Education for internally displaced childrenViolence or conflict internally displaces approximately 17 million children worldwide. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those who have been forced to leave their homes but remain within the borders of their country of origin. A majority of IDPs live in urban areas, where they often lack access to basic services, including health care, housing and education. Ensuring access to education for internally displaced children is essential to improving livelihoods and fostering social cohesion.

Initiatives in Nigeria and Kenya represent important steps toward ensuring education for all internally displaced children in those countries.

Barriers to Education

For internally displaced children, schools are crucial to integrating into their new host community and regaining some normalcy after fleeing violence. Unfortunately, a myriad of challenges prevents many of these children from being able to attend school. A lack of documentation, financial struggles, language barriers, physical distance from the nearest school and a lack of education facilities in the area could possibly prevent internally displaced children from pursuing their education.

Furthermore, child labor, child marriage and recruitment by armed forces and gangs are other significant barriers to education for internally displaced children. IDPs often experience severe poverty and, as a way to make more money, send their children to work within the informal sector, thereby preventing them from going to school.

Child marriage is seen as another way to help overcome poverty, as marrying into the host community can provide economic and social benefits. Child marriage is frequently forced onto internally displaced children, especially girls. For IDPs who choose to marry when they are young, becoming independent from their parents may be a motivating factor. Once married, children rarely begin or continue their education.

Additionally, internally displaced children tend to live in poor, crime-ridden districts. They are more likely to be recruited by local gangs or armed groups in these areas. In Colombia, armed groups seek out children because they are able to avoid heavy criminal sentences if caught.

Conflict also negatively impacts education infrastructure, hurting educational opportunities for internally displaced children. Displacement disproportionately affects girls, who face additional challenges. Girls are 2.5 times more likely to not attend school in countries experiencing conflict. Gender-based violence and harassment that occurs at school and on the route to and from education facilities keep many girls at home. The abduction and rape that has occurred in at least 18 countries, along with the bombing of girls’ schools, also encourages families to keep their daughters at home rather than sending them to school.

UNICEF Recommendations

UNICEF recommends several tactics to overcome these barriers to education for internally displaced children. The organization’s primary goal is to ensure humanitarian organizations and governments begin to see education as a greater priority for IDPs. Education is commonly seen as secondary to addressing violence. Unfortunately, when conflicts last for years and decades, waiting to invest in education can leave generations of internally displaced children without schooling.

Key recommendations include strengthening education systems, abolishing school fees to reduce financial constraints and adapting curricula to address prejudices and promote diversity and social cohesion.

Case Study: Kenya

A study conducted at a Kenya school in 2013 and 2014 provides valuable insight into the benefits of educating internally displaced children alongside local children. At the school studied, 71 percent of students were internally displaced. However, efforts were made to provide an inclusive education that strengthened community relationships.

The study found that many internally displaced children were initially apprehensive about being accepted by their new school community. This sometimes lasted, but usually dissipated after a few weeks as the children become comfortable with each other. One student, Jey, told an author from the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, “I like this school because pupils like me. I don’t have any enemies all of them help me.”

Furthermore, students at the school developed community-consciousness. Many were aware of social inequalities that existed in Kenya. Internally displaced children recognized the disadvantages they and their families faced and were motivated to complete school to improve their futures.

Overall, more schools like this one in Kenya are needed to help bridge gaps between host communities and IDPs. This will improve opportunities for internally displaced children.

Plan International: Nigeria

In Nigeria, Plan International is creating learning centers to provide education for internally displaced children. These centers are created in areas that lack educational infrastructure and seek to support IDPs.

Patim, one of the teachers at a learning center in Maiduguri, noted that many of the children she teaches have lost their parents and require a great deal of support. The learning centers are doing what they can but often lack adequate resources and staff. However, the work being done is still directly benefiting many children. Patim recognizes that many of her students would be working on the streets if it wasn’t for the learning center. Attending the center helps keep children safe during the day.

Moving Forward

More communities and nations need to adopt UNICEF’s recommendations to ensure the availability of education for internally displaced children. Hopefully, recent attention to this issue will spark significant change in more countries, improving the livelihoods of IDPs around the world.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

The Importance of Secondary Education
Secondary education is an important segment in every person’s life. It also serves as a means to potentially empower girls, raise a person’s economic status and reduce infant mortality rates as these listed facts will show. Here are the 10 facts about the importance of secondary education.

10 Facts About the Importance of Secondary Education

  1. Child marriage would reduce by 64 percent if all girls received a secondary education. Moreover, early pregnancies would lower by 59 percent.
  2. There are more than 226 million children around the world who do not attend secondary school. If these children were all to go onto secondary education, then the under-five mortality rate would fall by 49 percent. According to Ann M. Veneman, the Executive Director of UNICEF, evidence shows that girls who receive an education are more likely to take better care of their families, and in turn, reduce infant mortality rates.
  3. A person’s earnings should increase by 10 percent on average for each year of school they attend. As a result, education may help boost economies and bring populations out of poverty.
  4. In 29 countries around the world, children must complete secondary school. Some developed and developing countries will even pay for children to attend secondary school.
  5. In just 40 years, a country could raise its Growth Domestic Product (GDP) per capita by 23 percent through equal access to education.
  6. The attendance of all children to school would require $39 billion in funding every year.
  7. Children often start to drop out of school after primary school. The decrease in enrollment is as much as 10 percent worldwide and 34 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  8. In the year 2012, reports stated that there were 168 million child labor workers between the ages of five and 17. This is one of the reasons a child might be unable to attend school.
  9. In most developing countries, public school is not free for children to attend, as they must purchase books, uniforms and other school supplies. Even factoring out the costs of going to school, 67 million children still do not receive the right to attend. As a result, millions of children do not obtain a proper education, making it difficult to find substantial forms of employment. One solution to this has been Child Empowerment International, an organization that works to provide education to children across the world by setting up day schools for children without access to education, such as in refugee camps.
  10. While girls are less likely to be able to attend school in the first place, boys are more likely to repeat grades or drop out of school altogether. This is due to various issues within their countries, such as restrictions on education for women or early marriage.

There are many issues regarding education and while there are many projects working to decrease these issues, the issue is still at large. There is a need for an international presence regarding the importance of secondary education, and education itself.

– Alex Cahill
Photo: Flickr

Seven Facts About Girls' Education in PeruGirls’ access to education is a topic that has rightfully garnered a lot of attention in recent years. With organizations such as Girl Rising, which began as a 2013 film documenting girls who faced obstacles in receiving education and has since become a renowned advocacy group, the circumstances prohibiting girls from receiving proper education have come under scrutiny. From societal pressures to financial hardships, there is a variety of reasons as to why millions of girls can’t reach their potential through education.

Like in many countries around the world, girls in Peru are at a disadvantage when it comes to their educational opportunities. While there are girls around the Western South American country who are able to complete primary and even secondary schooling, education beyond that is often not accessible, especially for girls in rural areas. The following seven facts about girls’ education in Peru explain how the girls in Peru are at a disadvantage for their education.

7 Facts about Girls’ Education in Peru

  1. There is a 6 percent gap in literacy rates between genders in Peru. An estimated 97.2 percent of males 15 years and older can read and write, while 91.2 percent of females 15 and older are literate. While this difference is not huge, it is still significant.
  2. With 45 percent, and still rising, of the population under 25 years old, Peru’s education system is faltering. The government is being forced to spend more on education than is allotted in its budget in order to provide free education to children between 6 and 15 years old. While this free education is meant to be mandatory, many students, male and female, are still unable to attend. In fact, only 36 percent of girls in rural areas of Peru end up graduating from secondary school.
  3. Of Peru’s 31 million citizens, 22.7 percent live below the poverty line; that’s more than seven million people in less than liveable conditions. Many families living under the poverty line also live in rural areas, creating more obstacles for girls wanting to go to school. These girls would have to walk to and from school, and in cases where only afternoon classes are offered, many would be forced to stop attending out of fear for their safety.
  4. In 2001, a law improving access to education for girls in rural areas was passed. However, the results have been more surface-level than actually yielding tangible progress. Mainly, the law has resulted in activism on the subject of girls’ education. While more awareness is always helpful, active change in education opportunities is the ultimate goal.
  5. Because Peru’s population is largely made up of young people, there is a disproportionate ratio of students to teachers available to work. These scarce and largely underqualified teachers are unable to provide adequate learning environments to students, let alone give guidance to further propel students’ education opportunities. Some teachers are not even fully versed in the subjects they are meant to be teaching.
  6. Organizations such as Peruvian Hearts are working to make tangible differences. Working directly with Peruvian girls and young women living in rural areas, Peruvian Hearts not only offers quality educational opportunities but also one-on-one guidance and community involvement to create well-rounded young women.
  7. Basing their selection on the girls’ financial needs and display of ambition and willingness to learn, Peruvian Hearts gives their selected girls financial scholarships, college tuition and room and board. Their 100 percent success rate with girls completing secondary school means that more girls can continue their education in college. Additionally, the organization provides the girls with English lessons to further prepare them for higher education.

These seven facts about girls’ education in Peru highlight the setbacks many young girls face regarding their access to education. However, these facts also shed light on the progress made both in legislation and through organizations. Ultimately, despite the obstacles, more girls are slowly gaining the education they deserve.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Irene's School in UgandaEducation outcomes, a lack of funding, rapid expansion and inadequate management have led to low and declining education outcomes for girls and boys in Uganda. Since 2000, initial primary enrollment and attendance rates have increased; however, only one-third of students will finish their primary education.

The Problem

Only 20 percent of students reach O-level, which is four years of lower secondary education, and only 10 percent reach A-level, which is finishing secondary education and two years of upper secondary education. Furthermore, less than half of primary students meet the minimum level of literacy and numeracy in the National Assessments of Performance in Education.

Girls living in sub-Saharan Africa face some of the greatest disadvantages when it comes to gaps in education. Globally, over half of the out-of-school children live in this region, and nearly 40 percent of adolescent girls are out of school.

The reasons for this vary, however one of the most tenacious reasons is harassment from men. There is a lack of private bathroom facilities and it is very common for boys at school to target girls for consensual or forced sexual encounters which can harm the girl’s reputation. If she becomes pregnant, she’s forced out, while the father of the baby can continue with school.

Irene’s Story

Irene’s school in Uganda is a success story that stands above the rest and gives girls in sub-Saharan Africa hope. Irene Kamyuka, the youngest of four kids, was forced to drop out of her sixth year of primary school in 2012 because her father ran short of money. Kamyuka’s father told her that she could go back to school when her siblings were finished and he had saved up enough money.

However, because of her dedication and the generosity of others such as the Plan International Program, the 15-year-old is now in her first year at Kamuli Progressive College and stands as an inspiration to girls aspiring to stay in school. The international development charity is paying her term fees, which work out to about 20 U.S. dollars every three months.

Stories like Irene’s are not uncommon. Ugandans who live in rural areas, like in Kamyuka’s town Kamuli, make their living as subsistence farmers and run into difficulties paying for their children’s schooling. Though this East African nation’s government-run schools are free, parents who cannot afford to pay for uniforms, books and supplies cannot send their child to school.

According to preliminary statistics from Uganda’s Ministry of Education for the 2012 school year, the number of girls who qualify to attend secondary school stood at 343,000 in contrast to 408,000 boys. As in Kamyuka’s case, the outcome of their education is often interrupted or canceled completely.

How is the world helping?

Despite it being unusual for girls to attend school as far as the seventh grade in Uganda, the country is receiving support. UNICEF has been supporting Irene’s school in Uganda since 2015 by providing school supplies, as well as training teachers and building a new classroom block and latrines.

Similarly, the Plan International Program continues to help those in need to pay dues for school, and the Irene Children’s Support Organization (LICSOU) was formed in 2012. They work to respond to the overwhelming number of children who are dropping out of schools within rural communities like Irene’s school in Uganda. In order to accomplish their goals and help the greatest number of children, they plan on lobbying, advocating and improving community networking and collaboration.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Unsplash

Keeping Girls in School ActFor hundreds of years, people have robbing women and young girls of their right to an education. Of the 774 million illiterate people around the globe, two-thirds are female. Without an education, women die at higher rates, have an increased number of child deaths, are more likely to marry young, are less likely to find work and are more likely to receive lower pay. The Keeping Girls in School Act is designed to address the worldwide barriers that currently exclude 130 million school-aged girls from their right to an education. The legislation has the power to cut child deaths by 50 percent and will raise girls’ future wages by $15 to $30 trillion. Here are 10 facts about the Keeping Girls in School Act.

10 Facts About the Keeping Girls in School Act

  1. The bill has bi-partisan Congressional support. On April 9, 2019, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act into the Senate. On that same date, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-PA) and Rep.Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced the bill into the House. More recently, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) have also decided to cosponsor the bill, totaling a number of 25 co-sponsors in the House and three in the Senate. With advocates in both the House and the Senate, the Keeping Girls in School Act has garnered the support of not only both legislative bodies but both political parties.

  2. The bill will cut child deaths by 50 percent. Education is one of the most valuable resources when it comes to saving children’s lives. Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of death for children under five largely due to many mothers’ lack of education on proper hygiene, health and nutrition. According to UNESCO, if all women received secondary education, it would cut in half the number of child deaths and save three million lives. When provided with an education, mothers are able to raise their children in a healthier way because they have the knowledge necessary to provide them with a higher quality of life.

  3. The bill focuses on secondary education. The Keeping Girls in School Act focuses on education at the secondary level rather than the primary because girls are at higher risk of dropping out as adolescents. Between the ages of 14 to 18, girls are at the greatest risk of pregnancy, child marriage and genital mutilation. By focusing on girls in this age range, the Keeping Girls in School Act has the power to not only educate young women but to prevent inhumane practices from infiltrating their lives.

  4. The bill will reduce child marriage by 66 percent. Without proper education, people force many young girls into marriage because the girls do not understand that they have the right to refuse it. Education informs young women about their rights and provides them with the tools necessary to challenge the cultural expectations. According to UNESCO, one in seven sub-Saharan African women are married under the age of 18 due to their lack of education. Education is one of the leading factors when it comes to reducing child marriage. If the Keeping Girls in School Act passes, it will play a vital role in eradicating child marriage because it will grant young women the awareness that they have autonomy over their own lives.

  5. The bill is divided into 14 barriers. The Keeping Girls in School Act is divided into 14 sections in an attempt to address all the barriers that prevent women from receiving an education. These include: harmful social norms, lack of safety at or traveling to school, child and forced marriages, distance from and cost of school, the priority of education given to young men, poor nutrition, early pregnancy, HIV, disabilities and racial or religious discrimination. The Keeping Girls in School Act not only outlines these 14 barriers but sets out to challenge them. By individually working to overcome these educational confines, the Keeping Girls in School Act will not only make education more accessible for young women but it will also improve the quality of their lives.

  6. The bill will decrease violent conflict by 37 percent. Lack of education is one of the biggest contributors to violent conflict. Likewise, conflict-affected areas inhibit girls’ access to education greatly. Girls in conflict-affected areas are 90 percent more likely to be uneducated due to the violent reality of their communities. By providing young women with access to education, the violence that keeps thousands of girls from being educated will decrease and the fear that leads their lives will consequently lessen.

  7. The bill will save worldwide governments 5 percent or more on education budgets. With more girls attending school, there will be fewer child marriages, so more women will be able to enter the workforce later on. As a result, they will earn more money and will be able to contribute to their country’s economy in a way they were formerly unable to. An investment in female education is more than a social rights investment because it also houses an economic return. With more economically stable women, more people will be able to purchase products and their countries’ economies will rise as a result. By prioritizing girls’ education, U.S. foreign assistance is not only investing in young women but also investing in themselves.

  8. The bill will promote gender equality. By advancing girls’ education, the U.S. is taking a global stand against inequality. Worldwide, four million more boys receive education than girls. The Keeping Girls in School Act has the power to bridge the gap. Providing education for young women is not only the acknowledgment that they are equally valuable but it is the recognition that they are undeniably capable. In Pakistan, women with secondary education earn 70 percent of the country’s average male income while their primary school counterparts earn only 51 percent. By advocating for the Keeping Girls in School Act, the U.S. is challenging social norms that have oppressed young women for decades. As a result, the Act also possesses the power to change the way people value women around the globe.

  9. Fifty international nonprofit organizations endorse the bill. The largest global poverty organizations around the world support the Keeping Girls in School Act. Organizations such as UNICEF U.S.A, CARE U.S.A and ADRA International are currently backing the legislation. By supporting this bill, these organizations are not only spreading awareness for the global issue but they are exemplifying the mass of its importance.

  10. The bill will receive updates every five years. Keeping in line with global progression, if enacted into law, the Keeping Girls in School Act promises to keep up. If passed, the Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and the Senior Coordinator for International Basic Education Assistance will oversee the bill. This makes sure that the diversity of issues addressed are in line with the reality of the world’s social climate, ensuring that women’s education progresses at the fastest possible rate.

These 10 facts about the Keeping Girls in School Act can spread awareness of a bill that has the power to change the lives of young women around the world. Programs such as CARE’s Keeping Girls at School and funds like UNESCO’s Malala Fund For Girls’ Right to Education are making great progress towards improving the issue. However, with 76 million illiterate female youths worldwide, the Keeping Girls in School Act will help to increase education for women even further.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Unsplash

Girls Education in IndiaEducation in India has greatly improved over the past decade. However, there is still much that needs to be down to decrease the education gaps that exist in rural areas and between girls and boys. These 10 facts show the problems that still need to be solved and what is being done to improve education in India.

10 Facts About Education in India

  1. Considering India has the second largest population in the world, it isn’t surprising to find that India has the world’s second-largest school system, after China. However, there is still a gap in participation rates despite the millions of enrolled students. These gaps are particularly evident among populations of lower castes, minorities, and rural regions. Education in India is on its way toward improving due to major increases in government funding in rural areas.

  2. Free and compulsory education in India is provided to children between the ages of 6 and 14. In August 2009, the Indian Parliament passed the landmark Right to Education Act that made education in India free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14. There have been tremendous increases and advances in access to education and because of this act. For example, literacy rates in India have increased in recent years. The student population in the school system grew by 5 percent between the years 2010 and 2015.

  3. India’s improved education system is one of the main contributors to it’s growing economy. Over the past several years, India increased spending on education by 80 percent between 2011 and 2015, increased literacy rates to nearly 74 percent as of 2011, increased English-language speaking in classrooms giving more access to foreign studies and careers and has significantly increased primary education than ever before. This has to lead to a surge in youth working in some of the best technology-centered jobs in the world. Subsequently, India has seen an increase in GDP.

  4. One in 40 primary schools in India is conducted in tents or open spaces with unqualified teachers. Insufficient funds are allocated to rural regions and primary schools depriving children in rural areas of primary schooling in buildings. Often children are taught in tents or open spaces with little to no common resources, such as pencils, pens, paper, chalkboard, etc. Further, UNICEF and other global organizations have observed that one major problem with education in India is unqualified teachers. For example, according to WENR (World Education News + Reviews), the qualification requirements for teachers are low. 

  5. A disproportionate number of total out-of-school children in India are girls. In the rural areas of India, is not uncommon to find that child labor is a primary reason children are not in school. This is because of the need of children in the farms and family work to provide a living for families below the poverty line. Most of these children are girls. In certain regions, there is still resistance to sending girls to school. Even with the Right to Education Act making school compulsory for children 6-14, more girls than boys are forced to drop-out by their parents to help out at home. However, progress has been made in keeping girls in school. The Right to Education Act doubled the number of girls toilets in schools by 2016 and increase the number of walled school grounds removing a significant safety concern for girls school attendance. Since the Right to Education Act passed, the percentage of out-of-school girls 11-14 decreased from 10.3 percent in 2006 to 4.1 percent in 2018.

  6. Preschool education in India is not mandatory and fairly uncommon. The Right to Education act emphasized education in India for ages 6-14. However, preschool education is not necessarily prioritized. In reality, more than 30 percent of educational funds are allocated towards higher education, leaving education for children under age 6 underfunded.

  7. As of 2011, 21.2 percent of India’s population lives under the official poverty line. High poverty rates lead to high drop out rates for children. Why? Their priority and primary concern is helping their families survive. For the impoverished, education is a luxury, something only the rich can afford in terms of time and money. This mindset can be changed by allocating more money to building schools in impoverished areas in India thereby providing direct access to school and working around the schedules of those also helping their families.

  8. In this years’ budget, the Finance Minister announced a 4.9 percent increase in the education budget. Four billion Indian Rupees ($58 million) will be allocated for setting-up world-class institutes of education in India. According to the Hindu Business Line, “Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will bring in a new national education policy to transform India’s higher education system to one of the best in the world.” Thirty percent of funds will be allocated towards higher education to emphasize research and innovation in higher education.

  9. The recently increased education budget is focused on research and higher education in India, rather than primary and rural education. Though a meager amount of money will be spent on education in rural India, the state and central governments are working together by allocating approximately $5.7 billion for improving rural school infrastructure and recruiting teachers. With more qualified teachers and better infrastructure, a better school environment will be in place for children in these areas.

  10. In addition to the issue of poor infrastructure of schools in rural areas, many children must travel far to attend school. Consequently, the government launched Samagra Shiksha, the first integrated scheme extending unified support to states from preschool to senior level. Under this program, preschool has a newfound priority. Girls from disadvantaged areas are also provided with more attention in terms of education. This is a step toward new programs that aim at improved education in India.

– Furaha Njoroge
Photo: Flickr

Education in Central AmericaMany Central Americans are attempting to migrate to the U.S., motivated by the prospect of finding a better life. An understanding of current conditions in Central America is key to understanding the reasons behind migration. Education is a vital component of any region. These 10 facts provide information about this vital component, giving readers a glimpse at education in Central America.

10 Facts about Education in Central America

  1. Many teens and young adults are not in school – Currently, Guatemala’s primary-school-aged population is almost fully enrolled in school. But secondary-school enrollment is not as common. About 2 million Guatemalans aged 15-24 are not in school. In 2017, 60,573 Salvadoran adolescents were not in school. In the same year, 192,262 Honduran adolescents were also not in school. Additionally, unemployment rates are high for this age group. Children in rural Guatemala are also significantly less likely to remain in school than their urban peers.
  2. There is low gender disparity – In 2017,  the number of Guatemalan adolescents enrolled in secondary school was 47.2 percent. Of these students, 47.1 percent of female adolescents were enrolled, while 47.2 percent of boys were enrolled. In 2016, 84.9 percent of girls were able to transition from primary school to secondary school. Additionally, 94.2 percent of boys were able to make the transition. Overall, the disparities between male and female enrollment were not large, indicating a positive trend in regard to education in Central America. Typically, gender disparities in education are higher in low-income countries.
  3. There are low completion and enrollment rates in secondary education – Only about half of Salvadoran children attend secondary school. Even fewer go on to graduate from secondary school. Roughly 300,000 Salvadorans between the ages of 15 to 24 are unemployed and not enrolled in school. High rates of poverty, food insecurity and violence prevent Salvadoran youth from accessing the education and vocational training that they need.
  4. Girls are more likely to complete primary school – On average, Salvadoran children spent about 11 and a half years in school. Girls were less likely to repeat grades and more likely to finish primary school. Boys were slightly more likely to transition from primary school to secondary school, with 91.72 percent of girls and 92.44 percent of boys making the transition.
  5. The Education Law seeks to improve the education system – In 2012, the Honduran government passed the Education Law as part of a major effort to reform its education system. The Education Law redefined “basic education” to extend to grades six through nine. It required preschool attendance and introduced a new system for hiring and monitoring teachers. The Education Law emphasized cooperation with rural populations in need of better schools.
  6. The average amount of schooling is ten years – On average, Honduran children spent about 10 years in school as of 2015. Girls spent an average of 10.66 years in school, while boys spent an average of 9.8 years in school.
  7. Enrollment rates are increasing – From 1999 to 2009, preschool enrollment increased in both Honduras and El Salvador. During the same period, primary school enrollment increased in Guatemala and El Salvador. The first decade of the 21st century saw a significant decrease in child labor, with more and more children in school instead of working.
  8. Literacy is high – As of 2015, 81.5 percent of Guatemalans were literate. As of 2016, 89 percent of Hondurans were literate. As of 2015, 81.5 percent of Salvadorans were literate.
  9. U.S. Congress is now involved – In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation to address education in Central America. The legislation has an emphasis on the Northern Triangle region of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. 70 percent of migrants from the Northern Triangle claims to have received no education beyond primary school. This is a factor that contributes to their desire to migrate with their families. The U.S is currently providing data to the Northern Triangle countries about their educational systems in order to show them the areas that are most in need of attention.
  10. Central Americans are migrating for better education – Current migration rates from Central America to the U.S. are fueled in part by parents’ desires to access better education for their children. Central American public schools are underfunded, and the private schools in the region are too expensive for many families. In some cases, Honduran parents spend over half of their income to send their children to private schools, a practice that is not financially sustainable. They see more opportunity and safety in American public schools.

Improving Education in Central America

Overall, poverty greatly hinders educational progress in Central America. Many adolescents, especially in the Northern Triangle, are not in school and are unprepared to enter the workforce. Fortunately, there are many positive signs as well, such as nearly universal primary school enrollment and low gender disparities in secondary school enrollment. Education drives migration. As a result, aid programs prioritizing education initiatives could decrease migration and improve the lives of countless children. Improving the quality of education in Central America is vital to the future of the region and its people.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in AfghanistanPolitical and economic instability have been facts of life in Afghanistan for decades. However, one of the few institutions that has made a significant recovery is the education system. There are still twice as many boys in school as there are girls. However, since 2008, the overall number of girls in school has gone up significantly.

Changing attitudes about girls’ education in Afghanistan have bolstered female enrollment rates. This shift has, in turn, increased support for public education in general and foreign aid—particularly from the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID statistics offer some encouraging numbers to support this:

  • Of 9 million children enrolled in schools, 3.5 million are girls,
  • USAID has distributed over 170 million textbooks, and
  • USAID has helped train 280,000 new teachers.

The Rustam School

One promising example of this shift forward is the Rustam School, located in the Yakawlang district. The Rustam School possesses a small student body of only a few hundred. Nevertheless, 92 percent of its graduating class moved onto Afghanistan’s public universities in 2017.

Inverting the country’s enrollment statistics, two-thirds of the Rustam School’s students are girls. To note, the Taliban outlawed girls’ education in Afghanistan and pushed many boys into Islamic studies, rather than popular STEM courses. However, students, particularly girls, apply themselves rigorously to their education. They go so far as to learn the Windows operating systems without the aid of a computer.

The Fight for Education

Unlike in the United States, where public K-12 education is universal, the fight for education in Afghanistan has a checkered past. As far back as the 1970s, mujaheddin resistance fighters (rebelling against the USSR’s attempted occupation of Afghanistan) were killing government-paid teachers and closing down their schools.

With over half of the country’s 36 million citizens under the age of 18, the investment and safeguarding of education are more critical than ever. In recognition of this fact, USAID, the Pentagon and the State Department have invested $759 million in primary and secondary education over the last 17 years. These investments have fostered the changing attitudes of both local politicians and regional power-brokers—with the constant exception of the Taliban.

Though the expansion and protection of girls’ education in Afghanistan have had much progress, there is still room for improvement. The majority of Afghan girls are not enrolled in public school. This is explained by two main factors. First, most Afghan girls still marry at a very young age (for a variety of sociocultural factors). Subsequently, this causes a lack of female teachers and all-girls’ schools. Second, Afghanistan faces logistical difficulty when it comes to extending education to rural areas. Long walks to school sometimes have significant geographical barriers along the way that physically prevent students from attending. Also, many rural families are subsistence farmers; it is difficult for students to go to school if they have animals or crops to look after. However, the Rustam School proves that though providing education to rural Afghan children may be difficult, it is not impossible.

The Future of Education

Despite the recent progress and development of education in Afghanistan since the early 2000s, significant hurdles exist for girls’ education. The country’s education system must still be further advanced. However, a local initiative can make do with minimal resources and reach out to rural areas—like the Rustam School. Most importantly, despite its shortcomings, Afghanistan’s primary and secondary education systems offer success stories of what foreign aid can accomplish, especially if maintained over long periods of time.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Papua New Guinea

While primary school enrollment rates in Papua New Guinea are low for girls and boys, there is a significant disparity between the two. Several factors contribute to the worse girls’ education in Papua New Guinea, some of which governments and organizations are working to change.

Factors Contributing to Gender Inequality

  • Political Factors – Women’s social status in Papua New Guinea is below men’s, limiting female positions of leadership. To combat some of this inequality, the country attempted to create legislation that would reserve seats for women, but it was defeated in parliament. As a result of this, initiatives to promote gender equality often have difficulty in receiving funding.
  • Economic Factors – School fees dissuade parents from enrolling their daughters, as they feel it is more beneficial to enroll their sons. Although, many boys do not receive an education as well: about 64 percent of boys and 57 percent of girls attend primary school. Hunger also contributes, as starving students are less likely to attend school. In urban areas, food shortages are common because of less gardening land. Malnourished children often develop illnesses, also causing them to miss school. Additionally, a lack of appropriate water and sanitation facilities negatively impacts girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. They are often not private enough, and sometimes there isn’t even running water. Once girls reach puberty, they often leave school because they cannot maintain menstrual hygiene at school.
  • Social and Cultural Factors – Girls do not enroll in school because they are required to take care of their younger siblings while their parents work. Child marriage also contributes to poor girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. Married girls do not continue to attend school, and approximately 22 percent of girls in Papua New Guinea get married before the age of 18.

Safety is another serious concern for girls. Gender-based violence and harassment are prevalent in schools. Just under 50 percent of girls reported feeling safe at school, with 31 percent feeling unsafe. These feelings were strongest near toilets, sports fields and school gates, with only 2 percent of girls feeling safe around toilets.

Girls are harassed by male students and teachers, thereby afraid of physical and sexual assault. The high number of male teachers contributes to low enrollment rates, with male teachers out-numbering female teachers in primary schools. While the number of female teachers doubled between 2002 and 2012, there is still a significant lack of them.

Efforts to Decrease Gender Inequality in Education

World Vision launched a project targeting girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. They established community learning centers (CLCs), which provide early childhood care for girls and boys between three and six. Education improvement classes for children under 14 are also offered. The goal is to make it easier for children to succeed in school, as well as encourage parents to take a more active role in the children’s education. Between 2014 and 2017, approximately 6000 children attended classes at CLCs and 4o00 people were involved in community awareness efforts. After attending CLCs, 90 percent of children were prepared to begin primary school, significantly higher than the baseline of 80 percent.

The National Education Plan (NEP), developed in 2015, is also aiming to improve education, with a focus on gender equality. In their most recent $7.4 million grant, their goal is to better student achievement in math and science by improving pre-service and in-service teacher education, especially for women, and increasing access to textbooks.

Notable Progress

Due to these projects being implemented, some advancements have been made. A study by the National Research Institute found that the number of girls enrolled in school increased by almost 150 percent between 2001 and 2012. Additionally, primary school completion rates for girls rose by approximately 5 percent between 2014 and 2016.

While there is still a long way to go, Papua New Guinea has begun to decrease the differences between male and female education.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Swaziland
In Swaziland, a relatively small, landlocked country in Southern Africa, a surprising trend has emerged: girls are receiving education at a higher rate than boys. According to the latest count on gross enrollment rate, the percentage of girls at every level of schooling has been higher than boys. However, due to the high rate of poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancies, the education of girls in Swaziland still has a lot of room for improvement.

Girls’ Education in Swaziland

Currently, although 97 percent of girls enroll at some point into primary school, only 37.7 percent of them continue into secondary education. Beyond that, only about 5.5 percent enroll in tertiary education.

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of girls’ education in Swaziland is poverty. Primary education in Swaziland currently operates under the Free Primary Education grant, launched in 2010, which stipulates that families send all children to public primary schools up to grade seven from the ages of six to 11. As of 2014, this program has enrolled about 80 percent of primary school-aged Swazi children. However, schools charge annual top-up fees, averaging at $76 per year, to cover running costs. With 58.9 percent of Swazis living below the national poverty line, defined as $2 or less per day, higher education becomes out of reach for many girls. This has resulted in many families withdrawing from educational programs in order to pay for the ever-growing costs of basic necessities such as food and medications.

Health Care, HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy

Next, the health care issues that have plagued Swazis for decades often disproportionately affect girls. The country experiences a significant HIV/AIDS gender gap which has been widening in recent years, with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 being almost twice as likely to have contracted HIV/AIDS than boys of the same age. HIV/AIDS inhibits children from attending schools as income initially used for school fees often becomes redirected toward medications.

Premature parental deaths caused by HIV/AIDS has also led to record-high numbers of orphans in the country. With few institutions in place to cope with the crisis, many of these minors, especially girls, become heads of families. As a result, they must forfeit their education in order to care for their siblings.

In addition, the country has a high rate of teenage pregnancies, many of them resulting from sexual abuse by close male relatives. One in three girls report having experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. With less than 30 percent of sex occurring with contraceptives, many of these sexual relationships result in teen pregnancies. Although there are no explicit laws in the country to exclude pregnant students from schools, local communities often ridicule and stigmatize these young mothers, which, often in combination with the needs of their children (schools rarely offer childcare or support), frequently results in them dropping out. The numbers indicate this because although 98 percent of Swazi children enroll in primary school at some point in their lives, only 27 percent enroll in secondary school.

UNICEF, Children’s HopeChest and mothers2mothers International

There is, however, much hope for the future for girls’ education in Swaziland. For example, UNICEF is currently actively collaborating with the Swazi government as well as the U.N. to decrease teenage pregnancy and to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The organization has dedicated human resources to Swaziland starting in 1968 and has since then engaged the Parliament to adopt better legislation regarding health and education issues and have supported strategies reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS through changes in community behaviors. Many NGOs are also invested in the issue, including Children’s HopeChest, which has been working to empower orphans in Swaziland by constructing housing and other facilities for them. Since 2004, the organization has impacted over 7,000 children. Furthermore, mothers2mothers International operates in Swaziland with the goal of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV as well as providing support for individuals and families who have contracted the disease. Between its inaugural year of 2008 to its last data count in 2017, the program has enrolled 68,796 clients.

Conclusively, although the girls’ education in Swaziland still has many obstacles to overcome, including poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancy, there is much hope on the horizon. Today, over 95 percent of female Swazis are literate and that number should grow. With new educational and health programs being put in place by both the government and NGOs, teenage pregnancy and HIV rates are almost certain to decrease within the next decade.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr