Education for All Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Education for All Act of 2016 on September 7 — five days after it was initially listed on the House Schedule. This bill, which promotes quality universal basic education, now moves on to the Senate.

In July, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced near-identical companion legislation to the Senate which is currently being considered in the Foreign Relations Committee.

This low-cost, bipartisan bill aims to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, asserting that multilateral education aid to developing countries is essential to protecting U.S. national security interests.

The bill requires that the United States government develop a comprehensive strategy, beginning with the designation of a Senior Coordinator of U.S. Government Actions to provide basic education assistance within USAID. This position will coordinate international resources in order to promote universal access to education.

If the Education for All Act continues its momentum, once signed by the President, the bill has the potential to change the lives of millions of children.

Currently, 59 million primary school-aged children are not enrolled in school. Furthermore, 250 million children who do attend school are unable to read, write, or do basic mathematics. Many drop out before the fourth grade.

Gender discrimination, conflict and extremism continue to limit the educational growth potential for at-risk children.

Guided by coordination, sustainability and aid effectiveness, the Education for All Act will support national education plans in developing countries worldwide, creating specific indicators to measure educational quality.

Additionally, the bill focuses on the equitable expansion of education in marginalized or conflict-affected populations, in an attempt to keep schools safe from violence.

“An education is a fundamental tool with which boys and girls are empowered to increase their economic potential, improve their health outcomes, address cultural biases, participate in their communities and provide for their families”, said Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), the original sponsor of the House bill.

According to the bill text, the legislation would promote and contribute to an overall increase in economic growth for underdeveloped countries, improve democratic institutions of government, encourage empowerment for women and young  girls while “ensuring that schools are not incubators for violent extremism.” As such, focusing on improving access to education across the globe would promote U.S. national security interests.

Congressional Budget Office estimates indicate that the Education for All Act is low-cost initiative, requiring less than $500,000 per year. Enacting the bill would neither increase net direct spending nor budget deficits in the future.

The Borgen Project applauds the House for passing this important legislation and urges readers to call and email their Senators to support the Education for All Act of 2016. Let’s get this bill to the President’s desk and give millions of children access to quality education.

– Larkin Smith

Photo: Flickr


Learn about the READ Act.


Nigerian female education
On April 2014, tragedy struck hundreds of families in Nigeria. The terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from the Chibok Government Secondary School. This event represented more than an attack on the Nigerian people; it was an attack on girls’ right to education.

Education for girls is condemned by Islamic extremists and often results in near-fatal or deadly incidents. Nigerian female education is not an exception to sexist discrimination. However, one Nigerian girl, Amina Yusuf tells her story of breaking down barriers in a TakePart series.

Yusuf’s story begins with a scholarship from the Center for Girls Education. CGE is an organization comprised of the Population & Reproductive Health Initiative (PRHI) at Ahmadu Bello University and the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.

The organization helps adolescent girls in rural Nigeria achieve an education “through innovative programming, advocacy, research and strategic partnership.” To promote bravery in dangerous times, the Center for Girls Education “safe space club” remained open after the Boko Haram abductions.

The 2014 attacks only amplified Yusuf’s fervor for education for girls; she blames Boko Haram, poverty and early marriage for parents keeping their daughters out of school.

With the help of CGE, Yusuf completed her high school education and is now in college working toward an education certificate. To promote education for girls, Yusuf initially passed on knowledge she learned at CGE to her family members who couldn’t attend school themselves.

Now, Yusuf mentors several girls through CGE and still makes a point of sharing important information to girls in her neighborhood, including topics like reproductive health. In Nigeria, many girls marry at the age of 12 and start bearing children at age 15. Yusuf advocates for access to education and knowledge of reproductive health to decrease the number of adolescent pregnancies.

Inspired by Malala Yousafzai, Yusuf has a vision of Nigeria’s future as well as lofty aspirations for her own. She hopes that one day her nation will guarantee 12 years of free schooling for all children and that better-paid teachers will ensure a quality education.

In an interview with Girl Effect, Yusuf shared her dreams for her future. Grateful for the support she received from CGE, Yusuf said “I want to start an organisation or a foundation where I’ll be the one helping to give scholarships to other girls like me.”

Sabrina Yates

Photo: Flickr


Education promises to be the defining issue of poverty alleviation for the next century.

UNICEF reports that 25% of school-aged children (almost half a billion) live in countries affected by violent crises. Meanwhile, more than 75 million of these children and youth are missing education in some way, either by being out of school or attending low-quality schools and are at high risk of dropping out.

However, new collaborations between governments and educators are working together to help solve these issues. Here are new solutions in global education that are on track to create permanent change.

Education Cannot Wait

Education Cannot Wait, a fund for education in emergencies and crises, was recently announced during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. The fund seeks to reach over 13.6 million children living in conflict, disease or natural disasters. By creating this fund early, leaders are seeking to address critical droughts in education before they arise. The fund also promises to help bridge gaps between short and long-term solutions in education development in crisis areas.

Education for Refugees and Undocumented Migrants

Organizations like Interpol and UNICEF plan to address gaps in education among unaccompanied children and minors who live in the cracks of societies as refugees or undocumented migrants. Leaders in Greece, for example, will implement summer education classes for unaccompanied refugee children living in limbo. That includes the 55,000 asylum seekers still scattered throughout Greece.

The Gyeongju Action Plan

Recently, representatives of nonprofit organizations and academia have decided on a global education action agenda related to the Sustainable Development Goals adopted earlier this year. The Gyeongju Action Plan has three main pillars: Formal Education, Informal Education and Advocacy and Public Information. These pillars aim to eliminate key sources of inequality across a variety of educational sources.

Innovative solutions and movements like these will help create a brighter future for people with little access to education across the globe.

Eliza Campbell

Photo: Wikipedia

Why Poverty ExistsPoverty has causes deeply rooted in evolving human interests. In today’s society, the interpretations for why poverty exists have become intertwined in history, politics and the economy. The big question being asked—are people suffering needlessly?—deserves an answer.

A Lack of Resources

The World Health Organization reports that nearly 700 million people in the world lack access to safe water. According to The World Food Programme, nearly 800 million, or one in nine people, lack the food and nutrition necessary to live a healthy and active life.

Water and food are becoming an increasingly large concern as the world population is expected to reach between nine and 11 billion by the end of the century. However, the world already produces enough food to feed 10 billion people. Furthermore, with desalination and water recycling technology, supplying safe drinking water to even the driest areas of the world is possible with enough energy and money.

Despite the rising population, there are currently more than enough resources to nourish everyone, and there exists a significant incentive to disperse these resources. Every U.S. dollar spent on water and sanitation returns $4 to the global economy. Likewise, every dollar spent on proven nutrition interventions returns $16, as adequately nourished children go on to have higher IQs, increased education and better salaries.

On the right track, Congress recently passed the Global Food Security Act, which provides a platform and allocated funding to develop a global nutrition security strategy. Many developed nations have similar programs, but despite the economic incentive to provide water and food security, not enough funding is provided for these programs. There have been steps taken to end resource poverty but not at the necessary scale.

A Lack of Education

At the heart of many narratives, and perhaps a symptom of the larger issue, individual shortcomings are the reasons why poverty exists. Those who are unable to compete in the market do so because they lack skills relative to the population at large.

For many, disadvantage takes the form of fewer opportunities for education and economic growth. More than 72 million children of school age are not in school, and 759 million adults remain illiterate and unable to better their living conditions.

For others, disadvantage begins with conception. Prenatal malnutrition, drug use, environmental toxins and even stress can lead to poor brain development in the womb. Poor development begets poor performance as well as inadequate skills to compete economically. A lack of skills and education becomes the cause of one generation’s poverty, and a symptom of that of the next.

Many steps in the cycle of why poverty exists are easily preventable. Over 16,000 children under the age of five die of preventable causes, and 800 women die everyday related to childbirth and pregnancy. The Reach Every Mother and Child Act, which has been introduced to the House and Senate, aims to help save the lives of 600,000 women and 15 million children by 2020, and will help to ensure healthy development. Healthy, well-nourished children are much easier to educate.

Social v. Economic Reasons

Institutionalized inequalities create cycles of poverty exacerbated by lack of resources, education and opportunity.

Political systems that favor the wealthy may not have the interests of the working poor at heart. Corrupt governments prevent aid from reaching those in need. Social structures may prevent movement between classes. Historical exploitation of a country’s resources may have long-lasting effects, and oppression of a population leads to large income disparities. One does not have to search far to find documented examples of each of these depravities, and they even point to a larger problem than just a lack of resources or skills.

If we are in fact past our colonial era, then our involvement in developing countries should be in the interest of cultivating a global economy–one that works for all countries involved. Allocating funds to foreign aid and growth is a step in that direction. Domestic and foreign interests need not be mutually exclusive.

Successful poverty reduction exists but could be improved and expanded with more time and resources. The U.S allocates only 0.19 percent of its gross national income to foreign aid. Only six countries have ever met the target laid forth by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which sits at just 0.7 percent of GNI. Not only will aid help improve the global economy, but also many developed countries play a role in creating the political and social inequalities listed above. With economics and ethics on the side of the poverty reduction, is 0.19 percent cutting it?.

In a fair world, choice will be the only reason for why poverty exists, and at that point it can be deemed inevitable, but at present, the suffering of many stems from causes, if not within our control, then within our reach.

Lia Ferguson

Photo: Pixabay

Global Campaign for EducationGlobal Action Week for Education was held April 24 through 30 this year. UNESCO attended the Global Campaign for Education’s event to discuss what can be done to increase education funding, reported Education International.

According to UNESCO, the Global Campaign for Education is responsible for organizing this week devoted to global education and this year focused particularly on ways to create financial resources for global education.

GCE partnered with UNESCO at their headquarters in Paris on April 25 to hold a panel on this topic, entitled, “Financing for SDG4-Education 2030: Leaving no one behind — what will it take to narrow inequity gaps?”

The SDG4 refers to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4, which focuses on Quality Education, per the UN’s website.

SDG4 has a number of targets to aim for, according to the U.N. Women website. Some of these goals include, by 2030, to have:

  • All girls and boys complete adequate primary and secondary education
  • Gender equality at all levels of education
  • All boys and girls and many adults achieve literacy and numeracy
  • Relevant skills taught, including sustainable development.

According to UNESCO, many countries still struggle with meeting the basic education needs of children, due in part to either of lack of funding or misallocation of funding. This, in turn, is hard to remedy because there is not always adequate data regarding either the financial aspect of education or the number of school-age children being properly educated in a given country.

UNESCO is uniquely suited to aid in the effort to create more meaningful data on global education, via the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. UIS is working not only to create better data, but also to use that data to create better plans for itself and similar groups to create global education goals.

For the Global Action Week for Education, target goals included demanding that governments honor the financial commitments they have pledged in support of education, reported Education International.

Key speakers for the panel included H.E. Ambassador Tarald Brautaset, Norwegian Government’s Special Envoy for Education in charge of the Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, David Archer, Head of Programme Development with ActionAid, GCE Board Member and Teopista Birungi, founder of the Uganda National Teachers’ Union.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said this of the issue: “Failing to make adequate investments in education puts the fulfillment of the entire global agenda at risk.”

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr


Global Education

To foster growth in developing countries, there has to be a focus on global education. Many children and adolescents are out of school worldwide, often due to poverty, conflict or financial deprivation. Approximately 24 million children globally will never see the inside of a classroom, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Five international aid organizations have stepped up to expand worldwide access to educational opportunities: The World Bank, Global Partnership for Education, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, Global Education First Initiative and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The World Bank currently plays a significant role in providing educational access across the globe. Since its creation in 1944, the organization has invested $69 billion globally in more than 1,500 educational projects.

Recently, the World Bank laid out the “Learning for All” plan, an education strategy focused on ensuring that all children and youth receive learning opportunities by 2020. The organization plans to double its investment in global public education by 2020, spending approximately $5 billion to improve education in developing nations

“The truth is that most educational systems are not serving the poorest children well,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in an interview with Reuters. “With nearly a billion people remaining trapped in extreme poverty today, sustained efforts to improve learning for children will unlock huge amounts of human potential for years to come.”

The Global Partnership for Education works to develop effective and sustainable education systems across the globe by collaborating with national governments and development partners.

“The Global Partnership for Education supports developing countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritizing the poorest, most vulnerable and those living in fragile and conflict-affected countries,” the organization’s website states.

If all students in developing countries received basic reading skills, 171 million people worldwide could be lifted out of poverty, according to the organization.

Created in 2012 by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Global Education First Initiative aims to strengthen global education through political advocacy.

The initiative works to reach three priority goals: ensuring that every child is in school, improving the quality of learning worldwide and fostering global citizenship through education.

“Without universal education, in other words, winning the war against illiteracy and ignorance, we cannot also win the war against disease, squalor, and unemployment. Without universal and high standard education we can only go so far but not far enough in breaking the cycle of poverty,” U.N. Special Envoy for Education Gordon Brown said in a statement on the organization’s website.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was established in 1945 to foster peace, poverty eradication, lasting development and intercultural dialogue across the globe. Education is one of the primary ways the organization aims to reach its goals.

“As a human right in itself, education is also fundamental to realizing other rights, and an enabler for reaching all the Millennium Development Goals. It plays an essential role in reducing mortality and morbidity rates; eradicating poverty and hunger; strengthening resilience to natural hazards and ending abuse, violence and armed conflict,” Olav Seim, Director of the Education for All Global Partnerships Team said in a UNESCO press release.

With headquarters in Paris and 52 other field offices, including regional bureaus in Bangkok, Beirut, Dakar and Santiago, the organization works worldwide to foster educational opportunities.

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is a U.N. program that aims to provide long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children in developing countries.

Founded in 1946, the organization aims to ensure that children have access to quality education opportunities regardless of their gender, ethnicity or life circumstances.

UNICEF works to get children back to school after emergency situations or disasters and provides educational initiatives to give children in remote areas, as well as children with disabilities or those facing social exclusion, access to education.

The organization recently launched the “Let Us Learn” campaign, with the aim of bringing educational opportunities to the world’s most vulnerable children, focusing on Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal.

Lauren Lewis

Sources: Global Partnership for Education 1, Global Partnership for Education 2, Global Partnership for Education 3, Reuters, U.N. Global Education First Initiative, UNESCO 1, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2, UNICEF 3, UNESCO 2, UNESCO 3, UNESCO 4, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, World Bank 3
Photo: Flickr