Information and stories on education.

Girls Education in Turkey
The Turkish education system is not much different from that of the U.S; the state governs education, which is mandatory for 12 years and is free. Students may choose to pursue further education at university with more than 70 universities in Turkey to choose from. However, despite how similar it may appear on the surface, girls education in Turkey is still unequal to their male counterparts.

10 Facts About Girls Education in Turkey

  1. Education is currently the biggest item on Turkey’s government budget. The Turkish Statistical Agency reports that direct and indirect expenses on education have increased by 54 percent between 2011 and 2014 sitting at 113.6 billion liras ($31.4 billion). Of note, education spending as part of Turkey’s overall budget increased by one-third from 8.5 percent to 12.4 percent.
  2. While the female literacy rate has risen to 93.56 percent and the male literacy rate is 98.78 percent, it is not an accurate percentage of the girls throughout Turkey. About 45 percent of girls 15 and under remain illiterate in the country’s eastern and southeastern regions and women account for two-thirds of adults without basic literacy skills.
  3. Sixteen million girls in Turkey will never set foot in a classroom for a multitude of reasons such as poverty, geographical information, pregnancy, gender-based violence and traditional attitudes of the role of a woman.
  4. The lack of a push for girlseducation in Turkey has led to a consistent number of only 39 percent of women being in the labor force for almost three decades. Girls’ families consistently discourage them from continuing school and the girls receive pressure to become homemakers. With little support in their home life, girls follow the life that their parents lead and do not choose to further their education.
  5. Turkey ranks 130 out of 149 on the gender gap index. The gender gap index reports on the gender gap in the economy, education, health and politics. The large gap that Turkey holds in the global index continues to show that women in Turkey face some of the biggest inequalities in the world based on a multitude of measurements.
  6. Since 2009, the male to female enrollment ratio for universities in Turkey increased from 12 percent to 14 percent, and since 2005, graduation rates for college students have increased by 170 percent. While attainment levels remain low, only 18 percent of 25 to 64-year-olds have any higher education so the increase in girls’ higher level education in Turkey remains hopeful.
  7. Fifteen percent of girls under the age of 18 in Turkey enter into forced marriages. Child marriage can be driven by gender inequality, gender norms, poor birth registrations, displacement and violence. When girls become child brides, they are less likely to continue with school and more likely to stay at home and become homemakers.
  8. With the Syrian crisis, the longer refugees are living in poverty, the more likely they are to marry off their daughters to Turkish men. This then leads to girls in Turkey not being able to further their education.
  9. With goal 5 of the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Turkey has committed to eliminating child, early and forced marriages in the next decade. During the 2015 Universal Periodic Review, the government-supported policy recommendations to criminalize child marriage and take legislative and political action to bring an end to this archaic practice. This enhancement in eliminating forced childhood marriages allows for more girls to further their education and have more choices in their life as they go into adulthood.
  10. Turkey’s involvement in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also includes its aim to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Goal 4 of the agenda includes seven targets including universal primary and secondary education, universal youth literacy and gender equality and inclusion. Turkey’s participation in the agenda is a step forward in the fight to develop girls education in Turkey.

There is a multitude of initiatives in Turkey other than the Turkish government that intends to reduce inequality in the education system. CYDD, a nonprofit fighting for girls’ education in Turkey, has awarded over 100,000 scholarships and created over 50 schools. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Turkey show the issues that are prevalent, but also the ways in which Turkey is addressing them. The initiatives of nonprofits and the government have bettered girls education in Turkey, but Turkey needs other improvements to further bridge the gap.

– Alexia Carvajalino
Photo: Unsplash

Eight Facts About Education in Turkmenistan
As a post-Soviet nation, Turkmenistan has taken strides over the last few decades in building autonomy and developing its social service sectors like public education. Here are eight facts about education in Turkmenistan today.

8 Facts About Education in Turkmenistan

  1. Turkmenistan has an impressively high literacy rate. Within the last few years, UNICEF has tallied Turkmenistan’s literacy rate at about 99.8 percent for both males and females ages 15-24.
  2. Public school is only compulsory through 10th grade in Turkmenistan. At this point, students take tests to determine whether they should go to a trade school or enter the workforce immediately. Well-scoring students may continue on for further schooling that is paid for by the state.
  3. Turkmenistan faces a severe shortage of qualified teachers, especially at the higher education level. This is a result of inadequate educational resources and unrealistic expectations like double shifts and Saturday classes. Of course, as poor conditions drive teachers away from the field, the issue only compounds. The lack of educated teachers is probably the largest threat to Turkmenistan’s education system right now. The government is cognizant of this issue and the last two Presidents have made significant efforts to absolve it with relatively little success. In 2007, President Berdimuhamedow reformed teacher working conditions by raising salaries by 40 percent, reducing class sizes and decreasing number of hours worked. The state also introduced competitions for Teacher of the Year and Educator of the Year to promote quality teaching. Unfortunately, the increase in incentives has found little success. Berdimuhamedow claimed in 2009 that the country would continue to rely on sending graduates to foreign universities until “the country gets fully staffed with specialists with high qualifications.”
  4. The process for admission into higher education institutions is extremely difficult. With a severe shortage of teachers, universities have room for less than 10 percent of high school graduates. Not only do students need remarkably high scores on entrance exams, but bribery on acceptance decisions is commonplace, which crowds out spots for deserving, lower-income students.
  5. Turkmenistan now requires that Turkmen be the standard language of instruction in all of its schools although at least four primary languages are spoken across the country. This has led to increased challenges for schools in regions where the traditional language is Russian or a local dialect. Many adults are also pursuing further education to become fluent in the national language, which takes up valuable teacher time.
  6. Women experience social pressure to start families instead of pursuing higher education. Many girls have become discouraged from finishing higher education due to the cultural expectation that they marry by their 20th or 21st birthday. The percentage of female students in higher education has actually gone down in the last decade, despite rises in female enrollment nearly everywhere else in the world. In 2009, the proportion of higher education students that were female was only 35 percent, a two percent decrease from the prior year.
  7. There are no private universities in Turkmenistan; all higher education is state-run and strictly monitored. Researchers Victoria Clement, from the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, and Zumrad Kataeva, from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, posit that this may be an attempt to control the information nationals acquire as a form of protecting the current political regime.
  8. There is an unequal regional distribution of higher education with all but three institutions located in the country’s capital city. This contributes to cyclical lower income levels for those living in the more rural regions, who have fewer opportunities to attend a higher education institute due to a long commute.

These eight facts about education in Turkmenistan reveal that while access to quality education in Turkmenistan is significantly better than in other areas of the world, it is not free of flaws. Opening up higher education to more people through increasing admissions, encouraging women to stay in school longer and providing more opportunities to those living in rural parts of Turkmenistan are goals to move toward in the future. Moreover, the addition of private schools would inspire more free thinking within the country that could result in citizens pushing for a more democratic society.

– Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Togo
The Togolese Republic (Togo) is a small West African country on the Gulf of New Guinea that borders Ghana and Benin. With a GDP of $4.75 billion and a GNI per capita of $610, Togo is one of the poorest countries in the world. Togo’s education system has faced development setbacks due to various political, monetary and societal reasons yet it remains one of the stronger education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. These eight facts about education in Togo demonstrate the progress made in certain areas and the need for progress in others.

8 Facts About Education in Togo

  1. Primary Schooling is Compulsory and Free — Due to its history as the French colony of Togoland, education in Togo follows the French model of primary, secondary and higher schooling. Starting at age six, primary education is mandatory for six years. Prior to 2008, public school fees created barriers for impoverished families to send their children to school, but in 2008, UNICEF partnered with Togo’s government to abolish public primary school fees. Togo’s net primary school enrollment was 90 percent in 2017 which is high.
  2. Secondary Education Enrollment Rates are Low — In 2017, only 41 percent of the children eligible enrolled in secondary education. This is an improvement from 2000 when only 23.53 percent of children enrolled in secondary schooling; however, the large enrollment gap between primary and secondary education remains due to costly secondary education fees, poor quality of primary education and the lack of access to schooling in rural areas.
  3. Togo has had Recurring Teacher Strikes — Since 2013, teachers have gone on lengthy strikes numerous times because they were unsatisfied with their working conditions, large class sizes or pay. Teacher salaries in Togo range from $33 to $111 per month while the minimum wage is $64 per month. After months of strikes, the Togo government signed an agreement with trade unions in the spring of 2018, but the future will tell whether this will improve teaching conditions.
  4. Enrollment Rates Do Not Translate into Higher Student Success — Despite having more children enrolled in school, Togo has had increased amounts of students repeating school years and failing to graduate. Several students (37.6 percent) dropped out of primary school in 2012 and 32.42 percent of secondary school students dropped out in 2015.
  5. There is a Gender Disparity in Togo Schooling — In every level of schooling except pre-primary, there are 10 percent fewer girls enrolled than boys. The literacy rate for males in Togo is 77.26 percent and only 51.24 percent for women, which shows a large literacy gap between the sexes. Early or forced marriages force many girls to leave school. International NGO’s such as Girls Not Brides are working in Togo to meet its commitment to end child, early and forced marriages by 2030.
  6. Low Educational Equality for the Rural and Poor — Togo is made up of primarily rural areas and 69 percent of its rural households live under the poverty line as of 2015. Secondary schools tend to be sparse in rural areas with few resources while urban areas tend to have more clusters of secondary schools with more resources. Sixty-eight percent of eligible males and 54 percent of females in urban areas enroll in secondary education while only 45 percent of eligible males and 33 percent of females in rural areas attend secondary school.
  7. The Literacy Rate is Improving Among the Youth of Togo — Adult literacy is around 64 percent while the literacy of those aged 15-25 is 84 percent in Togo. This fact about education in Togo shows progress within creating basic and more widespread educational services such as free primary schooling.
  8. Togo’s Education Strategy for 2014-2025 has Four Important Objectives — The government objectives for improving education include developing quality universal primary education by 2022 and extending pre-primary coverage to rural and poorer areas. In addition, it plans to develop quality secondary, vocational and higher education and decrease the illiteracy rate.

These eight facts about education in Togo show that there is still much to improve in terms of greater educational equality, the availability of key educational resources, gender equality and creating a system of quality education levels. Progress, however, is still occurring as school enrollment and literacy rates increase substantially. The combined efforts of the Togo government and outside organizations are helping accomplish Togo’s education goals.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

 

Girls' Education in Brazil
In Brazil, the fight for women’s rights is still a developing movement that has not become a priority of the nation. When it comes to education, the reasons why many girls do not enroll in or stay in school goes hand in hand with the government’s slow progress in providing a sustainable foundation for the opportunity of education for all. The following 10 facts about girls’ education in Brazil show some of the triumphs and setbacks in seeking higher enrollment of girls in Brazil’s educational system.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Brazil

  1. In Brazil, the average rate of schooling among women is one year more than men. Even though women are becoming more involved in education, they experience fewer employment opportunities and lower wages than men. Women continue to earn 30 percent less than men for performing the same tasks. On a political level, women only occupy 56 seats in the Brazilian Congress while there are 594 seats total.
  2. Women are increasingly closing gender gaps in education. There are many teenage girls subject to poverty who are victims of early pregnancies that keep them from continuing their education and entering the workforce. The adolescent fertility rate in Brazil, reported in 2013, was 70 which is above the average level of 67.7 for Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the World Bank.
  3. Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and an advocate for young girls, has been working on outreach to girls in Brazil through the Malala Fund. She has rallied up a team of around 460 students as part of Apple’s coding and web development academies in Brazil that her fund launched with Apple as part of Apple’s campaign to influence the education of technical coding. The partnership between the Malala Fund and Apple strives to give girls the opportunity to create change for other girls in their communities. The Malala Fund aims to help girls increase their enrollment in schools and equip teachers and students with real-life skills to succeed.
  4. Though the investment in early childhood enrollment in schools has increased, percentages of enrollment still drop in general. The 2018 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development states that access to pre-primary and primary education has become universal among five-year-olds and six-year-olds, girls included (97 percent and 100 percent). However, later in the educational journey, only 69 percent of 15 to 19 year-olds enrolled in education. Among those adolescents, girls hold the majority for out-of-school students at 254,202 girls compared to 209,507 boys, reported in 2016 by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
  5. Gender ratios in schools in Brazil are varied. More often, in STEM-related schools, there is a larger number of boys than girls who stay enrolled. Beatriz Magalhães, a teacher at one of Apple’s developer academies, saw the issue of gender ratios first-hand at the location in Rio. She said, “there was a giant line for the men’s bathroom and not the women’s bathroom.” This might seem like a simple observation but it is significant in the conversation towards improving the educational system for girls in various fields.
  6. Some of the main reasons for why girls drop out of school and do not continue their education are that they are too busy working to support their families, they are in abusive situations or experience child marriage or prostitution. A 2015 OECD study found that 32 percent of Brazilian women do not attend secondary education.
  7. A barrier to access to education for rural girls has to do with transportation. Concerns are over whether a commute to school is safe as well as the wait for new construction of highways and roads. A program to improve the efficiency of transportation in Tocantins, Northern Brazil is called the Tocantins Integrated Regional Sustainable Development project. It aims to strengthen and develop the state and rural road networks as well as reduce gender-based violence along highways.
  8. More schools are adopting programs to combat girl drop-out rates. A 2018 article by the World Bank said that the Upper School Darcy Ribeiro “will adopt a program to raise awareness about gender and physical, psychological or sexual violence.” This school, along with five others, in particular, will be partnering with the World Bank to jumpstart the program to show the correlation between these topics. The program’s purpose is to address and educate students of the dangers in close proximity in order to prevent students from having to face them. Since their specific school is by a busy highway, girl students are especially subject to sexual violence, sexually transmitted diseases and prostitution rings.
  9. There is a better chance of keeping girls in school when the administration tries to engage them. For example, Principal Elizete Batista Viana, of the Upper School Darcy Ribeiro, personally contacted students who decided to leave school and tried persuading them to come back, mentioning the beneficial outcomes if they were to come back. Her efforts were successful and influential as some did arrive back to classes.
  10. The benefits of literacy among women in Brazil have proven to have lasting effects. The benefits include “greater participation in the labour market, delayed marriage and improved child and family health and nutrition.” These changes in lifestyle help reduce poverty rates and expand life opportunities.

Like many countries facing difficulties and barriers in advocating for its young girls, the origin of the problem lies in the continuation of cycles of poverty in families. Girls are often too afraid to break away from this cycle and pursue a life of their own. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Brazil show what has been possible and what more can come to fruition. Instilling the idea of education and literacy in girls at a young age has the potential to give girls the push to seek their rights to that education.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Zimbabwe
Various organizations have made it a priority to increase access to girls’ education in Zimbabwe. Previously, many girls did not have the opportunity to pursue an education. However, initiatives dedicated to increasing girls’ education, particularly in Zimbabwe, are working to change that.

Zimbabwe and Education

Zimbabwe has been a progressive country in terms of providing educational opportunities for its children which shows by the significant rise in the number of children enrolled in school over the years. However, in recent decades, an increase in enrollment is becoming less common as poverty rates continue to plague the country’s rural population. The result is that girls’ education is declining in Zimbabwe, as parents are more likely to opt to send their young boys to school if given the opportunity.

While high poverty rates have led to a decrease in both male and female students, young girls are especially at risk of losing their access to education. This is because families can use girls as a source of income if they choose to marry them off.

Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) Program

Zimbabwe’s government has a program to aid poor families in funding education, though the program is often lacking in funds. This program is called the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) program.

Zimbabwe’s constitution has required that children have access to free elementary and basic education as of 2013. While enrollment increased, a report states that more than 1.2 million children between the ages of three and 16 are not enrolled in school. Additionally, a 2017 report found that at least 63 percent of children were unable to pay for their schooling and that the school subsequently sent them home.

The DREAMS Partnership

In an effort to reduce the number of children without access to school, USAID has created an initiative known as the DREAMS partnership. DREAMS stands for determined, resilient, empowered, AIDS-free, mentored and safe, and strives to keep children healthy and decrease new outbreaks of HIV/AIDS. Through this initiative, schools in rural parts of Zimbabwe have seen changes that ignite hope. One school in a rural area previously had a 40 percent enrollment from girls, but with the implementation of the DREAMS program, it has increased to a 51 percent enrollment rate.

Introducing educational family programs is a significant first step towards increasing girls’ enrollments in school. While a portion of Zimbabwe’s budget goes toward education, it largely focuses on human resources instead.

UNICEF and Girls Speak Out (GSO)

In 2016 alone, UNICEF and many of its partners took an initiative to combat the obstacles preventing many from the chance to be educated. Ninety-eight percent of the schools that UNICEF set out to help improve ended up receiving funding, meaning that more than 750,000 children received an enhanced education opportunity. More children were able to access education through improved learning materials and decreased costs for poorer students.

Anoziva Marindire, founder of the Girls Speak Out (GSO) movement, has taken a unique approach to enable girl’s education in Zimbabwe by teaching them to code. Searching for girls ranging from 14 to 24 years of age, Marindire says that computer and technology skills are more useful than one may think. The GSO program has reached over 160 girls in various cities and regions of Zimbabwe, and it is looking to expand further.

The goal of this coding initiative is to take young girls from underdeveloped communities and teach them how to create apps and use technology to their full advantage. Not only does this directly benefit these girls, but their communities as well. Because of the exploding job market in science and technology, giving girls the opportunity to learn how to code in a hands-on approach will prove to be highly beneficial to them.

Zimbabwe has and continues to make strides in the name of education for children, particularly the opportunities that are opening up for young girls throughout the country. Through multiple organization’s continued efforts, many hope that the 1.2 million children out of school will one day become zero.

– Emily Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Turkmenistan
Central Asia displays memories of ancient ruins and powerful empires. Turkmenistan is no exception due to its most recent invasion by the Russian Empire (1881-1998) which is what shapes most of its modern history. Today, the world knows the country for its natural resources, dictatorial leader and marble cities. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Turkmenistan.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Turkmenistan

  1. Authoritarian Media
    The close eye of Presiden Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow administers daily life in Turkmenistan. The government oversees all media outlets to determine what can and cannot be published. Only 17.9 percent of the population uses the internet due to the high expense. People have access to little online information as authorities ban websites against the government. Since 2006, the government imprisoned two journalists (Sapardurdy Khadjiyev and Annakurban Amanklychev) for not complying with government media regulations.
  2. An Ongoing Economic Recession
    Turkmenistan was the poorest nation during the USSR. Today, the country’s GDP per capita is $6,587 and 10 percent of 5.8 million Turkmen live in extreme poverty. However, this is a massive stride for the nation. In 1990, more than a third of the country lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day) making 10 percent the lowest poverty rate the nation has ever seen.
  3. Developing Education
    Nearly 100 percent of Turkmenistan people are literate. The country has a 12-year educational system, however, the average student drops out of school after 10 or 11 years. The government has partnered with UNICEF to continue the development of its education through the Child Friendly Schools (CFS) model. This framework aims to help children not only in terms of education but also in terms of their well being.
  4. Gender Equality on the Rise
    Only 40 percent of women in Turkmenistan will attend tertiary school. Women often marry by the ages of 20 or 21 and will thus have few opportunities to obtain a higher education or career. Luckily, the United Nations has aided in the recent 2017 presidential decree of Turkmenistan’s first national action plan on gender equality. This plan includes improved legislation, equal access to health services and data collection to monitor progress.
  5. Poor Health
    The state does not widely fund health care. Turkmen are likely to spend more money on health care than the government. In 2017, the average citizen spent $2,052 on health care in comparison to the government which only spent $741. The lack of accessible public health care leads to an average life expectancy of just 67.8 years, with the highest cause of death being lower respiratory infections.
  6. Urban vs. Rural Life
    There are 5.8 million people living in Turkmenistan and 49.2 percent of that population living in urban areas. The sale of cotton, silk, Karakul sheep and homemade carpets and rugs are essential to rural development. Ashgabat remains the capital city and is the center point for business and government officials. Cars and railways connect the cities and towns within the country.
  7. Jail Brutality
    Prisoners within Turkmenistan and political prisoners especially are often abused. The exact number of political prisoners held by the government is not public knowledge, however, Prove They are Alive, an international organization fighting to reduce disappearances within Turkmenistan, states that 121 people remain forcibly disappeared. Ovadandepe is the most infamous jail and was the point of death for former government official Begmurad Otuzov. Mr. Otuzov’s body was returned to his family weighing just 99 pounds after having been missing for 15 years.
  8. Natural Resources and the Economy
    Turkmenistan’s economy is largely dependent upon hydrocarbon resources. The country leads as the world’s fourth-largest natural gas distributor and had 265 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in 2016. Its largest customers include China, Russia and Iran. Petrofac is one of the largest energy producers in the country and employs 1,700 people across the nation.
  9. Environmental Resolutions
    Turkmenistan has no renewable energy sources and 13.9 percent of the population does not have access to clean water. However, UNICEF developed a strategy in 2017 to help the country promote sustainable practices. The project aims to raise awareness around environmental sustainability through education in schools.
  10. A Housing Crisis
    In 2015, the government evicted 50,000 people from their homes in the capital. The government forcibly removed people from their houses so they could build new buildings for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. Forced evictions are a common and recurring issue within Turkmenistan. Amnesty International is combating this housing crisis by publicizing homes that continue to be demolished.
  11. Low Unemployment Rate
    Last on the list of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Turkmenistan is employment. The country maintains a low GDP and a minimum wage of just 535 Turkmenistani ($152.55) per month. However, it also maintains a rather low unemployment rate. Only 3.8 percent of the country was unemployed in 2018, even lower than the United States’ unemployment rate of 4 percent.

Turkmenistan, like any country, has its challenges. As displayed in these top 10 facts about living conditions in Turkmenistan, the government’s high levels of surveillance and poor infrastructure can make life challenging at times. On the other hand, several NGOs such as the U.N. and Amnesty International are fighting to create a more equal society. Overall, the country has seen progress and today it maintains an improved education system as well as higher employment rates.

– Anna Melnik
Photo: Flickr

 

Facts about Education in SingaporeSingapore has recently been praised for its high-quality education, which has set an example for Western countries. These eight facts about education in Singapore discuss the government policies that have been enforced to achieve this success.

8 Facts About Education in Singapore

  1. Education in Singapore is obligatory. Since 2003, all children must be enrolled in school. This begins from an early age all the way through primary and secondary education. The compulsory education rule applies to both citizens and foreigners. If parents fail to have their children in school or home-school them, they can face significant fines. In fact, they can even go to prison for up to 12 months.
  2. It’s mostly free. Singaporean citizens receive primary education for free. Secondary education costs about $5 per month. While there are other costs related to education, they do not exceed $30 per month in either case (primary or secondary education). Thus, education is still made affordable to all Singaporeans.
  3. Almost everyone in Singapore is literate. According to the CIA Factbook, 97 percent of the population over 15 years of age can read and write, as of 2016. By the age of 16, it’s expected for students to have completed both primary and secondary education. Whether or not students decide to pursue a college degree or go on the technical career path, they are already provided with the basic skills to enter the professional world.
  4. High-quality education also comes at a price. Students have opened up about suffering from stress and anxiety related to schoolwork or tests. As stated by an OECD report about Student Well-Being, more than 75 percent of students feel extremely anxious before taking an exam. This is the case regardless of how much they have studied for it. More than half of the students feel stress while they are studying.
  5. Real-life skills are prioritized. Education in Singapore focuses on teaching students through theory. However, education is also taught with practice and through applying their knowledge to real life experiences. The goal is to give them all the skills needed to deal with different situations. Additionally, Singapore aims to help students build a strong set of values for the future. This includes teaching them that they live in a globalized world and have to adapt to different cultures as well as knowing their own national traditions.
  6. Singapore is a leader in science and reading. In recent years, Singapore has been able to top all countries in the PISA evaluation regarding science and reading proficiency. The mean score in both these fields is 493 points. Singapore’s score for science is of 556 points, followed by Japan, with 538 points. As for reading proficiency, Singapore scores 535 points.
  7. Teachers work longer days. Teachers work more hours than the world average. They are expected to spend almost as much time with their students as parents spend time with their children. Thus, reinforcing core values and the subjects taught in class.
  8. There is freedom to pursue each student’s unique interests. Students are encouraged to take on community-related activities or co-curricular activities. They will have a shorter syllabus, thus allowing more time to investigate and study specific areas of their interest in their free time. Singapore’s education also encourages a well-rounded approach. Schools offer subjects such as the sciences, electronics, languages, arts and music.

These eight facts about education in Singapore show just how effective established government practices are in reshaping a country’s future. They are simple laws which are easy to implement. But they have changed Singapore in 16 years. Certainly, work remains to be done. The students need a better support system to better deal with high education demands. However, the overall quality of life they can expect from the practices already implemented are undeniable.

– Luciana Schreier
Photo: Wikimedia

Informal Schools in African Slums
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) estimates that, as of 2010, more than 200 million people in Africa reside in slums. This means more than 200 million people are living their lives in inhumane conditions and circumstances. The children living in these slums have a compromised opportunity at education. According to UNICEF, the youth residing in slums are some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable youth in the world. Due to the burgeoning need for educational institutions in Africa, informal schools in African slums are gaining popularity.

What are Informal Schools?

Informal schools are unregistered educational institutions that are not recognized by the government. Traditional schooling comes in the form of either private or public schools, and informal schools are a sort of middle ground. They typically operate in impoverished areas and are mostly geared around offering the same education as a primary school. These institutions are funded by private parties and non-profit organizations.

Increasing Need

The main reason that the number of informal schools in African slums has been on the rise has to do with a surge of enrollment in public schools. This is, in part, due to the initiative of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which pushed toward target goals that would reduce poverty, such as improved access to education. This enrollment surge is a positive factor in Africa’s education sector, but comes with a downside: there are not enough public schools to meet the rising need of educating African children, and the usual alternative, private schools, are not financially accessible to most African families. Overcrowding in African schools has been an increasing problem; the pupil to instructor ratio in African primary schools is 42:1.

In response to the need for more educational institutes, informal schools have been sprouting up all over Africa, especially in slums. Characterized by the same steel and dirt architecture in the surrounding slums, these schools offer an alternative option for education. There is a lack of government schools in slums, so private sectors and organizations provide funds for the informal schools.

The Benefits of Informal Schooling

Informal schools in African slums not only facilitate access to education but also offer a safe space for the youth. Many of these schools, such as the Destiny Junior Education Center, offer meals and restrooms, which are not commodities in slum-living. Informal schools keep African children off the streets and in the classrooms, which potentially helps them stay away from the vices that are rampant in slum environments like drugs and alcohol.

The Future of Informal Schools

The next step regarding informal schools is to put policies in place to protect them. There are members in the education committee of the National Assembly that are working toward informal schools being recognized by the government so as to strengthen the quality of education in them.

Overall, informal schools in African slums are an attempt to meet the increasing need for education in slums. By offering an alternative to the congested public schools, these informal education centers provide hope for African youth.

– Paula Bouza
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Effects on Mozambican Students
Six weeks after Cyclone Idai ripped through central and southern Mozambique in March, Cyclone Kenneth added further destruction in the northern portion of the country. Having these consecutive disasters is highly abnormal in the region, and the impact of both storms has left over 650 people dead in Mozambique alone. Time Magazine reported that Mozambique would need $3.2 billion in order to recover after the damage caused by the storms.

The Cyclones

Mozambique is already a developmentally challenged country, suffering from high poverty rates due to high population growth, low agricultural productivity, illnesses and unequal distribution of wealth. These storms have left many citizens with nothing, further impoverishing the country. One of the most impactful yet overlooked aspects of the storms is the influence they have had and will continue to have over students. Cyclone effects on Mozambican students have made it difficult — and sometimes simply impossible — for the young population to continue their educations.

Impact on Students

More than 600 schools in Mozambique were damaged, impacting more than 300,000 students’ access to education. School records have been destroyed, roofs are missing from schools, and the water damage to classrooms is significant. School supplies have also been destroyed, meaning students have no access to notebooks, textbooks or writing utensils. Because of the damage to many classrooms, students are being forced to overcrowd classrooms, forcing multiple teachers to use the same room. This has proven to be highly distracting for students, and their focus is not fully on the content they are learning.

Along with schools being damaged and inadequate, other cyclone effects on Mozambican students come from the storms’ impact on their lives outside of school. With the devastation of the cyclones, many students come from families who have lost their homes, or even someone who had lived with them. As a result, children are unable to attend school, and both the ones who do and don’t attend school are suffering from lack of proper food and water — often going without either.

Additionally, the psychological toll that these storms have taken on kids has led to disruptions in their learning abilities. Many kids have seen the effects of the storms firsthand, having lost family members, neighbors and friends in the floods. School attendance rates are already low, with less than half of children under 15 fulfilling the country’s mandatory primary school program. That number decreases to less than 20 percent when it comes to high school attendance because many families cannot afford to pay school fees.

Aid Organizations

Various organizations have stepped up to provide relief and spread awareness about the disastrous effects of the storms, both in general and specifically for students. The Red Cross was among the first groups to arrive in areas of Mozambique severely affected, providing immediate aid to people in need. World Vision is another organization that has been active in its media coverage of what’s going on within Mozambique, in addition to its relief efforts. In Mozambique specifically, its focus is on providing food, water, child protection services and further education. It has also established two Child-Friendly spaces where kids are sheltered and given activities to do.

Save the Children, an organization based in the U.K., has consulted children and their families on their experiences with the storms. Affected children have shown varying sign of psychological stress, ranging from general anxiety that another storm will come to bedwetting. The organization has been in Mozambique since before the first cyclone made contact, and it has been providing child protection, emergency shelter and healthcare.

Overall, there is much to be done in terms of relief when it comes to Mozambique’s recovery. Much of the aid will go toward providing people with the essentials: food, water and shelter. However, attention should be paid particularly to the cyclone effects on Mozambican students. Access to education should be afforded to all children, regardless of socioeconomic status. Thankfully, there are a number of organizations that recognize that education needs to be prioritized in the aid they give.

— Emi Cormier
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

ten facts about living conditions in GabonThe West African country of Gabon is home to nearly 2 million people and shares a large part of its borders with The Republic of the Congo. While more politically stable than its neighbors, Gabon still struggles with extreme poverty and corruption. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about living conditions in Gabon.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Gabon

  1. Poverty: Even though Gabon boasts a per capita income four times the sub-Saharan average, as of 2015, 34 percent of the country still lived below the poverty line. Some estimates place unemployment at more than 40 percent. Of those who are employed, 64 percent are primarily employed in subsistence agriculture. By 2025, President Ali Bongo hopes to move Gabon into a “higher-tech, skilled economy,” which will potentially yield quality jobs beyond subsistence farming.
  2. Oil: Until oil was discovered offshore in the 1970s, Gabon primarily exported timber and manganese. As of 2012, Gabon had 2 billion barrels of accepted oil reserves, making it the fifth largest producer in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, oil makes up 80 percent of exports and 45 percent of the GDP. Despite the money generated from oil, the hydrocarbon sector, unfortunately, doesn’t generate sufficient jobs.
  3. Clean Water: More than 97 percent of urban populations have access to clean drinking water while only two-thirds of rural populations do. Relatedly, only 43 percent of urban dwellers and just below one-third of rural inhabitants have access to quality sanitation. In 2018, the African Development Bank granted Gabon a fund of $96.95 million to improve the water deficit in its capital Grand Libreville by expanding the drinking water infrastructure into Greater Libreville and other municipalities. The goal is to have sustainable universal access to drinking water and sanitation by 2025.
  4. HIV/AIDS: As of 2017, 56,000 people in Gabon were living with HIV/AIDS. That same year, 1,300 people died from causes related to HIV/AIDS. This, however, is a decline from 2003 when 3,000 people had died of HIV/AIDS-related causes. Since 2010, new incidences of HIV have dropped by 50 percent while the number of AIDS-related deaths has fallen by one-third.
  5. Leading Causes of Death: In 2007, HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death in Gabon. However, as of 2017, that number had fallen to fifth place, being overtaken by ischemic heart disease and lower respiratory tract infections as the top two causes of death. Although from 2007 to 2017, Malaria had risen to third place in deadliness. In 2017, there were more than 35,000 confirmed cases of malaria and 218 deaths.
  6. Corruption: Gabon has been relatively stable politically since gaining independence from France in 1960 and electing El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba in 1968. President Omar Bongo ruled for 41 years until 2009 when his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, won the presidential elections. But, within this relative stability, dissent and distrust had begun to surface. The elder Bongo’s re-election in 2002 was riddled with allegations of electoral fraud. In 2016, when the younger Bongo was reelected, the country erupted into riots which resulted in the burning of the parliament building. The opposition, as well as international election observers, flagged the election results as suspicious, but Gabon’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of Ali Bongo Ondimba extending his mandate to rule until 2023. In January of 2019, while President Bongo was in Morocco on an extended stay, several soldiers attempted a coup. They were unsuccessful and ultimately arrested.
  7. Education: According to the Education Policy and Data Center’s 2018 National Education Profile, 90 percent of primary school-age children were attending school. Literacy rates for young adults ages 15-24 were at 89 percent for females and 87 for males. This shows impressive improvement from 1985 when literacy rates were much lower, 53 percent for women and 70 percent for men.
  8. Maternal Mortality: The average woman in Gabon has about 4 children. In 2015, 291 women died out of 100,000 live births. As of 2018, there was still only one physician for every 3,000 people; therefore, complications from pregnancy and delivery can often go undetected and untreated. While still distressing, this maternal mortality rate represents a marked improvement from 1996 when it was 403.
  9. Infrastructure: In the 2013 World Economic Forum Competitiveness Report, Gabon ranked 112 out of 148 countries for quality of infrastructure. While roads are often impassable in the rainy season, railroad infrastructure had performed substantially better, coming in at 72 out of 148. Gabon has “one of the highest urbanization rates in Africa. More than four in five people live in cities.” In fact, 59 percent of the population lives in the country’s two dominant hubs: Libreville, the political capital and Port Gentil, the heart of its oil industry.
  10. Life Expectancy: In the 1980s, women were only expected to live into their early 50s and men only into their late 40s. Improvements in healthcare among other factors have extended life expectancy for women into their 70s and for men into their mid-60s. Furthermore, the mortality rate for children under the age of five was cut in half since 1990 when 80 out of 1000 children died. In 2017, that rate was approximately 40.

It is evident through these top 10 facts about living conditions in Gabon that there have been dramatic changes in the quality of life. Hopefully, Gabon will reach its drinking water and sanitation infrastructure goals for greater Libreville by 2025. It is through initiatives like this that Gabon will continue to improve the standard of living for those in the country.

Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr