Information and stories on education.

Education in Kenya​Flying Kites, an organization co-founded by Leila de Bruyne, seeks to improve education in Kenya by focusing on the needs of individual students. The emphasis on individual students stems from de Bruyne’s experience teaching in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2004, when she identified weak points in the educational system. These include the reality that long-term, highly trained teachers, as well as a focus on the individual child, not just the academic student, were lacking. Since then, the organization has reached 134 teachers and 4,591 students at seven schools across Kenya. Their belief that “education is a path out of poverty” supports their goals to create solutions to widespread poverty, hunger and illiteracy.

Poverty, Hunger and Education in Kenya

​The World Poverty Clock estimates that 11 million Kenyans are living below the poverty line, which is defined as less than $1.09 per day. To provide additional financial support for their families, many Kenyan children forgo education. Of those who do attend school, many are eventually forced to drop out due to financial instability. Only around 40% of children make it through primary school and are enrolled in secondary school.

Gender discrimination is another factor affecting school attendance. A Menstrual Health report found that “one in ten 15-year-old girls are having sex to get money to pay for sanitary ware,” and dropping out of school due to pregnancies or lack of sanitary supplies is common.

Nutrition also impacts attendance. Many students don’t have access to food at home, let alone enough to bring to school for lunch. The Borgen Project spoke with Katie Quinn, the U.S. Director of Operations for Flying Kites, who said, “In Kenya, one in four children suffer from stunting due to chronic undernutrition. Stunting is associated with an underdeveloped brain, causing long-lasting harmful consequences including diminished mental ability and learning capacity.”

With 90% of Kenyan teachers citing hunger as the primary obstacle to student learning, Flying Kites understands that “without access to food at school, hungry students cannot learn.” The organization has since implemented a program that works with families, teachers and schools to provide meals to students across the country in order to encourage health and education in Kenya.

Primary Goals

According to Quinn, Flying Kites aims “to ensure that more vulnerable students in rural Kenya come to school, stay in school, and thrive in school.” It isn’t enough to have students simply attend school. Instead, by upskilling teachers and investing in girls, Flying Kites creates an atmosphere in which they can excel.

  1. Upskilling Teachers: ​The Teacher Training Center and Academy seeks to provide teachers with the support and the skills necessary to increase learning among students. Its programs include year-round ICT training and a digital learning curriculum to encourage the use of technology as a learning tool. The Center and Academy work throughout a network of schools assembled alongside Kenya’s Ministry of Education to spread the wealth of highly trained, capable teachers across schools and communities.
  2. Investing in Girls: ​Girls United is a Flying Kites program designed to support girls and train female teachers to be “advocates for gender equality and agents of change.” G.I.R.L.S. (Guidance, Information, Resources, Leadership and Skill-building) focuses on the whole individual, her needs and her rights within the community. The program supports vulnerable girls, especially those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides them with essential resources such as sanitary pads, allowing them opportunities to discuss important information within their communities and teaching them basic life skills.

Challenges and Successes

The COVID-19 pandemic “illuminated the technology divide” limiting educational opportunities in Kenya and elsewhere. Faced with virtual education and school closures, Flying Kites realized that technology was crucial to equitable student learning outcomes. To mitigate this divide, the organization implemented the KitKit program, a digital and tablet-based early learning solution to bring more students into virtual classrooms.

Yet, in-person education is Flying Kites’ primary goal. In particular, girls mentioned feeling unsafe at home and struggling with being out of school during the pandemic. Additionally, students who were provided with meals at school weren’t receiving the same nourishment at home. Today, Flying Kites is bringing students back for in-person classes after many were forced to return to work to help supplement their families’ incomes during the pandemic.

Transforming “18 schools into food distribution centers to support 6,449 students and their families,” turning a school bus into a library and mobilizing a network of teachers to launch a Remote Learning Program: These are Flying Kites’ major pandemic successes. But their most major success, Quinn says proudly, is getting students back in school and improving education in Kenya.

Partners and Next Steps

​Flying Kites recognizes that there is more to be done to ensure that education is a path out of poverty. The organization partners with several organizations to help spread the word and seek student-centric solutions. Quinn cites two in particular:

  1. ZanaAfrica Foundation: ​This ZanaAfrica Foundation is an “innovative rights-based menstrual and sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) education curriculum” that supports women and girls. Flying Kites joined the foundation amid COVID-19 closures to ensure the health and safety of its female students. Together, they provide resources to women and girls, educate them and train teachers on the SRHR aspects of the curriculum.
  2. Ujamaa (No Means No Worldwide): Ujamaa provides workshops to address sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) in Kenya and across the globe. Flying Kites hopes to continue providing workshops to students, especially those in grades 5-8 since the pandemic resulted in numerous incidents of SGBV.

Looking Ahead

​Flying Kites aspires to promote change with the knowledge that “systemic change requires a holistic, grassroots approach.” By building from the ground up, training teachers, supporting partner organizations and, above all, ensuring the safety and success of the students, Flying Kites works to ensures that education is a path out of poverty by implementing individualized solutions.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

Workforce Training for Kenyan Refugees
Many people have to uproot their entire lives and flee their homelands due to poverty, lack of opportunities, conflict and violence. Even after relocating to a potentially better country, many refugees struggle to assimilate into society because they are unable to obtain stable job opportunities due to a lack of education or skill inadequacy. To help alleviate this issue, the U.N. Refugees Agency (UNHCR) and the computer technology company Oracle are partnering on an information technology workforce training program for Kenyan refugees to upskill and look toward a potential career in the IT sector.

The Refugee Situation in Kenya

With an estimated total of nearly 530,000 refugees currently situated in Kenya, the country is the second-largest refugee-hosting country in Africa after Ethiopia. Somalian refugees comprise 54% of the total refugees in Kenya, followed by Sudanese refugees at 24.6% and Congolese refugees at 9%. South Sudan, the “world’s youngest country,” broke into conflict again in 2013, forcing millions to flee the only home they ever knew because of war, economic distress, disease and hunger. Children comprise nearly 63% of Sudanese refugees.

Civil war has affected Somalia for roughly 30 years, with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the situation in the country. Floods and locust infestations bombarded the country, which has led to poor and unsanitary living conditions, food insecurity, disease and increased crime.

The political situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as violence and disease, caused millions to flee the country in search of a better place to live. The country has seen the second-worst Ebola epidemic ever recorded in history, worsening the living conditions for many in the country and forcing citizens to flee their homes. There are several UNHCR camps in Kenya: Dadaab, Kakuma and a diaspora of camps in the capital, Nairobi. Nearly 44% of all refugees live in Dadaab, 40% reside in Kakuma and 16% reside in Nairobi.

Oracle’s IT Certification Program

With successful completion of the IT workforce training program, refugees gain IT skills on Oracle’s cloud-based technology and a course completion certificate from Oracle University. This qualification will help refugees gain employment within Africa’s growing IT sector.

“As digital transformation gathers pace across Africa, programming skills continue to be in high demand. This training program is designed to help prepare young learners to kickstart a rewarding career in the IT industry, directly empowering the youth in refugee camps to sustain their livelihood,” said Oracle Kenya Country Leader David Bunei.

Amid Africa’s “digital transformation, anyone with programming skills will be extremely vital to the Information and Communications Technology Industry.” IT skills can pave the way to a better future for many Kenyan refugees by helping them secure higher-paying, skilled employment to earn an income and rise out of poverty.

The workforce training program will deliver professional learning courses to the refugee diaspora in Kenya primarily focusing on Oracle Cloud technologies. This will help them develop a solid background in information technology. This program is vital because refugees in Kenya lack professional certification and industry-driven skills. In collaboration with the UNHCR, Zinger Solutions Limited, Oracle’s workforce development partner and a member of Oracle PartnerNetwork will specifically train the refugees on Oracle Cloud technologies.

Empowering Refugees with Skills and Education

Kenyan refugees residing in the diaspora of the Nairobi camps and the Kakuma camp have received training on Java SE8 programming and Java SE8 fundamentals. Java skills can aid in creating apps, building games, coding websites and much more. Overall, Oracle and UNHCR are uniting to address the issue of inadequate skills and education, helping refugees secure job opportunities for a better and brighter future.

Matthew Port Louis
Photo: Flickr

PSRD: Dedicated to Fighting Poverty Among the Specially Abled
Anyone, at any time and anywhere, can fall victim to poverty. However, some factors exist that put some individuals more at risk than others, and disabilities increase the likelihood of families living in poverty. In 2019, 25.9% of disabled people in the United States lived in poverty, more than double the rate for those without disabilities. The specially-abled face higher barriers when trying to find success in their lives and become financially stable. The connection between unemployment and disability remains serious: “half of all working age adults who experience at least one year of poverty have a disability.” In Pakistan, a country where the poverty rate is 5.4%, poverty amongst the specially-abled is significantly higher.

Physical Barriers and Poverty

  1. Health care: One reason for the physically challenged to fall into a state of poverty in Pakistan is the lack of adequate health care. Persons with disabilities are more likely to need extra resources and different types of treatment that are not easily accessible. Health care disparities arise due to societal stigma and a lack of policy changes to provide care that appropriately meets the needs of the specially-abled. There are relatively few advocates in Pakistan who are actively trying to open up more health care options for persons with disabilities. Such environments make it more difficult for poverty-stricken and physically challenged individuals in Pakistan to seek health care.
  2. Employment: The most significant cause of poverty among people with disabilities is the lack of employment opportunities they have. Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011. Pakistani law mandates 2% of hired employees in Pakistani institutions need to be specially-abled individuals, but this law is not always put into practice. For example, a study shows that government departments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in Pakistan, are not meeting the 2% requirement.
  3. Education: Finally, a lack of education is a risk factor for poverty as it prohibits individuals from reaching a level of financial stability. It was found that, while education is accessible for many specially-abled children, rates of actual literacy remain low. More specifically, literacy rates for children with disabilities were much lower than those of their non-disabled peers. Regardless of socioeconomic status and family background, physically challenged students are not receiving the level of education necessary to reach the same standards of comprehension.

PSRD’s Solution

Evidently, many factors lead to the presence of poverty amongst the specially abled. The Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Differently Abled (PSRD) is a nonprofit organization working to bring specially-abled people out of poverty by focusing on health care, employment and education. Based in Lahore, Pakistan, the organization has worked with the population through the following programs:

  1. Vocational Rehabilitation Center: PSRD allows poverty-stricken and differently-abled individuals to maximize vocational skills. With an aim to eradicate the employment difficulties its students face, the center provides loans to jumpstart businesses. Those who receive help are better able to provide for themselves by becoming entrepreneurs and selling their own, handmade products. With their businesses, beneficiaries of the center are more capable of acquiring their own income and successfully support themselves.
  2. PSRD Hospital: In an effort to make health care more accessible for the specially abled, PSRD’s 100-bed orthopedic hospital is one of the largest in Pakistan. It provides specialized services for the needs of those facing physical barriers. The hospital does not refuse any patients and patients receive services at low or no cost depending on their situation.
  3. Orthotic and Prosthetic Center: With limited access to affordable resources, many physically challenged individuals are unable to obtain prosthetics and artificial limbs that ease their day-to-day lives and open up more employment options. PSRD creates customized prosthetics and approximately 3,900 patients have benefited from the center.
  4. PSRD High School: Education plays a large part in the road to employment and a successful future. By focusing on youth who are specially-abled, PSRD hopes to ignite the talent of all students so that they can lead better lives. The school also serves the needs of each of its students by providing therapy programs and making classes accessible for the most underprivileged children. The high school’s ultimate goal is to release the potential in each student and better “integrate” students into society.

People with physical disabilities are far more likely to face poverty than their non-physically disabled counterparts. With health care disabilities, limited employment options and lower high education rates, poverty may be inevitable for many specially-abled individuals. Organizations such as PSRD in Pakistan are working to empower differently-abled persons and provide them with the resources needed to persevere through their challenges and reach their goals. PSRD works to dismantle poverty amongst the specially-abled in Pakistan.

– Mariam Kazmi
Photo: Unsplash

How Can $4 Billion Help Education in Underdeveloped Countries?The 2021 Global Education Summit raised more than $4 billion for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and 19 world governments pledged to allocate a minimum of 20% of their budgets to education. The GPE provides for education in 90 countries and territories, aiming to raise “at least $5 billion over the next five years.” Reaching this goal will allow education in underdeveloped countries to thrive, safeguarding the education of 175 million children and enabling the learning of 88 million additional children by 2025.

The Importance of Education

In developing countries, there is a significant gap in learning and schooling. Roughly 53% of all children in these countries “cannot read and understand a short story by the time they” complete primary education. This rate of learning poverty could potentially rise to 63% without immediate global action. However, despite these statistics, more children are in school globally than ever before.

Equality in education is critical for the development of individuals and societies. Education in underdeveloped countries helps assist with poverty reduction, improving health and gender equality. With education, more people will be able to secure higher-paying, skilled employment and health outcomes will improve across nations. With more girls in school, the rate of global child marriage will reduce.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, education is suffering, but the United States commits to efforts to improve education for all.

How the United States is Helping

In the past, although the U.S. has made efforts to advance global education, considering its status as a global powerhouse, many view these efforts as insufficient. Realizing the need for improvement, the U.S. is advancing its focus on education in underdeveloped countries.

At the recent Global Education Summit, the United States pledged $305 million to the GPE for 2021. The Let Girls Learn Initiative was started in 2015 by former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The initiative invested millions of dollars while partnering with the private sector to improve education for girls in more than 50 countries.

The bipartisan Education for All Act was passed in the House in 2016. The Act ensures that the United States uses its resources to improve global education through programs focusing on literacy skills, mathematics and basic fundamental skills.

The International Basic Education Caucus was launched in 2015 with the ultimate goal of alleviating global poverty through education. Congressman Dave Reichert and Congressman Mike Quigley began this bipartisan caucus with the belief that education is the unrivaled way to promote freedom, peace and stability around the world.

When the United States invests in worldwide learning, it brings benefits not only for other countries but for the U.S. as well. Education can improve global and national security and it can contribute to better global health while providing more economic safety.

What Does This Mean for Poverty?

Education not only provides children with the necessary tools to learn and develop but also has significant impacts on poverty. Education paves the road to successful careers, allowing individuals to earn an income and break cycles of poverty.

Each additional year of education an individual receives provides “a 9% increase in hourly earnings.” This increase in earnings allows an individual to contribute more to the economy, affecting entire societies as health improves and others are inspired to look to education to provide a brighter future.

The recent contribution of more than $4 billion toward global education is one major step toward ending poverty. Advancing education in underdeveloped countries will lead to immense progress in countries around the world by breaking cycles of poverty.

– Delaney Gilmore
Photo: Flickr

 

Youth Empowerment in Indonesia
The information technology (IT) and mobile technology sectors in Indonesia have flourished in the last few years, and the country is poised to dominate those fields in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. In order to meet the growing demands of such booming sectors, tech-oriented education in Indonesia has become a prominent national goal.

Education and Technology

Throughout the past 20 years, Indonesia has made great strides toward increasing the quality and accessibility of education. Although Indonesia still has one of the lowest national education expenditures per GDP in the APAC region, the increased spending since 2005 has had positive impacts on Indonesian students. Schools’ capacity and reach have grown, and education has become more and more available to youth in rural communities through educational outreach and education technology.

In fact, a 2018 Cambridge Assessment of International Education found that Indonesian students are some of the most technologically engaged in the world. As education and mobile technology became more accessible, young Indonesians sought both. The surveying that the Cambridge Assessment completed found that around 40% of students were in computer science courses, which would help prepare them to enter the professional world of technology.

US Assistance

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has worked to help prepare Indonesian students for employment in various fields. With regards to technology, USAID recognizes the growing IT sector in Indonesia and the potential for student success in related positions. Therefore, USAID created a plan called Accelerating Work Achievement and Readiness for Employment 3 (AWARE3) in which 25 vocational schools in Jakarta are able to maintain partnerships with local businesses and corporations.

Within these partnerships, there are opportunities for students to engage with current business structures and potential employers through work readiness training, internships and more. The partnered businesses also assist the schools with maintaining an up-to-date curriculum that will best prepare students to enter the professional world with regard to the specific industry or vocation.

USAID and the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture have goals for AWARE3 to meet by mid-2022. They hope to equip 250 or more teachers in Jakarta with resources to provide work readiness training for their students, and they aim for this training to reach areas all across Indonesia through distance-learning methods. The goal is to reach 4,500 students with the work-readiness curriculum via a remote learning platform. USAID has updated these goals based on the COVID-19 pandemic but hopes exist that the remote nature of these educational opportunities will limit the negative impacts of the pandemic.

Use of EdTech in Tech-Oriented Education in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture has worked with global organizations and foreign governments to implement several strategies and initiatives to broaden the reach and efficiency of its public education system. One of the most significant ways in which it has made education more accessible in Indonesia is through the use of education technology (EdTech). The World Bank, with help and funding from the Australian government, started the Improving Dimensions of Teaching, Education Management, and Learning Environment (ID-TEMAN) program in 2016.

This program works to analyze educational information from the Ministry of Education and Culture and push Indonesia to reach its full educational potential. The ID-TEMAN program is all about effectively using and appropriating the country’s resources, which are becoming abundantly technological. Indonesia is still working to provide more internet and mobile coverage across rural areas, which would expand educational opportunities through EdTech.

Bright Futures for Indonesian Students

As the world has seen in the past decades, and especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is becoming increasingly efficient through the use of technology. This includes tech-oriented education in Indonesia, with more accessible remote learning in rural areas and initiatives to better prepare students for potential employment opportunities. Technology is the new way of the world, and Indonesian students are gearing up to successfully enter the workforce.

– Hayley Welch
Photo: Flickr

Standardized English and Poverty
Standardized English and Poverty can be attributed to the fact that English ranks as the most commonly spoken language in the world. English originated in England and then spread worldwide through colonization, the internet, print and the spoken word. Because it has spread through colonization, it has also become a marker of social standing globally. English was not always this unified language.

The Bare Beginnings

English has gone through many changes and evolutions throughout its time. Its letters come from the Roman alphabet with partial pronunciation from Anglo-Saxons. For a long time, many different English-speaking groups lived in England. After the conquests in the middle ages and moving the court seat to London, the new speaking norms came from the English of London instead of ancestral Wessex. Manuscripts underwent revisions to translate them in the dialect of London English. Through printing, this way of speaking spread nationwide. Language is constantly evolving, especially vowels, and many shifts occurred. This period also saw the rise of language purists against the perceived threat of different ethnicities and cultures.

British or American?

English contains two orthographies: British English and American English. Both have the same core rules but hold to some different spelling and terms. A great example of this can be seen in the television series, “The Great British Bake Off.” Aside from a change in accents, bakers use different words for the same thing. For example, a baker may say “sponge” instead of “cake.” Even the show has a name change in the U.S., from “The Great British Bake Off” to “The Great British Baking Show.”

These changes are due to time, distance and America’s colonization. The Englishmen who first came to America were poor and desperate for a new life. Therefore, a new dialect quickly formed in America based primarily on the linguistic styles of rural England. Over time, these dialect differences became bigger and bigger until they diverged officially into British English and American English.

Language and Class

Despite only having two specific orthographies, English sports a ton of different dialects. A dialect is a way of speaking specifically to a region or group. One example of this is AAVE or African-American Vernacular English. This dialect likely formed after the transatlantic trade of enslaved people from Africa, who mingled English with their native languages to form a new dialect. Many groups impacted by colonization, such as India and South America, experienced variations of this phenomenon.

Eventually, English’s various strains and dialects were applied to social class in industry-based societies. These linguistic variants are still closely related to questions of education and race in social stratification. Someone speaking AAVE demonstrates that they have less education and are therefore lower in class. Linguistic discrimination occurs when those who don’t use standardized English are barred from promotion for not appearing as educated or intelligent. At times, linguistic prejudice can even result in unfair legal rulings when particular vernaculars are discredited.

How It Haunts Us

The results of language colonization still exist today. India links English to education and class. Ever since Great Britain’s colonization of India, British culture is still considered high class. Skin-whitening products remain popular in India for this reason. Only 20% of the population speaking any English, and only 4% can boost fluency. Of the fluent speakers, 34% earn more money than those who are not. Fluent English-speakers enjoy more opportunities in jobs and education, which both factors heavily into poverty. Therefore, 96% of the population that doesn’t speak English suffer an immediate disadvantage. Fluency offers greater means to escape poverty. Many other countries and minorities harmed by colonization share this classist structure.

Towards Linguistic Equality

Many organizations, such as colleges, are growing increasingly aware of this linguistic class issue. In 2018, Yale Law School’s Environmental Justice Clinic mounted a legal fight against New Mexico’s Environment Department on the basis of language discrimination against native Spanish-speakers. The conversation increasingly revolves around making college a safe place for all dialects and opening the class barrier. Equalizing education access, especially in areas with sparse funding, offers the first step towards mending the classist language barrier. Additionally, advocates hope to stop discrimination through legal bills as well as encouraging more acceptance among the standardized English-speaking populace.

-Audrey Burran
Photo: Flickr

Social Harmony
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a school canteen program aims to create social inclusion and harmony. It seeks to address issues in a unique way: by connecting to students and the educational system.

About the School Canteen Program

In Lekoumou, located in the Republic of Congo, the school Makoubi comprises indigenous and Bantu children. Indigenous children comprise nearly one-third of the school population.

The indigenous population has historically experienced marginalization and has trouble exercising its rights, which include access to education. More than 65% of indigenous children do not attend school. The school canteen program, which the World Food Program initiated, is working to combat that. The program is a part of the SDG Fund initiative, which is an initiative looking to improve the indigenous community’s access to social protection programs in Lekoumou.

How it Works

During the school day, 313 Bantu and indigenous children sit down and share a hot meal. Parents or most often mothers of the children, cook the meals. Indigenous women, who are often victims of prejudice, meet with Bantu women daily to make the meals.

By working together, these parents are contributing to a growing social harmony. “Strengthening the participation and inclusion of indigenous peoples in Congo’s food systems is a key step in enabling people to have equal and fair access to adequate, nutritious and diverse food.” Not only that, but these meals also enable children to stay focused and prepare for their futures.

The Importance of this Effort

Before the program underwent enactment, tensions between the indigenous and Bantu communities created conflict. Notably, there is still a way to go to reach a better social harmony, but things are improving. When speaking with the WFP, Georgette, one of the indigenous cooks, said, “Before, the Bantus refused to eat meals cooked by the indigenous people because they were considered dirty. Now they do. And even outside of school, things are better.”

She also noticed that without the program, kids were missing school. These meals motivated children to attend school. For the indigenous children, remaining within school is even more important. Due to their weaker access to basic social services, indigenous children often have a harder time escaping poverty.

Reducing Poverty

The school canteen program feeds 313 children in Lekoumou, indigenous and Bantu alike, and promotes social harmony. However, that is not all the program does. As of 2019, chronic malnutrition affected 21% of children in the Republic of the Congo. By providing freshly cooked meals, the program gives many children meals that they might not have received otherwise.

Food insecurity affects a child’s academic progress in many ways. Children suffering from food insecurity are more likely to suffer from hyperactivity, absenteeism, generally poor behavior and poor academic functioning. These children are also more likely to need special education services, which can cost twice as much compared to a child who does not require such services.

Education has direct ties to poverty in the sense that having an education gives people a better chance at escaping poverty. Providing children with meals makes them healthier, more socially involved and more engaged. The WFP recognizes this and continues to do this while healing the rift between two communities at the same time.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

New Chilean Constitution to Reduce Social InequalityThe 2019 sweeping protests in Chile may be leading to radical change in that country by 2022. The protests, which originated in Santiago and spread throughout the country, sought to end the vast social inequality throughout Chile. This led to the government’s October 2020 decision for a referendum to draft a new Chilean constitution. The old constitution had been in place since the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. According to protestors, that constitution gave far too many privileges to Chile’s private sector.

Chilean Constitutional Convention

The referendum saw overwhelming support for the new constitution with 78% of the country voting in favor. It also asked voters whom they wanted to write the constitution. Almost 80% voted to elect 100% of the delegates to draft the new Chilean constitution. This replaced the old system that appointed 50% of the delegates from Congress.

Overwhelmingly, the Chilean people elected independent and opposition candidates (48%) to write the new Chilean constitution. It is the first such convention in the world to stipulate parity between male and female members. It reserves 17 seats of the convention for members of indigenous groups, not even mentioned in the original Pinochet-era constitution.

Among these indigenous delegates is Elisa Loncon, a progressive academic. Delegates elected her as the leader of the constitutional convention. Her election signposts the strong possibility that the convention’s decisions, and thus the constitution, will be left-leaning. Born into poverty, Loncon has gained attention in academia with a Master’s degree and two PhDs.

Suggested Reforms of the New Constitution

Another woman elected to the convention is Carolina Vilches, a water rights activist. She believes that the privatization of water must end. The current constitution allows private companies to extract as much water from the land as they require. This creates desertification that makes agriculture difficult and forces many small farmers to emigrate to wetter land. Vilches’s presence in the constitutional convention suggests that private companies may lose their rights to do this.

Many commentators are also focusing on Chile’s unequal education system, which includes a large number of for-profit universities and their high costs for a bachelor’s degree. There are also severe and widespread teaching shortages. Expectations have determined that the constitutional convention will ban for-profit universities, which have been unpopular for years and only protected from the previous constitution banning them. Even so, a previous attempt to ban them in 2018 resulted in a narrow defeat with a six to four vote decision.

An Uncertain Future

The new Chilean constitution referendum will most certainly be contentious. According to a poll, half of the general population believes that there is a conflict between the rich and poor, but only a quarter of the economic elite hold the same views. If the private sector attempts to block certain reforms, many believe this will cause unrest similar to what occurred in 2019.

The convention’s outcome is uncertain as are the responses of the general population and the private sector. Regardless, the fact remains that Chile’s social inequality bears the strong possibility of radically reducing in the years to come with the new Chilean constitution.

Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Flickr

Super 30In India, the state of Bihar has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the country. For many impoverished children in India, quality education is out of reach. For this reason, many children are unable to rise out of poverty and pursue higher-paying jobs. Anand Kumar, a famous mathematician in India, set his mind to solve this issue through the Super 30 program.

Background of Anand Kumar

Anand Kumar grew up living near the railway tracks in a town in India called Patna located in the state of Bihar. His family was not financially stable yet his parents were very supportive of his education. Over time, Kumar discovered a passion for mathematics, which his parents encouraged him to pursue. While studying toward his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, he produced theoretical papers that “were published in foreign journals.” Kumar seemed certain of a bright future in mathematics.

His next step was to study toward a master’s degree in mathematics at Cambridge University. However, his father’s death in 1994 left his family financially unstable, leaving him unable to pursue this plan. In order to support his family, Kumar assisted his mother in selling “papad and wafers” on the streets of Patna. According to the Times of India, in order to continue studying mathematics, Kumar traveled to Varanasi to study at the Banaras Hindu University (NHU) library and access foreign mathematical journals. Not long after, in 1992, Kumar decided to open his own mathematical school, the Ramanujan School of Mathematics.

Creation of Super 30

In 2002, an impoverished student of Kumar’s came to him seeking coaching for the entrance exam for the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). However, the student was unable to afford the exam registration fee. At this very moment, Kumar came up with the idea for the Super 30 program. Each year, the Super 30 program selects 30 high-achieving academic students from impoverished families to receive “free lodging, boarding and coaching” in preparation for the IIT exam. After much coaching, many of these students are able to successfully pass the IIT exam.

The Importance of Super 30

Kumar’s Super 30 program operates on the premise that all children deserve an equal chance at success in education, regardless of their financial background. Some of the most intelligent children can be found in India’s most impoverished areas, yet they are at an immediate disadvantage because they cannot afford the private exam coaching and tutoring that children from wealthier families can afford.

Kumar’s students have a high success rate. In 2017, all 30 of his students passed the IIT exam. Since the beginning of the Super 30 program, Kumar’s coaching has benefited more than 500 students who are now qualified engineers.

These children, who were once unable to receive a quality education, are able to pursue their dreams of attending the most prestigious schools in India. Furthermore, with their final qualifications, these disadvantaged children can secure high-paying jobs that will enable them to break cycles of poverty. Programs such as Super 30 emphasize education as a proven tool for empowering children to rise out of poverty.

Inspiring Others

Super 30 has also inspired others to create similar programs. The Maharashtra Government was inspired to create its own Super 50 program to not only prepare underserved children for IIT exams but for other medical and engineering programs as well.

Programs such as Super 30 serve as a stepping stone to success. By inspiring more institutions to start similar programs, Kumar hopes for the world to come together to reduce global poverty through the power of education.

– Saanvi Mevada
Photo: Unsplash

Education in KenyaThe World Bank reported in 2015 that 36.8% of people in Kenya lived below the international poverty line, set at $1.90 per day. Estimates from April 2020 predicted that this level would continue to follow a slow downward trend to approximately 33.1% in 2020 and 32.4% in 2021. These recent statistics tend to vary across sources, however. For example, Statista reports that in 2020, 27.3% of Kenyans lived in poverty. Ultimately, sources seem to broadly agree that more than a quarter of the population in Kenya lives under the international poverty line. However, poverty rates could reduce by increasing opportunities for education in Kenya. The potential of education in Kenya reflects in the country’s successes over the years.

Poverty Reduction Progress in Kenya

Though the number of Kenyan citizens in poverty is undoubtedly high, Kenya has made great progress in reducing poverty in the last 15 years. In 2005, the World Bank found 46.8% of people living in poverty. This means that according to the World Bank statistics, poverty in Kenya has decreased by more than 10% in slightly more than 15 years. However, there is still a significant need for further poverty reduction progress in Kenya.

Eliminating poverty is crucial for a number of reasons as poverty has an irrefutable impact on other areas of life. One of these impacted areas is education. Global Citizen argues that poverty is the greatest barrier to education for children. Families living on less than $1.90 a day often cannot afford to send their children to school, whether that be due to high attendance fees, the cost of school materials or the need for the child to contribute to the family farm or business. Hence, addressing education is intertwined with addressing poverty in countries such as Kenya.

Educational Success: Free Primary School

Located in East Africa, Kenya is part of a region where harsh climate, violence and general instability lead to high poverty rates and limited access to education. Yet, in the education spectrum, the country has made great progress in recent years, showing the overall potential of education in Kenya. One successful initiative began in 2003, when the Kenyan government rolled out the Free Primary Education (FPE) program, waiving all primary school fees for students. As a result, Olympic Primary School in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi reported that enrollment nearly tripled. This growth in attendance seems to have occurred nationwide as UNICEF reports that before the COVID-19 pandemic closed many schools in early 2020, primary school enrollment in Kenya stood at 99%.

World Bank statistics show Kenya’s successes in improving education through FPE and other programs, with the most recent data from 2018 showing a literacy rate of almost 82% for people older than 15. This is up significantly from 72.16% in 2007 and 78.73% in 2014. Yet, despite these improvements in literacy and primary school enrollment rates, Kenya still struggles to provide high-quality education and see children through to secondary school. Though nearly all children in Kenya attend primary school at some point, many of them drop out to supplement the family income. In 2017, the Kenya Climate Innovation Center reported a 27% dropout rate in primary school.

Even if students complete primary school, very few of them go on to any further education. Statista reports that in 2019, 10.1 million children attended primary school in Kenya. However, only 3.26 million children enrolled in secondary school the same year and only 509,000 Kenyan students attended college in 2019. More recent data is not available due to widespread school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Potential of Education in Kenya

Getting students into primary schools was the first step to improving education in Kenya. But, while the most recent World Bank data states that, in 2018, the Kenyan government spent 5.3% of the country’s GDP on education, schools are still short on resources and teachers. In some classrooms, the teacher-to-student ratio exceeds 1:100, leaving teachers overworked and overwhelmed. The government is working hard to increase the percentage of students who transition to secondary school but requires more resources to employ enough teachers and support high-quality education for students.

Overall, education in Kenya has seen a vast improvement in the number of students attending primary school in the last 20 years as a result of FPE and other work. Now, Kenya must look to improve in other areas of education in order to fully empower students with the tools and knowledge to rise out of poverty.

– Julia Welp
Photo: Flickr