Information and stories on education.

Illiteracy in South Sudan
Lack of education can contribute to rising poverty rates in struggling countries. In South Sudan, more than 70% of the adult population is illiterate. This puts individuals at a disadvantage when it comes to finding employment. A lack of education among poor communities ultimately creates a cycle of social oppression. It is analyzing this correlation that can demonstrate how to improve education in developing countries.

Poverty and Education

In 2016, more than half of South Sudan’s children were not in school. This then contributes to the high rate of illiteracy in South Sudan. The lack of education present among the citizens of South Sudan then contributes to a higher number of illnesses and poverty. Individuals who do not obtain an education are less likely to seek medical attention until a disease has progressed into a critical condition. When individuals are not aware of preventative care, deadly illnesses such as sexually transmitted diseases can spread quickly, harming already struggling communities.

With a high rate of illiteracy in South Sudan comes an increasing number of individuals living in poverty. In 2021, more than 6 million citizens of South Sudan were in great need of humanitarian assistance. Not being able to read impacts individuals’ knowledge of health and food, therefore contributing to a poor community. The Sudanese depend greatly on agriculture for means of survival, but improper farming tactics can create aversive effects, such as the contamination of water.

The Good News

UNICEF indicates that a child has a 50% higher chance of survival if born to an educated mother. This means that a woman who has been able to obtain an education can care for her child better and ensure they receive an education. The present issue is that illiteracy in South Sudan is higher in women than in men. Fewer than 1% of Sudanese girls obtain an education.

UNICEF, along with Global Partnership for Education (GPE), developed a plan for the year 2022 that would grant $41.7 million in order to decrease the number of children out of school by 15%. This funding enabled reading materials to undergo distribution to schools while also funding training for teachers. Not only this, but GPE built 25 schools, allowing 10,000 students to receive an education.

In this program, GPE enabled a gender-specific strategy that would promote greater gender equality among educated civilians in South Sudan. The goal is to increase the number of girls obtaining an education. Placing a greater amount of students in classrooms could then decrease the number of preventable illnesses. Not only this but establishing fully functioning classrooms would also lead to greater job availabilities.

Illiteracy in South Sudan is detrimental to its community. When individuals are not able to receive an education, it creates a cycle that further places the Sudanese into poverty. Lack of knowledge of nutrition and proper health care physically harms citizens. Infant mortality rates are also higher in those who are born to illiterate parents. Enabling women to receive an education could drastically increase the number of children attending school in the future. Decreasing the illiteracy rate for those in South Sudan would promote a healthier community.

– Micaela Carrillo
Photo: Flickr

higher education in Ukraine
The Russian invasion in 2022 has drastically impacted the Ukrainian education system; particularly higher education in Ukraine. Ukrainian universities attracted students from all over the world. There were students from Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and Latin American countries. These universities were popular among foreign students as they offered quality education at lower costs than Western universities. Ukrainian universities offered a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Ukrainian and English fields.

In Ukraine, 83% of young adults between 18 and 24 were enrolled in higher education at the time of the Russian incursion in 2022. Many Ukrainian educational institutions closed down and educational resources and supplies went to support the war effort or the Russian military confiscated them. As a result, higher education in Ukraine faced high disruption.

The number of available learning opportunities and opportunities for students to access high-quality education decreased because of the Russian invasion. Many higher education institutions in Ukraine are closed or destroyed and need more resources and infrastructure. In addition, this further disrupts students’ coursework because of the cancelation and relocation of the courses.

Allies Offer Stop-Gap Measures

Ukraine’s allies who have provided a wide range of assistance in response to the Russian invasion include the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Australia and Japan. The European Union has also assisted Ukraine, including humanitarian aid and economic support. The United States has also provided military aid to Ukraine. Additionally, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has set up a loan program and distributed $2.8 billion to help Ukraine recover from the economic damage of the crisis.

Plans for Rebuilding Higher Education in Ukraine

Ukraine continues to prioritize its higher academic institutions as it plans to rebuild investment efforts for when the Russian military incursion is over. Higher education in Ukraine collaborated with European higher education institutions to continue to fund and support student programs, according to the European University Association (EUA) briefing.

International cooperation from universities such as V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University and Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, along with initiatives such as the Twinning project Unity Initiative with 79 universities of the United Kingdom, has helped to foster international exchanges and support foreign students and teachers, according to European Associaton for International Education (EAIE). Through remote admission, flexible educational programs and the increasing range of educational programs taught in English, Ukraine’s institutions continue to strive for excellence despite the adversity. Ukraine is working in partnership with these institutions to ensure academic freedom and free speech and promote a safe and secure environment for learning.

Several universities and companies are supporting the Ukrainian government in its efforts to ensure academic freedom and free speech and promote a safe and secure learning environment. The EUA’s partnership with Ukrainian universities set in motion the following measures:

  • “Waiving EUA membership fees for all existing and new members during 2022,”
  • “Encouraging and expediting new membership applications from eligible Ukrainian institutions and organizations,”
  • “Providing access to services and events to non-member Ukrainian universities where appropriate,”
  • “Considering providing financial support for Ukrainian participation in EUA activities.”

More International Support

USAID, HP Inc., Microsoft and the Global Business Coalition for Education have partnered to provide 74,000 laptop devices to internally displaced Ukrainians and Ukrainian refugees in neighboring countries. HP Inc. has donated 5,000 laptops to support education for internally displaced Ukrainians, while Microsoft has donated software for the devices. The donation comes from USAID’s active engagement with the private sector to support Ukraine. Up to 2.8 million children have experienced displacement due to the war and a nationwide shortage of 175,000 laptops and 202,000 tablets. USAID’s Ukraine National Identity will distribute the laptops through Youth (UNITY) program in partnership with SpivDiia, a leading Ukrainian youth organization. While these laptops went to youth scholars, they provide remote learning and employment opportunities for the entire family.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) works with Ukraine and NGOs to implement recovery initiatives. The main focus of ICG’s work with Ukraine in 2022 has been to speed recovery efforts by providing a strategic framework for managing internally displaced persons (IDPs). This includes protecting the rights of Ukrainian citizens. Citizens of Ukraine and therefore, IDPs,  have a right to “pensions, medical care, social security and education, among other things.” They can also receive help finding jobs, locating free or subsidized housing, re-acquiring lost identity documents, reunifying their families and returning home.

Labster and AWS

The Ministry of Education & Science of Ukraine and Labster have partnered to provide free access to Labster’s award-winning virtual science simulations for an entire year to Ukrainian students and educators. This allows educators to integrate Labster into existing science courses and filter the more than 300 virtual lab simulations available by level of education, courses and topics for an efficient learning experience.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is helping millions of displaced students in Ukraine continue their education amid war and displacement through free cloud computing resources, training and other educational initiatives. With more than 3 million refugees fleeing their homes due to conflict, many educational institutions have turned to AWS to re-establish learning opportunities. AWS is offering cloud computing credits to 22 universities to enable them to quickly migrate critical educational resources to the cloud, helping to ensure remote learning can continue uninterrupted.

These initiatives’ future impact on Ukraine’s poverty will likely be significant. By equipping students and educators with the technology, resources and training they need to access quality education, these initiatives will help to bridge the gap between the affluent and the less privileged. This, in turn, could help reduce poverty levels and inequality. In addition, the initiatives could also help to cultivate a highly-skilled workforce that can help to drive economic growth and development. Finally, increased access to quality education can also help improve Ukrainian citizens’ health, and social and economic well-being.

– Jeannine Proctor
Photo: Flickr

Education Gap in Uganda
In Uganda, there is a clear disparity between the teachings of educational institutions and the demands of the labor market. UNESCO’s partnership with China Funds-in-Trust Phase III: Higher technical education in Africa for a technical and innovative workforce (CFIT III) attempts to alleviate the effects of this education gap in Uganda.

The Education Gap in Uganda

A key goal of childhood education is preparation for one’s future career. When higher education programming does not prepare students for success in a country’s labor market, the disparity is termed an “education gap.” In Uganda, this is extremely prevalent in the agriculture industry. It is therefore necessary for youth to receive more training to prepare them for employment in this sector.

As of 2017, 42.2% of Uganda’s population lived on less than $2.15 a day. If Uganda closes this education gap, poverty levels could decline as a result of increased opportunities for individual success.

The UNESCO-CFIT III Program

In 2019, an agreement between UNESCO and the People’s Republic of China established phase III of CFIT in order to bridge the gap between education and employment. This program covers six countries including Ethiopia, Gabon, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. The main focus is on institutes of higher education, with the program providing support and funding for enhanced student learning experiences.

Goals of the Program

The UNESCO website states multiple expected outcomes of the program, the most important one being, “Effective utilization of information from labor market analysis, curriculum review, graduate tracer studies by HEIs [higher education institutions] to improve the delivery of technical education.” This means that the problem will be approached from multiple angles, including research on what types of changes will be most beneficial to student growth.

Mbarara University of Sciences and Technology

In Uganda specifically, CFIT has supported the development of the Innovative Bio-organic Farming Techniques (i-SOFT) project at the Mbarara University of Sciences and Technology (MUST). This program contributes to entrepreneurship and skills-focused training for graduate students at the university. Specifically, the project, “focuses on converting biowastes into high-quality sustainable fertilizers to boost agricultural productivity,” according to UNESCO. This technological innovation, coupled with increased training for students, has been able to develop the agricultural industry and allow greater student involvement in a constantly growing field. It has seen widespread results across farms in four different Ugandan districts.

In addition to those specific effects, the i-SOFT program has been able to educate students about important abilities relevant to any type of future career success. These include business skills, marketing, ICT knowledge and more. This has allowed students to explore greater opportunities and create their own businesses.

Outlook

The implementation of UNESCO-CFIT programming in Uganda specifically fosters optimism for the agricultural industry. More importantly, it allows students to gain an understanding of the key skills necessary for future success in the labor force.

UNESCO has stated that “it is hoped that students will promote agro-industrialization in their communities using the skills acquired and develop other innovations.” Using this explanation, implementing UNESCO-CFIT programming in higher education institutions is a strong step toward closing the education gap in Uganda.

– Hailey Dooley
Photo: Flickr

Education in Rural Mongolia
After the collapse of socialism in the late 80s and early 90s, education for rural Mongolian children suffered due to a lack of financing for the country’s rural schools. Fortunately, changes in government policy and assistance from NGOs over the last 15-20 years have slowly but surely improved education in rural Mongolia.

Poverty Among Mongolian Herders

As of 2021, about 31% of Mongolia’s population lived in rural areas and as much as 40% of the population lives a herding lifestyle. In 2020, the World Bank pegged Mongolia’s rural poverty rate at 31%, with herders accounting for three-fifths of the rural poor.

Rural Education Issues

While basic education in Mongolia (grades 1 through 12) is free under the country’s constitution, attending school can be difficult for rural families.

Herder families struggle because they move around several times a year to find pastures for their herds. As such, many children move into dormitories at boarding schools. During Mongolia’s socialist era, the country was able to establish a well-functioning and convenient boarding school system for rural children, but after the collapse of socialism, authorities neglected rural development, which resulted in poorly maintained boarding schools.

Between 1990 and 1992, “public spending on education as a share of GDP” decreased by close to 50%, many rural schools suffered bankruptcy and many educators abandoned their professions due to lack of payment.

Because of financial neglect, about one-fifth of dormitories do not have proper heating and lack water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, according to data from 2015. For example, a dorm in Tarialan soum (a part of a province) in Northwest Mongolia did not have a single running toilet, so students had to use a “dirty, cold, bad-smelling” pit latrine outside, with no way to wash their hands with clean water. In 2014, UNICEF established indoor toilets and hygiene facilities in the dormitory.

Another problem with education in Mongolia is that many teachers in rural schools graduate from “low-quality private teacher training institutes,” making them underqualified for teaching.

Rural Mongolians also have low access to early childhood education (ECE) services. While progress has been visible over the last few decades, herder children’s access to ECE services remained low as of 2016. According to a UNICEF fact sheet from 2020, ECE attendance is 1.5 to 2.2 times lower among 2-4-year-olds in rural areas than in urban ones and 19% to 26% lower among children aged 5.

These issues contribute to a gap in education quality between rural and urban schools. Due to high dropouts in the mid-90s, in 2013, the level of literacy among males aged 15-24 stood at 98.4% in urban areas, but dropped to 88.2% in rural areas. The percentage of out-of-school primary school children in 2018 stood at 5% in rural areas compared to 2% in urban areas and children from herder households accounted for around 68% of out-of-school children in 2013/2014.

Improving Facilities

To improve access to education in rural Mongolia, the government built 37 new dormitories across the country between 2014 and 2017 and planned to create an additional 19 between 2018 and 2019. In 2015, Mongolia established specific standards for WASH facilities in schools and dorms to improve conditions.

In addition, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided a grant in 2015 to renovate 12 dormitories in the Govi-Altai, Uvs and Zavkhan aimags (provinces) in western Mongolia, as a part of the Improving School Dormitory Environment for Primary Students in Western Region Project. The renovations included insulating buildings, installing “safe electric systems” and establishing more WASH facilities.

