Information and stories on education.

Schools for Africa InitiativeImplemented in 2004, the Schools for Africa initiative is a unified effort among organizations such as UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Hamburg Society. The program specifically aims to improve access to education for the most marginalized and disadvantaged children in Africa as a means of promoting social and economic mobility through learning. Schools for Africa helps Africa advance by increasing access to “quality education in 21 countries across Africa.” Since education reduces poverty, the Schools for Africa initiative provides benefits that are far-reaching.

Supporting Education in Africa

The education initiative prioritizes fundamental elements of educational standards and accessibility in countries such as Angola, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe by funding improvements to the existing education system. Specifically, the initiative aims to construct and restore almost 1,000 schools. Furthermore, the initiative prioritizes training 100,000 teachers and supplying educational resources to schools.

The initiative also ensures clean drinking water for children and gender-separate bathrooms for students. Schools for Africa prioritizes the education of vulnerable students such as orphans, girls and extremely impoverished children. The program knocks down barriers to education, such as scarcity of economic resources, and helps lessen economic gaps throughout Africa.

Other Supporters of Schools for Africa

Organizations such as the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International have supported the Schools for Africa initiative, spreading awareness about the importance of education for children and fundraising for the cause. The Society views its contribution to the program as a critical step in fostering an inclusive and safe atmosphere for children who are particularly vulnerable, such as impoverished children and those without parents.

In 2008, the UNICEF Office for Croatia joined the Schools for Africa program, prioritizing educational improvement in Croatia by working with “kindergartens, schools and centers for education all over Croatia.” Croatia also aims to improve educational access across Africa. The UNICEF Office for Croatia and Croatian communities garnered more than six million Croatian kunas “for the education of children in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.”

Education for Poverty Reduction

In many African countries, natural disasters, insufficient infrastructure and a lack of professional training for teaching staff contribute to low school attendance for many children. For example, only a third of the teaching staff in Madagascar have adequate training. Furthermore, the Madagascan school attendance rate is exceptionally low in contrast to more developed countries. Now more than ever, it is important to acknowledge the economic inequity that correlates with low school attendance. Supporting the Schools for Africa initiative shows a commitment to reducing poverty in Africa since education and poverty are interlinked.

The Schools for Africa Initiative is now able to reach more than 30 million children. The efforts of the initiative ensure that children possess the skills and knowledge to advance and prosper in their lives ahead. Through education, children are empowered and cycles of poverty are broken.

– Kristen Quinonez
Photo: Flickr

disparities in Education in NigeriaNigeria has struggled with a weak education system for decades. Of the total number of children not in school worldwide, 20% of them live in Nigeria. Essentially, one in five children out of school resides in Nigeria. Girls make up a large percentage of children not in school. In Northern Nigeria, less than half of all girls actually attend school. COVID-19 has served to highlight the disparities in education in Nigeria.

COVID-19 Sheds Light on Inequalities

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of children not attending school in Nigeria stood at around 13 million. This number doubled to 36 million as schools closed and children were forced to stay home. A large portion of these children were girls. Many girls and children living in rural areas of Nigeria had difficulties accessing education during the pandemic. Even though the government implemented remote learning plans via radio and television, barriers still presented themselves.

Many students, especially those in rural areas, do not have access to electricity or technology, and therefore, could not access education at all. While more affluent families could continue connecting to education online, those without access were unable to learn for a prolonged period of time, setting them behind the rest of their classmates. While it has always been clear that disparities in education in Nigeria require improvement, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a greater desire for change.

How Improving Education Alleviates Poverty

There is a direct link between education and poverty, indicating how improving education in Nigeria can help the economic growth of the country while helping citizens rise out of poverty. When children are educated, they develop the skills and knowledge that can help them secure well-paying jobs in the future.

Furthermore, poverty is a cycle, and, a lack of access to education perpetuates that cycle. Oftentimes, parents are unable to send their children to school due to the unaffordable secondary costs of schooling. Even when school itself is free, textbooks and uniforms warrant costs that families simply cannot afford to pay. Uneducated children are unable to break cycles of poverty, meaning the next generation will most likely continue the cycle of poverty too.

Additionally, education reduces gender equality disparities. Educated girls are able to attain financial independence, reducing poverty for themselves and their communities. Educated women are also more likely to prioritize the education of their children. According to Global Citizen, If all adults completed secondary education, 420 million people could rise above the poverty line. This is due to the fact that education increases yearly earnings by 10% with each added year of education.

Latest Grant for Improving Education in Nigeria

The international community is working to help improve Nigeria’s education system with renewed vigor due to the intensified disparities caused by the pandemic. UNICEF allocated $20 million for the 2020-2022 period to support the education of children in Nigeria during COVID-19. The goals of the grant include four components:

  1. Supporting children affected by conflict. This goal involves building 100 temporary places for learning and rebuilding or creating 100 schools. It also includes creating more “gender-responsive” hygiene amenities and “promoting inclusive and gender-responsive enrollments in 18 local government areas across three states.” Furthermore, the grant aims to provide learning resources for 500,000 students. Roughly “100,000 conflict-affected children” will receive mental support services and 500 community leaders will be educated on protecting children’s rights.
  2. Improving the government’s role in education, especially in emergencies. This includes “budgeting, planning, implementation, monitoring and reporting.”
  3. Improving teacher preparation. This entails helping 28,000 teachers gain their teaching certification. A “teacher recruitment system” will be established and teachers will receive ongoing training to learn “Teaching at the Right Level.” A proper education assessment system will help monitor progress in schools.
  4. Improving the schools’ ability to support education for children affected by conflict. This involves “establishing and developing capacities of 300 school-based management committees on gender equity and gender-based violence” and promoting inclusivity of disabled students. Education plans should be conflict-sensitive to accommodate such children.

The Road Ahead

Education and poverty strongly correlate. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened inequality worldwide, exacerbating poverty and increasing the number of children out of school, especially in developing countries like Nigeria. To eliminate disparities in education in Nigeria, greater measures must be implemented to overcome inequalities and ensure the country’s education system is better equipped to handle unprecedented circumstances in the future. With grants from supporting organizations like UNICEF, education in Nigeria can improve.

– Alessandra Heitmann
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in GhanaA sign reading “Property of EEPD Africa” stands prominently in an otherwise empty plot not far from Accra, the capital city of Ghana. The land it sits on, covered in native shrubs and grasses, may one day be home to an innovative new school designed specifically with disabilities in mind. For now, it serves as a reminder of a dream that is yet to come to fruition — reducing the ties between disability and poverty in Ghana.

EEPD Africa

Enlightening and Empowering People with Disabilities in Africa (EEPD Africa), is one of many organizations in Ghana that advocates for and provides assistance to people with disabilities. Started in 2012 by Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie, a survivor of polio, EEPD Africa works to analyze and support legislation related to disability and accessibility.

Alongside this work, Komabu-Pomeyie has included another project into the EEPD, one that lies close to her heart. The dream of building an accessible school comes from her own experience as a child with a disability. For her, education is crucial. “If I had not been able to be in school, I don’t think you would even know me,” Komabu-Pomeyie states in an interview with The Borgen Project. “I would have been on the streets begging.”

Disability and Poverty in Ghana

Around the world, people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable in their communities. More than 700,000 individuals in Ghana have a disability and households that include a person with a disability experience poverty at more than 10% the rate of other households.

People with disabilities face barriers to education, employment and healthcare. This lack of accessibility means that many are unable to take part in formal society and often have to resort to begging for money and food. “There are a lot of people with disabilities on the street right now,” Komabu-Pomeyie says. “You will see them lined up in traffic, they go from car to car begging.” Poverty is especially hard on children with disabilities, who may not have equal access to schooling. People with disabilities may also be unable to afford the medications needed to manage their conditions, which can have tragic consequences.

Another part of disability and poverty in Ghana is the stigma that is often attached to having a disability. Many families in Ghana keep relatives with disabilities inside their homes, hidden from their communities. This limits access to society for people with disabilities in Ghana. Komabu-Pomeyie recalls how her father saw her disability as a source of shame. This eventually led him to abandon her and her mother. “One day he just woke up and wrote on a paper and put it on the table for my mom: “I can’t live with this thing,” Komabu-Pomeyie reiterates her father’s words.

Disability Advocacy in Ghana

Disability advocacy groups are battling stigma in Ghana, often helmed by people with disabilities. One of the earliest advocacy groups, the Ghana Society for the Blind, was founded in 1951. Other organizations soon followed.

In 1987, the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations was created to facilitate collaboration between different disabled communities. This overarching group currently has seven primary organizations as members, including associations for the blind, deaf, physically disabled and those who have neurological and immunological conditions. These organizations raise awareness about disabilities and create opportunities for people to access medical care, education and employment. These efforts provide a vital lifeline for people experiencing disability and poverty in Ghana.

One of the biggest achievements advocates have seen is the passing of the Disabled Persons Act in 2006, which makes it illegal to discriminate against or exploit a person based on disability. The act also puts government supports in place to improve the accessibility of infrastructure, education and employment.

The enforcement of these protections is now a primary goal for advocacy groups. In spite of the law, in many places, children are still turned away from schools because of a disability. Advocacy organizations still have to step up to ensure the child’s right to an education. “The bigger challenge we have in Ghana is implementation or enforcement,” Komabu-Pomeyie says.

Inclusive Education

Komabu-Pomeyie’s belief in the importance of education in addressing disability and poverty in Ghana comes from her own experience. Her mother, a school librarian, would carry her to school every day where she would learn underneath her table. This devotion to her education inspired Komabu-Pomeyie, who eventually earned her doctorate despite the painful and dehumanizing challenges she faced. “When you see me, beautiful, sitting here today, I went through a whole lot of pain,” Komabu-Pomeyie says. “That pain is what I don’t want any child with disabilities to go through.”

The experience fuels her motivation to build an inclusive and accessible school for children with disabilities. Having worked with the Ghana Education Service, Komabu-Pomeyie has the knowledge and connections necessary. She completed the plans for the school and purchased the land with community support. Funding, however, remains an obstacle. The project is estimated to cost $200,000, but less than $500 has been raised. Despite having land and community support, a lack of finances presents a significant barrier.

Komabu-Pomeyie remains determined to complete the school and help children with disabilities access inclusive education with the accommodations that they require. Disability and poverty in Ghana is a complex issue, but it is one that organizations and individuals are working tirelessly to address.

– Nicole Ronchetti
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Children In Tanzania In 2016, estimates determined that three out of every four children in Tanzania experience poverty or are underprivileged. This means that most children in Tanzania do not experience high-quality living conditions. For example, children in Tanzania frequently lack access to healthcare, education and basic necessities such as food, water and shelter. They may also experience domestic violence.

Of adolescents, the age group hit the hardest are those aged 5-13. In this age group, 73% of children experience deprivation in three or more dimensions. Dimensions are categories that classify different types of poverty. These dimensions are sanitation, protection, housing and education. Poor access to sanitation affects this age group the most (77%) followed by limited protection, housing and education, all lying in the high 60% range.

The Future Stars Academy (FSA)

Future Stars Academy (FSA) is a nonprofit organization that began in 2009 and works out of Arusha, Tanzania. In 2019, the organization had 200 members and saw its members’ school attendance increase by 15%. FSA prioritizes education with the understanding that education is a way out of poverty.

FSA makes an impact by combining a passion for sports with a strict education policy. Education is one of the most important factors in ending global poverty. Education leads to outcomes that positively impact poverty. Some of these outcomes include economic growth, lower income inequality, reduced infant and maternal deaths, decreased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and reduced violence at home and in society.

Many people all over the world support and participate in soccer, sometimes referred to as football. For FSA, soccer is a way for underprivileged children to develop mentally and physically, giving them the opportunity to live sustainable and healthy lives. The organization believes that soccer can inspire underprivileged children and help them develop into productive citizens with the opportunity to escape poverty. The organization focuses on three core activities: training, education and competition. It works with children aged 6-20, targeting the age group hit hardest by child poverty.

FSA gives youth the opportunity to refine their soccer skills and compete competitively at a certain level. This gives children something to strive for and encourages healthy lifestyles in order for participants to succeed in the sport. Coaches at FSA use the children’s passion for soccer to hone in on other important life skills and values such as teamwork, dedication, discipline and confidence.

FSA’s Success

For FSA, the combination of fun and education has, so far, been successful. The policy of “No school – No play” keeps children in Tanzania on track to progressing toward a better life. The FSA has provided dozens of senior players with the opportunity to play for top tier soccer teams or earn coaching positions where they then have the ability to help children in similar situations.

Education is an extremely important tool for reducing rates of poverty in Tanzania. Many organizations, such as UNICEF, believe that instilling education at a young age is the most effective way for it to be a tool in helping underprivileged children escape poverty. FSA is one of many organizations working to promote the importance of education for children in Tanzania.

– Haleigh Kierman
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Art School in KenyaThe Mobile Art School in Kenya (MASK) is an award-winning school that provides fine arts education to children in Kenya. In a place where arts education is often neglected, MASK demonstrates how an education focused on creativity and innovation brings more economic opportunity to students. MASK instills critical values like empathy and peace in its students and encourages continued development in Kenyan culture.

The Origin Story of MASK

MASK was founded by Alla Tkachuk in 2007. Trained as a scientist but at heart an artist, Tkachuk moved to London from Russia years before to follow her dream of working in the arts. In 2006, Tkachuk spent three weeks on the Kenyan-Tanzanian border on a painting trip. During her time there, she connected deeply with the people through the universal language of art. She began to wonder what she could do to give back to a community that had been so kind to her.

Tkachuk began hosting a simple painting workshop for children in the village. After a few more workshops, the headmaster of the local school came to Tkachuk with great excitement about her program. Tkachuk then realized that arts was not regularly taught in the region and this deeply troubled her.

After consulting with non-governmental organizations, local schools and teachers, Tkachuk established the Mobile Art School in Kenya in 2007. The program travels from one school to another in rural Kenya, bringing art supplies and a passion for the cause with it.

The Growth of MASK

As MASK became more popular, the program was able to expand. Soon after the school’s start, Tkachuk and her team hosted workshops for teachers in more than 25 schools, supported by Kenyan education authorities. In 2013, with the support of the national press and the Kenyan government, the MASK Awards was developed in hopes of further fostering creativity in students nationwide. These awards are open to all young people in the country and include prizes such as paid internships. Winning artists also get the opportunity to have their work exhibited at London’s Saatchi Gallery and at the U.S. Library of Congress, among other locations.

MASK’s Programs

The Mobile Art School in Kenya has two main programs: Creativity Clubs for children aged 7 to 12 and Creativity for Entrepreneurship and Leadership (CEL) for students aged 16 to 21. Creativity Clubs focus on fun, simple art. The program aims to help children harness their creativity and teaches them how to observe, analyze and connect ideas through creative outlets.

CEL is more practical. It aims to use creativity to train students with skills that will prepare them for the working world. The course focuses on entrepreneurial and leadership skills, teaching students creative problem-solving abilities. After completing this course, students are eligible to be part of the Creative Workforce Project at MASK, an initiative that helps students secure paid internships to kickstart their careers.

MASK’s Impacts

Brittany Glenn, a student at the University of London’s Institute of Education, conducted a case study on the Mobile Art School in Kenya to analyze the importance of arts education in lifting people out of poverty. She found that for many, MASK was an introduction to the fine arts. The program instilled values of peace and empathy and also encouraged cultural appreciation and preservation.

Further, arts education is a critical part of career success. MASK boasts many successful students in various fields who all benefited from the creative problem-solving skills that the program instilled in them. One MASK student, Hellen, came from a remote village in Kenya and now works as a chemist. Her time with the Creativity Clubs and her experience as a MASK volunteer provided her with the critical thinking skills she needed to succeed in college. Hellen even “invented a new domestic poison from a local plant” while studying, which her college planned to patent.

Hellen is only one of the many success stories from the Mobile Art School in Kenya, illustrating how fine arts education can bring people out of poverty and help them flourish.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

Improve Girls' Education in NigeriaFor women in Nigeria, education is a privilege because not all of them have access to it. Some people in Nigeria see education as a commodity and there are many children currently out of school. The Malala Fund estimates that 30% of girls aged 9-12 in Nigeria have never been to school. The children who are in school are more likely to be male. Some families have faced violence for sending their daughters to school. Nigeria faces several challenges in education but organizations are fighting to improve girls’ education in Nigeria.

Fears of Retaliation

In 2018, 13.2 million Nigerian children were out of school and 60% of them were girls. At the time, this was the highest number in the world. Many parents cannot afford to send their children to school and often do not have access to transportation. Free primary education helps, but it is not enough. Others fear retaliation from sending their daughters to school. In 2018, Boko Haram abducted 110 schoolgirls as a message to parents. Boko Haram was very vocal when speaking out against Western education.

In 2021, Boko Haram still controls much of the northeastern part of Nigeria. Boko Haram has a distaste for Western education. In fact, the Islamist militant group’s name loosely translates to “western education is forbidden.” The 2018 kidnapping of 110 schoolgirls was not the group’s first attempt to stop girls’ education in Nigeria. Almost seven years ago, Boko Haram “took 276 girls from their school in Chibok in northeast Nigeria.” Many of these girls are still missing. Inciting fear is one of the ways Boko Haram keeps parents from sending their daughters to school.

Societal Norms

Girls accounted for 60% of children out of school in Nigeria. Poverty, child marriage, societal norms and violence are some of the reasons this rate is so high. Some of these girls had never been to school at all. Not seeing the value in sending their daughters to school if students are not receiving a quality education, families frequently marry girls off instead. Girls’ education in Nigeria has societal impacts as well. When girls have a secondary education, child mortality rates drop, child marriage rates decline and the lifetime earnings of girls increase. These positive outcomes help better society.

Ties With Poverty

One can also tie the lack of girls’ education in Nigeria to its poverty rate. In 2019, the poverty rate in Nigeria was 40% of the population, which equaled roughly 83 million people living below the poverty line. Northern Nigeria has low-quality education, which often means girls often do not get the education they need to thrive.

Period poverty is another factor that has impacted girls’ education in Nigeria over the years. Not being able to afford menstrual products has discouraged girls from going to school when menstruating. Menstrual products are a luxury that many cannot afford. Period poverty leads to many girls and women skipping work or school. Poor menstrual hygiene can lead to urinary tract infections and period poverty can cause depression or anxiety. All these factors can affect a girl’s education.

Previous Projects to Improve Girls’ Education in Nigeria

The Girls’ Education Project initially began in Nigeria in 2004. The focus was on supporting the Nigerian government in its efforts to achieve universal basic and primary education. A subsection of the project was the Girls’ Education Project 3 Cash Transfer Programme. Nigeria implemented it from 2014 to 2016 to improve girls’ education in Nigeria. The program mitigated the impact poverty had on girls’ enrollment in school. Through this program, social and economic opportunities for girls increased. More girls in Nigeria also completed basic education.

In 2020, UNICEF in Nigeria received a grant of $140,000. The grant went toward an online digital platform and strengthening states’ radio and television education programs as well as providing activity books, worksheets and assessment cards. The aid came amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a major impact on the education of children. UNICEF also provides “psychosocial support to children and teachers” and secures wash and hygiene resources for schools.

Today’s Efforts

UNICEF has implemented a program that aims to give all children access to quality education in a safe learning environment. This will take time, but its goal is to help the government achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The key areas of focus for the program are access, learning and skills for emergencies and fragile contexts.

This means providing “gender-equitable access to quality education from a young age, quality learning outcomes and skills development and improved learning and protection for children in emergencies and on the move.” In 2021, 60 million schoolchildren gained access to primary or secondary education.

UNICEF has also established a girls’ education program that focuses on gender equality in education. By giving girls access to a safe education, inequality is reduced, allowing girls to reach their full potential. UNICEF helps governments and schools eliminate gender gaps in education, focusing on teacher training and removing gender stereotypes from learning materials. With help from organizations such as UNICEF, girls’ education in Nigeria will soon become commonplace.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

Access to Education in PalestineAmid the escalating Israel-Palestine conflict, there remains a generation of Palestinian children denied access to traditional education. Despite immense adversity, education remains an important priority in Palestinian society. Education is, in part, a mode of sustaining Palestine’s unique culture amid exile and foreign occupation. More than 95% of children are enrolled in basic education across Palestine. While impressive, this statistic obscures the tribulations and barriers that Palestinian youth experience in their educational journeys. Both males and those with disabilities are at a disproportionately higher rate of not completing their education with 25% of boys dropping out of school by age 15. Equally concerning, is that “22.5% of boys and 30% of girls aged 6-15 years with a disability have never enrolled in school.” International aid organizations are committed to improving access to education in Palestine.

Low School Completion Rates

Low rates of school completion are inherently tied to Palestine’s failing job market. The economy is crippled by decades of sanctions and isolationism. Currently, youth unemployment rates are 40% in the West Bank and 62% in Gaza. Simply, many young Palestinians do not see the incentive in completing their education if it will not guarantee them job opportunities.

For the Palestinian education system to thrive, the state’s circulation of job opportunities needs to be drastically improved. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) offers a technical and vocational training program to Palestinian refugee youth to help them gain skills for the Middle Eastern job sector. The UNRWA runs eight centers with a capacity for about 7,500 students. Furthermore, UNICEF works on “life-skills and entrepreneurship skills programs for adolescents to support their future employment.”

Influence of West Bank Violence on Education

Violent episodes of conflict along the West Bank and Gaza Strip hinder education in Palestine. Due to the crisis in the region, almost half a million children in Palestine require humanitarian assistance. The closure of the Gaza Strip and its accompanying physical access restrictions vehemently infringe upon the liberties and learning potential of young Palestinians. Having to regularly pass by military checkpoints and settlements on the way to school has untold psychological effects on Palestinian youth. Even at home, almost 90% “of children are subjected to psychological aggression” and 74% are physically punished.

Organizations such as UNICEF fight to create violence-free environments across Palestine. “It is our collective duty to protect every child on the journey to school and at school and to ensure that they can access the quality education which is the right of every child, everywhere,” says Genevieve Boutin, UNICEF special representative in the State of Palestine. She further explains that education is integral to achieving peace.

The Future of Palestinian Education

Still, much remains to be done to improve access to education in Palestine. Across Palestine, classrooms remain immensely overcrowded and underfunded. From a lack of classrooms to textbook shortages, Palestinian students are forced to beat the odds. Sometimes, students must study with no light due to frequent power outages. In fact, the Gaza Strip is only able to garner a meager four to six hours of electricity daily.

It is crucial that the United States and other powerful countries increase their humanitarian assistance and aid to the Palestinian territories. As violence continues to erupt, the U.N. is actively involved in mediation efforts. International organizations must continue targeted development projects in marginalized Palestinian communities. The future of education in Palestine depends on the unity and support of the international community.

Conor Green
Photo: Flickr

Community Development Programs in Togo
Togo, a country located in West Africa, has a population of more than 8.2 million. Since 1998, the country has created many community development programs. Its first Agence d’Appui aux Initiatives de Base (AGAIB), which is a Grassroots Initiative Support Agency, was in the Maritime region. AGAIBs aims to help communities develop more income-generating activities and community infrastructures. In 2001, four more AGAIBS began. Since then, the country has continued establishing different community development programs that target impoverished populations. Here is some information about community development programs in Togo.

Poverty in Togo

The United Nations considers Togo one of the Least Developed Countries (LCD) and a Low Income Food Deficit Country (LIFDC). It is one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2018, more than 50% of the population was living below the poverty line. The government’s National Development Plan for 2018-2022 has aimed to promote social and infrastructure services to reduce poverty and improve the overall quality of life. Although the country has high poverty rates, its economy has continued to grow.

Togo’s Economic Development

In the past five years, Togo’s gross domestic product (GDP) has averaged 5.5% growth. The country’s government has created public investment programs to help alleviate demand. Agricultural production and trade have also contributed to this GDP growth. Agriculture makes up 40% of the GDP and more than 60% of employment in Togo. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic momentum could slow as a result of trade tensions and the threat of security. However, its economy still performed well in 2019 with an estimated GDP growth rate of 5.3%. Economists predict that Togo’s GDP growth rate declined to 1% in 2020. Despite this stunt in economic growth, the government and other global partnerships have helped Togo fund different community development programs to reduce poverty rates.

Community Development Programs Fight Poverty Through Microprojects

A microproject is a small-scale project that looks to improve a specific aspect of life for a targeted population. Togo’s Projet de Développement Communautaire (PDC), which began in 2008, is working to improve access to social services for impoverished populations through microprojects in various communities. Its goal was to fund 350 micro-projects in different sectors, like education and health. This project also sought to develop more income-generating activities. PDC was very successful and many consider it Togo’s first big community development program since 1998. After the 2008 global food crisis, PDC provided solutions, specifically agricultural tools, to help alleviate starvation and improve food security. This community project also provided funding to 233 groups to partake in various economic activities in different impoverished communities. The project officially ended in 2013, but still impacts the country today.

Emphasis on Education

PDC helped fund a school feeding program. In 2018, this project reached 85,000 primary school children in 308 schools. One year later, the project increased its availability by 5%, reaching 91,000 children in 314 schools in 2019. Other community development projects have created school canteen programs. These programs not only employ more citizens but also allow for impoverished children to get an education. At least 36,000 children receive benefits from this program. As a result, dropout rates in primary and secondary education have decreased. Although they focus specifically on education, education-community development projects work to reduce poverty in Togo since increasing education allows for more future economic opportunities.

An Expanded Version of PDC

The Community Development and Social Safety Nets Project (PDCplus) formed in 2012, four years after the initial PDC began. Togo’s government and the World Bank help fund this project that works to improve the social and economic situations of impoverished populations in the country. Its strategy, known as the strategy for accelerated growth and the promotion of employment (SCAPE), worked to increase community participation and involvement in the program’s microprojects.

PDCplus completed its mission in 2017. In total, it created 346 micro-projects to improve social infrastructures, 208 micro-projects to develop more income-generating activities, 305 schools with school canteen programs and 196 school buildings. PDCplus was successful like its predecessor PDC, showing how Togo’s community development programs continue to work to reduce poverty rates in the country. The government has continued developing new projects that are similar to PDC and PDCplus due to their successes. As a result, the country has made progress toward mitigating its poverty levels through similar programs.

The Involvement of Impoverished Communities

These community development programs seek to increase citizen participation, specifically through microprojects that provide training for community members. The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Theresa Davidson, a professor and Sociology Program Director at Samford University. She mainly focused on how participation in these programs could impact how effective they are: “If community development is a process that is led by the people there, it will likely be more effective […] because they know what they need.”

These impoverished populations know how these projects will impact their community. Projects like PDC and PDCplus are so impactful in alleviating poverty since its microprojects worked within these communities and relied on their participation. The active involvement of communities with PDC helped make these community development programs so successful in reducing poverty rates. New projects that the government has created need to continue community participation in order to be as successful as its predecessors.

There are many nonprofit organizations in Togo that seek to expand on the progress that these community development programs made. One nonprofit, Education Leadership Community Development, known as EDULCOD Togo, works to improve quality and accessibility to education for impoverished populations. The mission of this organization echoes outcomes from PDC and PDCplus.

This West African country has created many community development programs. PDC and PDCplus have been its most successful projects. These programs range from microprojects aimed at improving social infrastructure and involvement to improving accessible education and feeding programs. Although it ended more than a decade ago, Togo’s government is continuing to enact similar projects to improve its economy. Overall, the community development programs are reducing poverty rates in Togo.

– Mia Banuelos
Photo: Pixabay

Economic and Educational Disparity
As economic vulnerability is an important risk factor for HIV, economic empowerment projects are becoming an increasingly common measure for HIV prevention and mitigation. Stakeholders are primarily concerned with the effects of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. However, concerted efforts have begun to improve their living conditions by finding sustainable ways to remove economic and educational disparity and improve their economic status.

Connections between economic and educational disparity and HIV status remain complicated. Few studies have linked involvement in economic empowerment methods and HIV outcomes for young women. Therefore, the exploration of effective interventions must go beyond the healthcare sector to further address the linkage between HIV risks and economic and social factors.

Furthermore, strong stigmatization of the disease persists in sub-Saharan Africa in addition to poor awareness of HIV transmission and preventive initiatives. This increases the need to improve HIV-related knowledge in the region for future prevention strategies. Thus far, initiatives to improve HIV-related awareness in sub-Saharan Africa have included a broad range of information-dissemination methods, including the use of means that can easily reach the vulnerable populations, such as mass media or community-based social cohesion methods.

The significant social determinants of HIV require more comprehensive educational interventions. These interventions became designed in light of social- and gender-inequity-based theories. These include social norms theory, the social constructivist theory of gender and the theory of gender and power. Furthermore, approaches focused on behavior theories have undergone wide use in interventions aimed at improving HIV-related knowledge, as experts have found that HIV-education interventions, when combined with behavioral change components, correlate with a higher probability of eventual implementation of preventive behaviors.

The Current Landscape

Implementation issues in HIV-education interventions became neglected. The sub-Saharan region of Africa suffers from a lack of HIV education because this region has the highest rates of education exclusion and the highest out-of-school rates for all age groups in the world. A disproportionate number of young children attend school for a short while and quickly drop out. Around 20% of children from 6 to 11 years old are out of school in addition to 34% of children between 12 and 14 years old. According to UIS, 60% of teenagers from 15 to 17 years old remain unenrolled in school.

These statistics show that HIV-education interventions do not always have wide distribution. This results in few youths receiving education from these programs. Thus, how to deliver effective HIV/AIDS education in sub-Saharan Africa is worth discussing.

Current trends in sub-Saharan Africa indicate that digital education is getting traction even though technological barriers persist. Many perceive digital education as not only a better form of learning but also as a cost-effective way to broaden educational opportunities. The rapidly growing population is exploding with demands for education. Countries are increasingly embracing digital tools to increase access to education and improve educational and social equity.

According to World Bank Education, the learning crisis, which resulted from learning poverty, started long before the COVID-19 pandemic. With the spread of COVID-19, 1.6 billion children and youth are out of school. Thus, it has become more and more urgent to prepare students in low-resource areas for digital learning. This is so they have an opportunity to gain healthcare knowledge, especially the knowledge of COVID-19 treatment and HIV prevention.

Educational Radio Programmes

Educational radio programming can be an excellent tool to keep children from disadvantaged areas engaged in HIV-knowledge acquisition. It enables disadvantaged populations to access the information they need to achieve sustainable development. Many of these radio programs aim to improve regional development. Community radio platforms became promoted to encourage local development. Many villages have limited access to information about education and nutrition. Radio programs allow them to study and improve their living conditions.

UNESCO, which set up multi-collaborations with low-resource countries, stated that these countries rely heavily on the radio (93%) and “the use of radio and television broadcasts as distance learning solutions is a powerful way to bridge the digital divide in the education sector and reach the most marginalized learners.” Previous research and studies have focused on how the radio programs have developed in recent years, but these studies have neglected the application of radio and have rarely directly studied how people use the radio, and specifically how radio platforms can be effective educational tools.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa seek to develop into emerging nations by 2035 and are setting policies and goals. For example, in Cameroon, the government has prioritized Information Communication Technologies (ICT) development in the economic, culture and education domains in all state sectors, with a specific focus on ICT in the education domain. It encouraged programs consisting of agriculture, health and rural and urban development content for a mass audience. Many see radio programming as a way for Cameroon to achieve overall development.

Educational Equity and Digital Learning

Still, a portion of the population in the rural areas – for example, 42% of the population of Cameroon – cannot receive national radio services. Young adolescents in these rural areas are still in a more disadvantaged position than those in urban districts because they are unable to receive important information.

Therefore, policymakers ought to develop a short- or long-term digital learning arrangement and evaluate their systems’ capability to support a digital learning paradigm that incorporates a mixture of technologies and delivery mechanisms. It is also critical for policymakers to collaborate with outside stakeholders such as EdTech companies, local broadcast centers and private radio stations to ensure the accelerated growth of the designated digital learning modality. Dispersing economic and educational disparity should always be the priority among all planning efforts.

Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in MalawiChildren make up more than half of Malawi’s population and many children live in poverty. In 2018, 60.5% of children in Malawi aged 0-17 were considered multi-dimensionally impoverished. Above their necessities, children have a complicated set of socio-economic needs. Child poverty in Malawi has both immediate and long-term consequences for children. They include the deprivation of education, shelter, health assistance and nutrition. These deprivations significantly affect an individual’s ability to rise out of poverty. Organizations such as Save the Children work to meet the needs of children to ensure a better and brighter future.

The 4 Impacts of Child Poverty in Malawi

  1. Deprivation of Education: In Malawi, 87.6% of children do not receive an education. Roughly 85% of adolescents aged 15 to 17 have not finished primary school. Furthermore, “78% of children are two or more grades behind for their age.” In the age range of 15 to 17, 13% of children are illiterate. They cannot read or write in either English or the local language of Chichewa. Educational deprivation disproportionately impacts rural areas. Furthermore, “children whose parents have less than primary school education are more deprived than those with parents who have more than primary school education.”
  2. Deprivation of Nutrition: One of the most serious challenges of child poverty in Malawi is nutrition. Poor diets and infectious diseases wreak havoc on the immune system and may lead to stunted growth. According to UNICEF, “Stunted children are more likely to drop out of school and repeatedly experience lower productivity later in life.” In Malawi, 37% of children are stunted. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of children younger than five years old have anemia. Undernutrition is responsible for 23% of all child deaths in Malawi. Malnutrition is one factor leading to Malawi’s high child mortality rate, with roughly 25% of Malawian children dying before age five.
  3. Shelter Deprivation: Household size, education and work status of the head of the home influence home deprivations among children aged 5 to 14. Roughly 50% of children in Malawi live in homes with insufficient roofs or floors.
  4. Deprivation of Health Assistance: Sufficient access to healthcare is essential to improve a child’s development and well-being. Most impoverished households in Malawi lack access to medical care. This means children receive treatment at home by an unskilled healthcare provider or do not receive treatment at all. The main component to deprivation of healthcare is financial affordability. There is plenty of evidence that low income and high healthcare costs are barriers to access. There are many factors limiting healthcare access such as living in a remote location, long distances to health centers, high travel costs and low educational attainment.

Save the Children in Malawi

Save the Children has helped Malawian children since 1983, ensuring “that children in need are protected, healthy and nourished, educated and live in economically secure households, while helping communities mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS.” In 2019, Save the Children protected more than 84,000 Malawian children from harm and ensured the proper nourishment of more than 170,000 children.

With consistent support, Save the Children can combat child poverty in Malawi. Every action to help an impoverished child strengthens a child’s ability to rise out of poverty and secure a brighter future.

Mary McLean
Photo: Flickr