new form of education. Technologies that 5G powers, like virtual reality, could provide immersive experiences to develop professional skills. 5G wireless would improve the range and quality of educational activities and teaching methods. These improvements will not only expand the students’ educational experience but also their capabilities.

Many rural areas face teacher shortages and a lack of proper classroom equipment. This leads to a discrepancy between the quality of education in rural and urban schools. 5G would reduce the quality gap in education due to its universality. No matter where a teacher and their students are located, 5G can transmit the lesson quickly and clearly. For these reasons, 5G will work as a social equalizer by reducing the access cost of educational information and improving classroom technologies.

The Need for Public-Private Partnership

It has become clear that 5G can ameliorate the economic and social repercussions of the educational divide. However, this solution to a systemic social issue is only feasible when the public and private sectors collaborate. This partnership is necessary to equitably implement this new generation of broadband across both urban and rural areas. The ultimate goal is to evenly provide 5G coverage to remote areas around the world. India, for example, has prioritized its digital agenda to provide broadband connectivity in rural areas and communities that will benefit from digital inclusion.

The Indian Government, through the Department of Telecom (DoT), has been working on an action plan for the installment of 5G wireless services. The DoT has joined key stakeholders specialized in the industry to develop an ecosystem feasible for 5G commercialization and application. The government is promoting partnerships to guarantee innovation through a regulatory environment that incentives investments in the necessary infrastructures. The parties involved acknowledge that the shift toward 5G is crucial for the modern age. This technology will reduce the digital divide and the urban-rural educational gap while also producing growth and innovation.

5G as a Social Equalizer

All students in the world, regardless of their circumstances, need quality education to ensure a higher quality of life. 5G wireless is an innovative solution that can generate a dramatic impact. This network has the power to improve the quality of life for rural communities by guaranteeing opportunities for educational growth and general economic development. This means that 5G wireless can connect everything and everyone, and students can have access to all the tools necessary to succeed in several areas of interest.

For widespread 5G wireless to become a reality, government bodies and stakeholders must ensure a sufficient level of investment in national infrastructure to make the possible societal improvements a reality. The use of 5G means closing the urban-rural educational and digital gap and reducing poverty and insecurities. It is a social equalizer that will enable a smooth learning experience for students in rural areas who yearn for a better future.

Isabella León Graticola
Photo: Flickr