Supporting Teachers

Mongolia’s government has worked since 2006 to enhance financial support for rural teachers. The 2006 and 2016 amendments to the Law on Education give financial support to teachers in rural schools and kindergartens. Furthermore, a “teacher salary reform” in 2007 helped to improve the income inequalities between rural and urban teachers.

Outside of the government, the World Bank created the Rural Education and Development (READ) Project (2007-2013) to improve the standard of education in rural schools. The training of educators and principals formed one of the project’s objectives. A total of 4,144 rural primary educators and 383 school directors received training to improve teaching skills and strategies. The project also established a “local professional development network” with 95 main schools and 178 mentor educators.

Enhancing Access to Early Childhood Education

To provide ECE services for rural Mongolians, Save the Children, a child rights organization operating in Mongolia since 1994, alongside the World Bank and Japan Social Development Fund, implemented the project Improving Primary Education Outcomes for the Most Vulnerable Children in Rural Mongolia.

The project operated from 2012 to 2017 in four aimags (Arkhangai, Uvurkhangai, Dornod and Sukhbaatar). The program enabled the completion of the Home Based School Preparation Program for around 4,000 5-year-old herder children. The project utilized mobile learning kits with educational toys, activity books and guidebooks. The program was so effective that primary school enrollment in the four aimags rose from 72.8% in 2012-2013 to 86% in 2017-2018.

Education in rural Mongolia suffered after the collapse of the socialist educational system, but thanks to government initiatives and NGO projects, more herder children are receiving a quality education.

– James Harrington
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Virtual Education in Peru
“It feels new, well, very new, but we are adapting to the situation,” said the Peruvian child when the CGTN America reporter asked him about his experience with Peru’s I Learn at Home virtual education program. For a country in which only 24% of households have consistent internet access, virtual education is certainly a new experience. Peru launched the Aprendo en Casa (I Learn at Home) program shortly after the Peruvian government closed down schools in 2020 in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ever since the program has consolidated various low and high-tech solutions to broadcast an interactive learning environment on multiple media. Here is the story of Peru’s Ministry of Education’s promotion of virtual education in Peru.

Pandemic Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic hits hard around the globe and Peru is one of the worst-impacted countries in the world. In response to the pandemic, the Peruvian government imposed the strictest shutdown in South America since March 2020. However, the shutdown, compounded with Peru’s low connectivity, imposed a particularly harsh challenge.

Among the many challenges is the challenge in education. Under the shutdown, switching to virtual learning was not as simple as moving classes online. In response to Peru’s particular challenges, Peru’s Ministry of Education launched the I Learn at Home virtual learning program shortly after the lockdown, according to OECD.

In response to the sudden COVID-19 shutdown, the Ministry of Education launched the program with equal rapidity only 12 days after the shutdown, OECD reported. To ensure the constant improvement of the program, Peru’s Ministry of Education collaborated with Innovation for Poverty Action which uses machine learning to survey the needs of hard-to-reach students. The Ministry then used this data to develop the program to ensure maximum outreach and maximum classroom engagement, in the shortest possible timeline.

About I Learn at Home

To ensure the maximum outreach of the program in low connectivity regions, Peru’s Ministry of Education strives to diversify the channel of access to learning materials. According to OECD, the Peruvian government teams up with major private telecommunications companies to produce and broadcast the learning materials on TV and radio, in addition to the internet.

To maximize internet travel to the I Learn at Home webpage, Microsoft and Amazon help design the web page with “web-light” and “mobile-responsive” technologies so that people can access the webpage through smartphones and from areas with slower internet. For parts of the country that lack household electricity access, loudspeakers at community centers broadcast learning materials so kids can hear their teacher giving lectures in their homes.

Through the multi-media platform, the virtual classroom brought children back to an interactive learning environment. Teachers and actors go back and forth on the learning materials with actors asking questions during classes and doing learning activities making it look like a classroom. According to OECD, WhatsApp helps organize teachers and parents into classroom groupings. Teachers distribute homework materials either online or through mailing in print materials. Teachers and families then communicate feedback through those channels.

The Impact of Virtual Education in Peru

The result of Peru’s Ministry of Education’s promotion of virtual education in Peru is significant. OECD has indicated that after a month of the debut of the I Learn at Home initiative, 95% of children reconnected to their education through one channel or another and that another month after that, 82% of the kids expressed happiness about the learning program. According to UNICEF, the innovative joint initiative reached 145,628 children living in hard-to-reach areas. As Peru reopened its schools in March 2022, its precious experience in virtual education showcases how innovation and technology can help education to reach those who are at a material disadvantage.

– Peiyi Yu
Photo: Flickr

 Sex Education in Malaysia
According to the 2022 United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects report, Malaysia is listed as an upper-middle-income developing country. However, a large proportion of the country’s population is still struggling with not only absolute poverty but also relative poverty as well as increasing inequalities. Those with low socioeconomic status (SES) have less access to healthcare, which increases their vulnerability to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and other diseases. Although subjective, factors like income, financial security and educational attainment can determine SES. Economic inequality can impact STI preventative information, infection rates and treatment accessibility. This is where sex education in Malaysia can play an important role in preventing STIs and other reproductive health issues.

The Importance of Sex Education

Between April and May 2022, Durex Malaysia conducted a nationwide Sexual Health and Intimate Wellness Survey online to study Malaysian youths’ knowledge of sexual health. This study surveyed more than 1,000 Malaysians between 18 and 30 years old. The survey found that Malaysian youths are engaging in more sexual relations at 35%. This is an increase from the last 2016 Durex survey which indicated 18.8%. The findings highlighted gaps and misconceptions in their understanding of STIs and women’s reproductive health. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) defines comprehensive sex education as a “rights-based and gender transformative approach” that is taught inside and outside schools. Educators teach it over several years by taking into account age-appropriate information for young people. UNFPA notes that sex education should discuss culture, gender roles, relationships, family life, human rights as well as bodily autonomy and threats such as sexual abuse and discrimination.

Engaging young people in exploratory discussions helps them to understand and develop positive values about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Organizations like UNFPA work with governments to apply sex education through community training and outreach. It also advocates for policies and investments for internationally standardized programs. In 2018, the agency published “International technical guidance on sexuality education: an evidence-informed approach.” It acts as a tool for curriculum developers to create comprehensive sexual education curricula as UNFPA described. Schools do not have a comprehensive sexual education curriculum in Malaysia.

Sex Education in Malaysia

There was a 2011 study that analyzed schools’ coverage of sex education in Malaysia. Respondents of the study stated that the effectiveness of instruction depended on the teachers themselves. Ninety-five percent of the respondents expressed vague teaching processes regarding sex education. This is due to incomplete coverage of topics or ineffective teaching methods. Sexual education in Malaysia is most commonly delivered through biology and Islamic study classes. These classes cover physical adolescent development, reproductive development and sex in an Islamic context. Most of the criticisms regarding sex education as taught in Malaysia’s schools stemmed from the lack of a comprehensive syllabus. STIs and HIV/AIDS continue to affect many people in Malaysia.

STIs and Efforts to End HIV/AIDS

A Malaysian medical lifestyle application named Cleadoc reported that the top three common STIs in Malaysia are syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV. There were approximately 82,000 adults and children living with HIV in Malaysia as per the statistics provided by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). In 2017, UNAIDS set up “90-90-90”, an ambitious treatment target to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2020. UNAIDS document mentioned achievable targets stating that 90% of people living with HIV would be aware of their HIV status by 2020. Another 90% of patients with a diagnosed HIV infection would have received sustained antiretroviral therapy by 2020. It also stated that 90% of those who were receiving antiretroviral therapy would have their viral load suppressed by 2020.

As reported in the 2021 Global AIDS Monitoring Report that the Ministry of Health Malaysia’s HIV/STI/Hepatitis C Section produced, there were more than 153,000 reported cases of HIV/AIDS in 2020. The cumulative number of deaths related to HIV/AIDS was 45,450. Malaysia’s progress toward the 90-90-90 treatment target was 87-58-85 respectively. However, organizations in Malaysia have been actively advocating to improve access to sex education.

Advocating For Access to Sex Education

UNFPA works with the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations of Malaysia (FRHAM), one of the country’s three main sexual and reproductive health (SRH) program implementation partners. This partnership focuses on hard-to-reach populations with the help of health screenings, tests, contraceptive access services and general sexual/reproductive advisement. The service-based nonprofit, FRHAM is the leading non-governmental organization (NGO) in Malaysia that also advocates for SRH. It promotes access to information and services on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). FRHAM also conducts workshops, training and exhibitions to engage with specific target groups to help develop knowledge and skills as “peer educators.” Organizations have been teaming up to improve false perceptions of SRH in Malaysia.

Steps to Improve Sex Education in Malaysia

After Durex conducted its first survey, it teamed up with the Women’s Aid Organization (WAO), FRHAM and AISEC Malaysia to help correct the false perceptions regarding SRH among young Malaysians. Alongside Durex, the government launched an awareness and education campaign in 2013 called Choose2Protect. It was the first program of its kind for youths to educate one another. They receive training on issues concerning reproductive health, including the dangers of STIs. They also receive soft skills training that allows them to share knowledge in culturally and religiously sensitive contexts. The program emphasizes the importance of remaining non-discriminatory and non-judgemental.

The results of the 2022 Sexual Health and Intimate Wellness Survey were revealed with a #COMETOGETHER campaign which promoted open conversations on sex amongst the Malaysian public. The goal was to inform the public with accurate information and help them make informed decisions. This occurred through question-and-answer social media posts, workshops at higher-educational institutions and an “A-Z Pleasure Guide” that influencers and health experts developed. Some are taking steps to address the lack of comprehensive sex education in Malaysia. Organizations like UNFPA, FRHAM, WOA, Durex and the government are working together to close the gaps.

– Aishah French
Photo: Flickr

Education Reforms in Bosnia and HerzegovinaThe federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is divided across 10 independent cantons, each run by its own government and legislature. Education is split across 14 different ministries within Bosnia and Herzegovina, leading to an immensely complex, decentralized education system, offering unfocused educational goals and initiatives. As a result, many regions with lower budgets operate with outdated infrastructure. Furthermore, cooperation among local governments is rare which hurts enrollment as well as attendance rates.

Direct impacts of these shortcomings were apparent in 2018 data from the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) which showed that 15-year-old students from BiH consistently performed below the average proficiency levels across mathematics, reading and science. Data from the same report revealed that the educational standards and development of 15-year-old students in BiH lag three years behind their peers in other OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.

The Reforms

The disruptions during COVID-19 — half a million students were impacted by school closures — presented an opportunity for proactive measures to address inadequacies in education systems. With U.N. support, education authorities assessed existing institutions and then implemented a recovery program, targeting the most vulnerable and marginalized students via a gender-responsive initiative: Re-imagining Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The initiative supports public sector education across three administrative units, Republika Srpska entity, West-Herzegovina Canton and Una-Sana Canton, with the overarching aims of developing digital and blended learning facilities across the country, building a resilient education system that is responsive to emergencies and ensuring educational quality and inclusivity.

The advent of digital and blended learning techniques during the pandemic saw many changes in the way education is received, shedding light on the importance of connectivity. U.N. agencies stressed the significance of this in the education reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, conducting assessments of the quality of digital learning across all stages of education, and simultaneously addressing the professional development needs of teachers to ensure they are equipped with the digital competency required to provide quality and inclusive e-learning.

The Re-imagining Education initiative funded an information management system in Una-Sana canton in September 2021, supporting the digitization of the education process in the region.

Of note, the Transforming Education Summit in September 2022 saw more than 1,500 representatives from BiH from both the governmental and non-governmental sectors, discussing the problems and proposed changes. Culminating with a drafted declaration, later accepted by education ministers across BiH, this heralds a country-wide policy of education reform and endorsement. Further collaboration with UNICEF and UNESCO is expected to offer support in developing a viable plan of action to achieve the outlined declaration objectives.

The Effects

Within a year of the Reimagining Education initiative, by March 2022, approximately 25% of schools across the country were provided with digital devices and along with it, about 2,500 teachers received training for digital learning.

The efforts could have spillover benefits to other countries. The end of October 2022 saw a joint meeting between Serbia, Montenegro and BiH under the Quality Education for All initiative, where representatives exchanged ideas on their experiences of the current systems, exploring policy reforms and outcomes. The benefit of such collective discourse is significant, offering each country fresh insights into new ways of managing their education systems.

The education reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina have attracted interest from the European Union (EU) as well. Following extensive support to BiH, the EU is considering strengthening its ties to support further education reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina through collaboration with local education officials and the U.N. agencies inside the country. Perhaps further success could pave the way for more expansive reforms within the EU, targeting other member states with a struggling education system as well.

Beyond merely advancing the teaching and learning environments of its various cantons, Bosnia has set a powerful example on an international scale, urging other countries with a struggling education system to follow suit, and those with an established one to not get complacent.

– Bojan Ivancic
Photo: Flickr

Teacher shortage in Sudan
A teacher shortage in Sudan is occurring.
More than 6.9 million children do not attend school because of the country’s “lack of sufficient teachers, infrastructure, and … enabling learning environment[s].” However, many more factors play into this shortage of educators and the plunge in school attendance that has taken place in recent years.

Threats Towards Teacher Employment

Many believe that the teacher shortage in Sudan could be a consequence of the South Sudanese Civil War. In July 2011, South Sudan announced its independent statehood from Sudan, sparking a violent war in 2013 and the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement in September 2018. County education director Malish William pins the lack of teachers on the fact that many of the country’s licensed educators escaped to refugee camps in 2016.

However, another factor playing into the lack of educators is Sudan’s economy, as it has struggled immensely since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country has lost more than 3,159 citizens due to the pandemic as of December 2021 and the state of the economy has declined especially regarding its “fiscal health and monetary freedom.” Without the funds to send their children to school, many Sudanese families have opted to remove their children from the education system and instead send them directly to work. Arshad Malik, Country Director of Save the Children in Sudan, states that children without access to adequate schooling will cause “more girls and boys will lose their childhoods to [labor], marriage, and other rights violations.”

Many children in Sudan are already falling victim to these effects. Nine-year-old Zahra Hussein dropped out of school after only finishing second grade in order to help her family stay financially afloat. Hussein stated she was third in her class prior to leaving the school, consistently attending class and proving to be an impressive student.

Uncertainties in Educators’ Salaries

The Sudanese government’s declining economic state also leaves salaries as an uninsured luxury for teachers. Many teachers leave volunteer positions for careers with secure payments, forcing many children to miss important lessons because of the lack of educators. An anonymous teacher in Sudan claimed that many teachers leave the field because of the small salary that they are not promised. She explained that an entire year’s work sometimes does not even reach $100.

UNICEF

It is necessary for young children to attend school, where they are able to learn some of their most valuable lessons. Whether it be learning to read, deciphering shapes or meeting new children, education is vital to young minds.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has chosen to do something about this ongoing problem. UNICEF has supported children and working families in Sudan since 1952. The agency’s Humanitarian Response Plan, proposed in 2021, acknowledges the 13.4 million Sudanese citizens that need assistance and suffer in the country’s current economic state. The plan presents solutions that can help provide for those in poverty.

With the help of the Ministry of Education and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF will be working to advance the education system in Sudan and boost school attendance rates for refugee children. It plans to educate more than 1,500 students, encouraging the Sudanese government to rebuild schools and promise salaries for its educators.

– Aspen Oblewski
Photo: Flickr

Women's Education in Uganda
Gender inequality remains a significant issue in Uganda. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these inequalities, significantly affecting women’s education in Uganda. Even before the pandemic, Uganda saw disparities in male and female literacy rates. According to the World Bank, in 2018, the adult male literacy rate stood at 83% in comparison to 71% among adult females.

Gender Inequality in Uganda

There are about 45.7 million people living in Uganda and 51.71% are female. For the past 20 years, Uganda has committed to a more gender-equal society by promoting women’s empowerment. A series of factors contribute to the marginalization of Ugandan women, including gender norms and lack of skills development and education among females. By improving women’s education in Uganda, organizations can reduce gender inequalities while empowering women and helping them to rise out of poverty.

Education in Uganda

World Bank data indicates that only 54% of primary school-aged girls in Uganda completed primary education in 2017. In 2016, only 57% of females who completed primary school moved on to secondary education. Furthermore, only 25% of females completed lower secondary school in 2017.

Rampant gender inequality in Ugandan society limits the education of girls. Families prioritize the education of boys and girls shoulder the burden of household chores and caretaking, leaving little time for education. Although this issue has lingered for many years, organizations are committed to promoting women’s education in Uganda and advancing women’s rights.

Spreading Sunshine

The Borgen Project spoke with Patricia Stivala, co-founder of an organization called Spreading Sunshine. Patricia and her husband Steve Stivala founded the small organization as a means of bringing light into the lives of disadvantaged people. Part of the organization’s efforts includes supporting the Street Business School in Nakigalala, Uganda. The Street Business School empowers impoverished women by allowing women opportunities to develop their business skills and education so that they can establish small businesses.

Spreading Sunshine donated money to the Street Business School to allow more than 100 women to go through a six-month training program to start their own businesses. Patricia attended the graduation ceremony of these women. From spending time in a large group to enjoying lunch together, she was able to celebrate these women’s successes. She went on to mention the pride and joy these women felt after rising above the societal limitations placed on females.

Other Efforts

Many other efforts are underway to promote girls’ education. The U.N. explains that “Education Plus is an advocacy drive to accelerate actions to prevent HIV and [gender-based violence] with access to secondary school education for girls as a strategic entry point.” Five U.N. agencies are co-leading the Education Plus initiative, working with the leaders of nations across sub-Saharan Africa. The Ugandan government launched the initiative in Uganda in June 2022, showing its commitment to advancing women’s education in Uganda.

In August 2022, the Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) organization launched the #everygirlinschool campaign. Through this campaign, female mentors work to tackle the limitations preventing women’s education in Uganda. By working with the Ugandan government, the organization hopes to strengthen the roles of senior women teachers in the country. An external assessment proves the positive impact senior women teachers have had on the education of young girls. According to statistics, “engaging with senior women teachers increased a girl’s chance of developing reading and writing skills by 264%,” UKFIET says.

The Ugandan Government’s Efforts

Not only is the Ugandan government working with other organizations that strive to promote women’s education and rights but it also launched a new policy of its own in February 2022. The policy encourages previously pregnant girls to return to school to complete their education. As a result, Margaret Babirye (a 17-year-old Ugandan citizen) is able to tend to her baby during her school lunch break. This is an opportunity Babirye never thought she would have prior to the release of this new policy.

In February 2022, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recognized Uganda’s considerable improvements in both women’s education and human rights. Improvements such as “gender-sensitive educational infrastructure” and strategic laws have led to significant progress.

In August 2022, U.N. Women collaborated with Sweden to launch the Promoting Second Chance Education Program for marginalized young women in Uganda. This initiative provides young women with a six-month course in electrical installation. Atemi Salami, a participant in this program, tells the U.N. that the program has allowed her to obtain a job at an electrical store where she earns a living to support her family.

Looking Ahead

Many efforts are underway to promote women’s education in Uganda. With ongoing commitments, organizations and the government can make strides in reducing gender inequality and empowering women.

– Madison Stivala
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in MalaysiaMalaysia, a country in Southeast Asia, has a population of over 33 million people with 639,000 households living in absolute poverty. Poverty rates are higher among households with children, creating a child poverty crisis in Malaysia that leaves children in hostile and dangerous situations. In response to child poverty in Malaysia, an NGO in Kuala Lumpur is actively trying to help. Dignity for Children works to educate Malaysian children to help them find a pathway out of poverty in the future.

Effects of Child Poverty in Malaysia

The coronavirus pandemic tripled the number of households living in extreme poverty in Malaysia, worsening the child poverty crisis. Currently, more than 70,000 children live in poor conditions with no access to public school with those living in rural areas being worse off. The impact of child poverty in Malaysia also has the following ripple effects:

  • Higher child marriage rates, with a minimum marriage age of 16 for girls
  • Rising HIV/AIDS rates in child orphans
  • Sexual exploitation in rural areas
  • Higher instances of child labor or trafficking
  • Rising youth employment as the youth employment rate in Malaysia is 12.4%
  • Extreme malnutrition

Dignity For Children

Dignity for Children, founded in 1998, currently educates more than 1,700 children. This is accomplished through the use of quality, hands-on education. The program uses the Montessori or the “follow-the-child” philosophy. This contrasts with the country’s education mandate, which only applies to children between the ages of 6 and 11. The program provides education for children between the ages of 2-18 through a wide range of schools such as vocational institutions, private-learning centers, international schools and religious schools.

Through its transformational enterprises, Dignity creates well-rounded schooling by combining the classroom with real-world experiences. These transformational enterprises consist of five categories: hairdressing, sewing, eateries, art and wellness. Over six months, teenagers develop their skills in the program of their choice as they work alongside experienced professionals. These children not only gain experience in their desired field, but they also learn how to become self-sufficient and run a business. The program equips students so they graduate from secondary school with an array of skills in their arson. This can be beneficial to securing a job in the future.

Moving Forward

Dignity For Children fights child poverty in Malaysia by using hands-on education to break cycles of poverty and prepare children for a prosperous future. The center continues to operate in Sentul Kuala Lumpur and other poverty-stricken schools in South East Asia to create teacher training programs and further their students’ education. As the organization gains more students, Dignity For Children continues to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.

– Blanly Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr