Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Swaziland

Swaziland has endeavored to increase employment and economic growth. Among these efforts, still more work needs to further these goals and priorities. One area that the country has made progress in is improving living conditions in Swaziland by reducing the number of people living below the poverty line. With continued effort, Swaziland can make positive steps in strengthening its healthcare system, increasing employment rates and economic growth and increasing the retention rate of girls in school. These top 5 facts about living conditions in Swaziland will show where they are succeeding and where they need more work.

Top 5 Facts about Living Conditions in Swaziland

  1. In Swaziland, unemployment rates, in general, have not changed much in the past few years, hovering around 26 percent. There are further discrepancies between unemployment rates for women. For example, in 2007 and 2010, the rates stayed level around 30 percent. For men, however, the rates between 2007 and 2010 were 24.0 percent and 22.7 percent. There is still more work to be done in increasing youth employment. In fact, Swaziland has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Africa. The unemployment rate has remained higher than 50 percent since 2007. Specifically, working to reduce youth unemployment is a major part in helping reducing unemployment as a whole. Solutions to decrease youth unemployment are tertiary reforms and increasing vocational and on-the-job training. In addition, adding more growth to the private sector is key to helping to create high paying and productive jobs. Companies like Orange and OpenClassrooms are working to provide digital education to Africa’s youth to help young people find jobs in the tech markets.
  2. There has been some progress made in the living conditions in Swaziland by reducing the number of people living below the poverty line. According to the Swaziland Household Income and Expenditure Survey, the percentage of people living below the poverty line was 69 percent in 2001. However, the percentage had dropped by more than half to 30 percent in 2015. These numbers represent, on average, 20 percent for those living in urban areas, but for those living in rural areas, it was as high as 37 percent. Reasons for such high poverty rates were the decrease in incomes, the stagnation of private consumption and the decrease in the GDP.
  3. As a whole, economic growth has declined in Swaziland. Real GDP growth decreased from 1.3 percent in 2016 to 1 percent in 2017. Economic growth was projected to be at 1.5 percent in 2018. Factors that have contributed to the decline in economic growth are low demand from pivotal export market destinations, especially from South Africa and Eurozone. In addition, the sector also experienced a decline in economic growth and a loss of eligibility in status to trade under the African Growth and Opportunity Act Arrangement. Swaziland’s average GDP annual growth rate had been its highest in 1990 at 21 percent, but it dropped significantly down to .7 percent in 2016. Fortunately, the GDP annual growth rate had risen up to 2.3 percent in 2017.
  4. The healthcare system consists of formal and informal sectors. Health practitioners and general service providers make up the informal sector while industry, private and public health services as well as nongovernmental organizations make up the formal sector. Swaziland puts around 3.8 percent of its GDP towards healthcare, the government providing 65 percent of the money, which is about 2 percent of its GDP. The federal budget was increased from 7 percent in 1998 to 9 percent in 2009.
  5. There still is more work to be done in closing the gender gap in education. Swaziland’s educational levels are primary education, secondary education, vocational education and tertiary education. Although there is not a great disparity between boy and girls attending primary, dropout rates do tend to rise by year 5 of secondary school. More work needs to be done in increasing the retention rates for both girls and boys in school, although more work is needed for female retention. While there are not as many obstacles for girls starting school, there are numerous obstacles that hinder girls from staying in school. Between the ages of 15 and 19, 50 percent of girls will not have completed secondary school, compared to 39 percent of boys. Some of the obstacles are poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and gender insensitivity. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of families live in poverty, and many find difficulties in paying for school fees and other costs.

These 5 facts about living conditions in Swaziland show that, while there is more work to be done in areas of employment, economic, growth and education, there has been notable progress in helping to improve the living conditions of the people. One area that has seen progress is the reduction of the number of those living below the poverty line. With more effort, Swaziland can see positive developments in helping the lives of all people.

Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in St. Vincent and the GrenadinesSaint Vincent and the Grenadines is a small island nation in the Caribbean that has faced a number of challenges in the past decade. The nation has a population growth rate of negative 0.31 percent and approximately 15 percent of the total population was unemployed in 2008. There are several causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, but most are related to its failing economy and poor education system.

The failure of the banana industry around 2008 pushed much of the population into unemployment or poverty, and the sudden rise of the construction industry has created an income gap. There were very low wages across the country and few job opportunities, leading to a poverty rate of 30.2 percent. The nation needs to focus on better integration into the global economy and on creating a more competitive national economy.

Low education levels has also been one of the larger causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. While there are programs in place, such as the School Meals and Textbooks program, to help low income families educate their children, many poor children still do not attend school everyday. Literacy rates were at 84 percent in 2008, but younger generations did have higher levels than older generations.

Gender inequality with relation to access to education is another of the causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2008, it was reported that nearly 50 percent of women had their first pregnancy between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. It was also noted that the labor market was inherently biased and women needed much higher levels of education to be able to compete with men. Households with a female head tended to be much poorer, and there was no formal legislation to deal with gender discrimination in the workplace.

Strides have been made, however, toward reducing poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In terms of the economy, tourism has become a larger sector and has created more jobs. With increased tourism has come increased construction, and that has also created the need for more labor. In terms of education, in 2000 the government set a number of goals that were to be achieved by 2015. These goals focused on providing good quality and compulsory primary education to all children, but particularly girls and ethnic minorities, and improving literacy rates and access to higher education for both boys and girls.

While there is not a lot of recent data about poverty in the nation, these goals are quite progressive and have shown solid attempts to reduce the causes of poverty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. With continued effort from the government, the small island nation should be able to develop further and improve the quality of life for its citizens.

Liyanga De Silva

Photo: Flickr

A New Model for Education in Developing CountriesIn most developing countries, the majority of children do not finish primary school. For example, only 50 percent complete fifth grade in Ghana, and less than half of them can understand a simple paragraph.

Programs working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals have had great success in increasing school enrollment in developing countries, but many still do not finish school. Obstacles to children completing their education include the difficulty of getting to school and paying for uniforms, books and examination fees.

Another significant factor is the opportunity cost. That is, when a child goes to school instead of working, their family is missing out on an opportunity to bring in extra income. Most of these children will work in agriculture or trade, not in the formal sector. Continuing past primary school does not provide any economic benefit for them or their families.

Education in developing countries tends to adopt traditional western ideals, focusing on literacy, math, social studies and science. For most children, however, these topics are irrelevant to their lives and do not help them improve their real-life circumstances. A new educational model called “school for life” focuses on building the students’ ability to improve their lives. The curriculum focuses on entrepreneurship, health education and empowerment.

Within the realm of entrepreneurship, the curriculum teaches financial management, market analysis and interpersonal skills. Students are also taught how to identify business opportunities and effectively turn them into a revenue stream.

Since many of these children live without access to proper healthcare, teaching them how they can protect their own health is crucial. Many common health issues, such as malaria, dysentery, respiratory infections and nutrition-related illnesses are preventable by simply making small lifestyle changes.

Rote learning dominates education in developing countries, which encourages memorization instead of creativity. The most powerful resource is empowered people, and education systems can unlock this asset for their country with this innovative approach to education. The “school for life” system promotes interactive exercises instead of lectures, so that students have an opportunity to practise desired skills and learn to think critically. For example, students may work on a project to improve the cleanliness of their school. This activity allows students to develop practical skills like planning, collaboration, delegation of tasks and leadership.

A pilot version of the “school for life” curriculum has been adopted in Escuela Nueva in Colombia. If schools switch the focus from improving standardized test scores to empowering students to improve their lives, education can become a powerful tool for lifting people out of poverty.

Kristen Nixon
Photo: Flickr

Afghanistan Is PoorDespite an influx of international aid, 39 percent of Afghans live in poverty, and this number is increasing. A shocking 1.3 million more people are poor in Afghanistan today than in 2012. Why is Afghanistan poor? The country has experienced conflict since the Soviet Union invaded in 1979. Political transitions within the country also cause insecurity. Most households in Afghanistan are not established enough to cope with economic shocks or natural disasters. About 20 percent of Afghans live just above the poverty line and slight economic shocks could drive them into poverty.

One answer to the question ‘why is Afghanistan poor?’ is that the economy is too small for the growing labor force. Many workers are illiterate and looking for low skilled jobs, but there are not enough of these types of jobs. In 2016, Afghanistan’s GDP growth was 1.2 percent. While this was an increase, it is not enough to bring workers out of unemployment. Economists estimate that GDP growth needs to be eight percent to successfully employ the Afghan work force. Unfortunately, continuing conflict and insecurity within the country makes this growth unlikely.

Rural Afghanistan is poor due to its dependence on agriculture and informal labor markets. Low investments and natural disasters have hurt the agriculture market that most Afghans depend on for employment. Natural resources necessary for successful agriculture are lacking in Afghanistan. Compared to its population, there is little farmable land. Precipitation is scarce and there is insufficient irrigation infrastructure. In addition, the country has faced multiple debilitating droughts since 1999.

In rural areas, small-scale farmers and herders, landless people and women who are heads of households bear the largest burden of poverty. Women in Afghanistan face increased inequalities because they have less access to education and health services. A lack of skills or a medical condition can keep women out of the workforce. Widows account for a large population of the poor in Afghanistan. Due to fighting within the country, there may be over one million widows in Afghanistan. Most of these women have children to support. Unfortunately, the patriarchal society excludes them from many social and employment opportunities, so most become beggars.

Many countries and organizations have poured aid into the country. However, it does not seem to be helping. The inequality between the rich and poor in the country is increasing. Much of the aid went to build schools and hospitals, increase public services and repair infrastructure. While these human services are important, the agriculture sector continues to struggle, and rural households don’t have protection from economic shocks. In addition, the government did not always distribute funds fairly throughout the country.

Why is Afghanistan poor? Afghanistan is poor due to continuing shocks to the country, and it is necessary to build programs to insulate households from economic instability.

– Sarah Denning
Photo: Flickr

Education in Morocco
Since Morocco’s independence in 1956, its education system has typically been described as frustrating and disappointing. In recent years, Morocco has made numerous improvements and committed to solidifying the quality of its education system. Here are five facts about education in Morocco.

  1. The academic year begins in September and ends in June. The school system is structured into three separate parts. Primary takes students starting at the age of 6 and educates them until the age of 12. Secondary and tertiary last another three years each. Morocco also offers educational options beyond public schooling with higher learning institutions.
  2. Learning and knowledge are typically measured through literacy, the ability to read and write. Reading and writing are essential to reaching higher levels of education and scoring well on national performance tests. Morocco’s youth have made tremendous strides in increasing their literacy rates. The World Bank reports 95% of youth ages 15-24 years old can effectively read and write. This is an increase from 81.5% in 2011.
  3. Men in Morocco currently dominate the gross enrollment ratio for primary, secondary and tertiary education systems. The UNESCO chart for secondary education shows that male enrollment exceeded female enrollment by 10.8% in 2012. However, tables for 2015 show a decreased gap in admission ratio for primary and tertiary education.
  4. Public spending on education has been significantly rising in Morocco. According to the OCP Policy Center, government spending on education in 2014 was about 5.9% of GDP and 21.3% of total government spending. Since 2002, payments have been increasing by more than 5% per year almost every year. One analysis from the International Monetary Fund confirms a more organized use of this money has the potential to lead standardized test scores to increase by 53 points.
  5. Morocco suffers from low-quality education as reflected in performance indicators. In a 2014 update completed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Morocco ranks in the thirtieth percentile for learning compared to other countries. The most recent PIRLS and TIMSS assessment results for 2011 showcase just how poor Morocco’s performance is. Test results reveal Morocco ranks second to last in math and last in reading compared to the 36 countries participating.

The good news is that experts and policymakers have fully recognized the remaining barriers for education in Morocco. A way forward has also been identified through their 2015-2030 Vision for Education in Morocco. The plan will address previous failures by targeting four specific areas including the priority for quality education. The country has already partnered with the USAID to make some of these goals a reality. So far 12,000 students have been reached with a new reading method and over 340 teachers have been trained on new reading instruction.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

Education in Peru Rural AreasFrom the mountains to the ocean, Peru is a diverse country, housing some citizens in highly populated cities and others in the most rural locations. While education in Peru has expanded, rural inhabitants do not always have equal access.

Children in Peru are required to be enrolled in school until age 16. After secondary school, however, student enrollment numbers begin to dwindle. As the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported in 2010, primary schools have the highest percentage of children enrolled. From primary school to tertiary school, enrollment rates decline about 50%. Despite this decline, 94% of Peruvian adults are literate, which is higher than the world median.

Education in Peru: Urban vs Rural

Children in urban areas have the easiest access to education in Peru. Those living in the Andes, Sacred Valley and other rural areas, however, struggle to reach education levels similar to those of their urban peers. These children are more likely to drop out of school due to family labor responsibilities. As recorded in the CIA World Factbook, of the 2.5 million children in Peru approximately 865,600 children are in the labor force. School life expectancy, or the number of years an individual is expected to spend in school assuming a constant enrollment rate, is 13 years for citizens of Peru.

Rural students’ school experience differs from that of their urban counterparts, as they have to walk several hours a day to get to school in nearby urban areas. Sometimes rural areas have schools, but these schools frequently do not have the resources or support to educate students at different levels. Instead, students of all ages sit in one classroom, making uniform curriculum development a difficult task.

Teachers are being trained to educate rural students under yearly contracts. This training can be challenging, as most rural students do not know Spanish. Teachers have to learn Quechua, the native language of many rural students. Rural and urban teachers alike are faced with an inadequate hierarchy system. Teachers often do not know whether they will be teaching until a week before classes begin, eliminating the ability to plan ahead. These teachers are also unable to get necessary resources, fear being fired and are paid very little.

To overcome these obstacles, Peru’s Ministry of Education developed the Alternate Education for Rural Development program. Since 2002, this project has assisted nearly 3,000 young children in 40 rural schools and 11 regions. The program has been successfully accommodating rural students, as shown in 2012 when about 50% of students were enrolled in tertiary school and close to 70% were simultaneously working.

Other organizations are improving education in Peru as well. Unearth the World (UTW) works with nonprofit organizations in Peru to help provide women, children and teens living in poverty with proper education services. Peruvian Hearts helps Peruvian girls attend secondary school and college by offering scholarships ranging from $500 to $6000 per year.

Kristen Guyler

Photo: Flickr

Education in Yemen
On August 13, 2016, a Saudi-led airstrike killed 10 children at a school in the country’s northern region, and all were under the age of 15. Unfortunately, children in Yemen have become accustomed to this fallout from the civil war that has raged within their country since March of 2015. Currently, education in Yemen has become a crucial subject for the country’s youth, who struggle to continue learning despite the war surrounding them.

Here are some features of what education in Yemen looks like for millions of children today:

  1. On any given day, the number of children in Yemen who miss out on school exceeds 2 million. Reasons range from lack of textbooks and chairs to the destruction and militarization of school buildings.
  2. Children in Yemen often face grave danger both in and out of class. Students have been killed on their way to school as well as while attending classes, raising questions within families as to the safety of pursuing education.
  3. Staying home, however, raises further concerns. The fear of child recruitment is very real — children as young as eight have been counted by the U.N. as some of 1,200 enlisted to fight in the conflict. Education proves an effective tool for keeping children from the violent arms of war.
  4. According to the U.N., more than 3,600 schools have closed in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015. Bombings destroyed many of these buildings, while many others are now used as training facilities for military forces. UNICEF currently estimates that it needs $34 million for its Back-to-School campaign to help rebuild Yemen’s education system, which includes building restoration, training, textbooks and provisions.
  5. In the 14 years leading up to the conflict, education in Yemen saw an incredible period of growth and improvement. Yemen’s enrollment rate rose from 71.3 percent to 97.5 percent during this time, an incredible stride, according to The World Bank.
  6. In July 2015, UNICEF and Yemen’s Ministry of Education trained 50 teachers and social workers to help children deal with the psychological fallout of living in the country torn apart by civil war. Specialized training in psychosocial approaches offers a healing hand to children growing up in war zones and helps equip them with the tools to deal with the violence.

In the midst of such difficult times, both teachers and students have proven that education in Yemen is a valuable thing. Although a large number of children currently struggle to find ways to learn, their path is becoming increasingly clear due to the hard work and resolution of educators in their country.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

Current Education in Kyrgyzstan
Many formerly Soviet-controlled nations struggle to this day to bolster strong national institutions and free compulsory education. Kyrgyzstan has proved one of the most difficult to satisfactorily supply.

Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Kyrgyzstan’s economy and industry were regulated by Moscow. Since Soviet disbandment, the nation has painstakingly transitioned toward a free market economy, which has had severe effects on the economy. Economic and governmental instability of Kyrgyzstan over the past 25 years leave 41 percent of the population below the poverty line, with many living on less than two dollars per day.

Kyrgyzstan’s challenging post-Soviet renovation undermined the nation’s education system. With more and more families slipping into poverty, many required every household member to work and contribute to sustaining the family, and schooling became a kind of luxury. Simultaneously, the staggering government could ill afford to provide effective educational benefits. With limited resources, the government reduced compulsory education to nine years and passed on the responsibility of funding schools to local governments and parents.

Poor access to education in Kyrgyzstan impedes the restoration of the educational system. Costs of schooling continue to rise while educational quality remains quite low. School infrastructures are deteriorating, discouraging students from attending and the cost of mandatory uniforms for primary school students deters poorer families from participating at all.

Teachers in Kyrgyzstan are underpaid and poorly trained, and with a student to teacher ratio of one to twenty-four, they are likewise over-burdened. The result is a student body that remarkably underperforms in science, mathematics and reading.

As concerns educational equity, there are hardly discernable discrepancies between boys and girls in school. However, the incongruities between urban and rural students are highly problematic. The difference is most drastic in pre-primary and secondary school students; about three times as many urban students attend pre-primary and secondary school than their rural counterparts.

After Kyrgyzstan gained independence in the 90’s, almost 75 percent of pre-primary schools closed for lack of funding, and to this day less than 25 percent of students benefit from early learning institutions. This lack of early education has exacerbated the low performance in attendance of primary schools in Kyrgyzstan, for early childhood stimulation enhances the intellectual and social development necessary to succeed in school.

Since 2015, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic have worked to address the severe dearth of pre-primary and early learning schools throughout the country. Throughout the nation’s rural and underprivileged communities, 17 new kindergartens servicing more than 1,000 children have opened. These new facilities will be essential to expanding school readiness to rural Kyrgyzstan.

The World Bank has also implemented a project to improve the current education in Kyrgyzstan called Sector Support for Education Reform. The $16.5 million program will improve the management and accountability of schools, enhance teacher training and make Kyrgyz students better learners. By its conclusion in 2018, the plan should “reduce poverty, promote economic growth, and encourage a better quality of life.”

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

Global Education
Macroeconomist and Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs has been hailed by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential world leaders of our time. Best known for his New York Times Bestseller “The End of Poverty,” Sachs recently published a statistically rich article on Project Syndicate calling for the U.S. to increase its support for global education.

Sachs is currently the director of the U.N. Sustainability Development Solutions Network. Sachs once optimistically claimed, “extreme poverty can be ended not in the time of our grandchildren, but in our time.” His call for increasing access to global education is expressed primarily in tandem with his focus on meeting the U.N. Sustainability Goals by 2030.

A Global Fund for Education (GFE), a coalition that would bring together wealthy countries to collaboratively provide financial assistance to countries that need it the most is, for Sachs, the essential key to doing so. Yet, Sachs’ presents startling statistics representing an enormous imbalance in U.S. priorities and an overt militarization in its defense strategy. Moreover, the numbers signal the United States’ negligence. in pursuing a successful strategy towards eradicating poverty.

According to Sachs, roughly $1 billion per year is spent on supporting global education where approximately $900 billion is spent on military-related programs. These military programs included in the sum constitute the Pentagon, CIA, Homeland Security, nuclear weapons systems and veterans’ programs.

Sachs claims that an extra $45 billion per year would guarantee children access to education, one that would allow them to be literate, and minimize risk from joining gangs, drug traffickers and jihadists — all elements that encourage a more dangerous global terrain.

In another article published on Project Syndicate, Financing Health and Education for All, Sachs claims that if the U.S. followed in the footsteps of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom in supporting health and education, the U.S. could add roughly $90 billion per year to global funding. The extra $45 billion per year then, would offer an easy and complete fix to the eradication of poverty by 2030.

The U.S. could also utilize $90 billion of the $900 billion allocated to military projects towards development aid. These steps would promote the U.S.’s national security as well as give the 200 million children currently out of school the opportunity to become literate and contribute to their own country’s economies.

The Global Fund for Education, if implemented, would allow low-income countries to submit proposals for support where if approved would receive both financial funds and monitoring of its implementation.

Bolstering educational systems and the world’s youth in an increasingly knowledge-based economy will increase the U.S.’s national security and alleviate poverty by 2030. Sachs’ optimism then is not misplaced — so long as the U.S. as well as other wealthy countries reform their strategies.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

Education Crisis
Finding a home, food and an income aren’t the only circumstances refugees must concern themselves with. There is currently an education crisis within the refugee communities worldwide. The UNHCR recently published its new report, Missing Out: Refugee Education Crisis. The report calls attention to the disheartening rates at which refugee children and adolescents are struggling to receive a proper education.

The detailed report reveals statistics like just 1% of refugees attend university, compared to a global average of 34%. This fact alone conveys the message that major work needs to be accomplished to give these children the chance to excel in a life that was supposed to be better than where they were prior to obtaining refugee status.

According to the UNHCR report, 1.75 million refugee children are not in primary school and 1.95 million refugee adolescents are not in secondary school. Although these numbers are alarming the report could not have come at a better time. Sept. 19 marks the date of the Summit for Refugee and Migrants, which means this topic will need to be addressed. Hopefully, education for refugees will no longer take a back seat as a major problem when discussing refugee situations.

With the world watching, the UNHCR has put pressure on world powers and will be asking for support for the international community, humanitarian agencies and private sectors in order to rectify the situation. The report calls attention to how marginalized refugee children are in the academic arena, accessibility to education is too difficult for them.

Turkey is the country hosting the most Syrian refugees where only 13% of lower-secondary age adolescents are enrolled in school. That number is extremely low on its own; when placed alongside the 84% of adolescents enrolled in school worldwide, it becomes even more stark.

The UNHCR began the hashtag #WithRefugees in order to remind world leaders that all refugee children need access to formal education. The report also decided to reveal some of the refugees who were able to claw their way out and now are doing everything possible to provide aid on the heels of refugee education. It concluded the report with the story of Nawa, a Somali refugee who initially began any education at 16 in a community learning center in Malaysia. Four years later she is about to begin a foundation course at university while volunteering at her school as a teacher.

This proves that investing in education creates a generation filled with compassionate beings who understand the atrocities of war and displacement, who will do everything to prevent other children from living through that. Addressing the refugee education crisis is of the utmost importance to progress as a global community.

Mariana Camacho

Photo: Flickr