Information and stories about Literacy Information.

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

Poverty and Education

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

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

The Good News

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

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

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

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

– Micaela Carrillo
Photo: Flickr

Literacy in Africa
The literacy rate in Africa is estimated to be about 70%. Although this is the total continental average, literacy rates vary widely among countries within the continent. For instance, Niger’s literacy rate stands at a mere 19%. Other African countries like Guinea and South Sudan rank low as well, with their literacy rates in the low 30s. However, there are organizations promoting libraries in African schools and communities to increase literacy rates in the continent.

The Importance of Libraries

Libraries all across the globe strive to bring communities together. By definition, a library is a public place that seeks to provide education to all individuals as well as aid in self-development. They often provide many volunteer opportunities and allow people to unite as one. Libraries in general offer a vast amount of resources to the public. These information resources provide knowledge that contributes to a well-informed society. They provide a multitude of learning opportunities to people of all classes. Most people who find themselves in low-income situations lack the resources that they need to receive an education and hence, can benefit from library services. Libraries are built on the foundation of solidarity and are able to increase literacy rates by providing access to free books and resources to schools and communities.

The Importance of Libraries in Africa

Africa is home to the poorest countries in the world, with sub-Saharan having one of the lowest literacy rates. However, African organizations are building libraries and contributing to the continent’s literacy development. The African Library Project in particular is an organization that partners with several African-based programs that work to build libraries throughout African communities. With its goal to promote literacy and library development in Africa, the project sends a set number of books to newly built libraries by initiating book drives and gathering donations. In doing so, they also frequently follow up to ensure that the libraries are running sufficiently. The organization has established 190 libraries in Kenya and 587 libraries in Malawi as well as in other countries across Africa.

In March 2022, South Africa dedicated a week-long South African Library Week to promote awareness of the importance of building libraries across South Africa. With this year’s theme being “Reimagine! Repurpose! ReDiscover…Libraries!” the South African communities had placed a significant value of attention on re-evaluating the state of the current libraries in South Africa.

AfLIA’s Influence on the Growing Sector

Organizations like the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) are also actively promoting this movement. The AfLIA is a nonprofit organization that also works to advance the lives of people in Africa through the services offered by libraries. There has been an ongoing collaboration between AfLIA and OER Africa. They promote libraries as spaces for communities to learn and share information.

Dr. Nkem Osuigwe at AfLIA described the importance of libraries in communities by stating, “This little library could get news from the radio, TV, newspapers, but also books. They knew when and where it was going to rain, the cost of seedlings, and how to get better produce. They were passing this information down to members of the community.” AfLIA also spearheads advocacy in the interest of libraries, library workers and the communities they serve in Africa. The leader of the AfLIA, Mr. Alim Garga, recently traveled to Gabon to discuss the development of libraries being built in Africa. He was able to join AfLIA with the Gabonese library in his contribution to boosting the library and information sector in Central Africa.

Libraries are Beneficial to All

The libraries that are undergoing construction across Africa cover only a small percentage of the globe. The building of libraries would prove to be beneficial in communities around the world. This is especially true in poverty-induced communities where both resources and services are scarce. Africa is just one of the many continents that have benefited from the infrastructures of libraries. With an increased awareness of libraries, poverty-stricken countries all over the world can have access to many opportunities.

– Madison Stivala
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania's Literacy Rate
Illiteracy affects people across the world in all aspects of life. For example, people with low literacy skills are more likely to have health problems because they cannot read prescription labels. Also, they may grow isolated in a world where technology is rapidly evolving. At 77.89%, Tanzania’s literacy rate is quite positive; however, it has declined by over 10% since the 1970s. At that time, Tanzania had one of the highest in the world. That is why the government has made improving Tanzania’s literacy rate a priority.

Illiteracy in Tanzania

Recent studies have shown that Tanzanian students are unable to write their own names, read a sentence or solve a basic mathematics problem. During the first two decades of its independence in 1961, adult literacy classes helped the country boost its literacy rate. Unfortunately, these classes are virtually non-existent today. Also, a reduced government budget and lower donations to fight illiteracy perpetuate the decline in literacy rates. In turn, this lower funding has led to teacher staffing shortages, overcrowded classrooms and subpar teacher training. Curricular and classroom material shortages are also results from budget cuts. Finally, these poor conditions have led to high dropout rates which accelerate illiteracy.

Government Solutions

To reach the goal of 100% literacy by 2030, the Tanzanian government has launched the National Adult Literacy and Mass Education Rolling Strategy 2020/21 to 2024/25. The plan includes reviving more literacy courses across the country. Additionally, it creates a database to track and monitor educational progress. Third, the plan funds an increase in learning materials and teacher training. Fourth, it funds research on the best literacy methods. Other plan initiatives include the implementation of multimedia technologies in the classroom and educational outreach to young women. In addition, the plan includes supplying radios to rural areas and publishing local newspapers.

The plan to boost Tanzania’s literacy rate will account for 15% of its national budget, but it is an investment the country is willing to make. Not only is it an investment in educational opportunities for children and adults, but it will also pay dividends to its economy. While Tanzania reached an economic milestone by evolving from a low-income country to a lower-middle-income country in 2020, the country’s poverty rate during that year was still high at 27.2%. James Mdoe of Tanzania’s education ministry views the literacy plan as key to combating poverty. He suggests that being able to read and write allows citizens to acquire more responsibility and perform more complex tasks. He emphasizes, “a literate and informed society is the basis for sustainable development.”

Mdoe underlines the need for considerable coordination to make the plan work. Experts will need to organize teacher recruitment. They will also need to direct research on best practices in adult literacy education. Finally, Tanzania must push continuing education for its adult population.

Looking Ahead

The government’s plan to improve Tanzania’s literacy rate will provide greater educational opportunities for all adults and children. In turn, this will help the country continue to grow economically. With this ambitious plan, Tanzania has a good chance of reaching its goal of 100% literacy by 2030.

– Kyle Har
Photo: Flickr

Smartphones in Madagascar
Madagascar is one of the world’s fifth-largest islands located off the east coast of Africa. Its population consists of more than 22 million people. Many of these people live in rural, impoverished areas. Additionally, many families cannot afford basic needs such as food, shelter or transportation. However, some people have found a way to find work through telecommunication. Here are some examples of how smartphones in Madagascar are bridging the wealth gap.

Madagascar’s Economy

Cell phones are efficient, fast and reliable in times of crisis. Currently, 96% of Americans own a cell phone. Now, villages in Madagascar are benefitting from telephone access as well. Since 2008, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has been doing business with Zain, a telecommunications company. IFC and Zain launched Village Phone, a campaign that helps bring change to local communities. This campaign creates jobs and promotes entrepreneurship by allowing small companies to sell mobile air time. Moreover, it helps people gain experience in areas like finance, information technology and business.

This knowledge is crucial to sustaining Madagascar’s economic future. The nation’s economy is largely based on agriculture, fishing and tourism. The economy now provides around 74% of the GDP, with 26.2% coming from the agriculture sector alone. The influx of technology will help strengthen Madagascar’s employment by enabling residents to improve in their respective fields.

Literacy Rate

Smartphones in Madagascar are also improving the literacy rate. In 2005, Madagascar’s literacy rate was at 58.4%. Meanwhile, in 2018, it climbed to 74.8%, an immense growth that rarely occurs in reality.

The relationship between growing literacy rates and texting is strong. Texting is a process that involves typing out letters, numbers and composing sentences. Thus, texting helps children gain more exposure to the written word. Greater exposure to the written word has a link to better reading skills.

Improved Education

Smartphones in Madagascar are accelerating the rate at which people receive information. Furthermore, smartphones help promote and improve access to education. Children who learn to read at an early age often become more capable of understanding syntax, grammar and literature. However, COVID-19 has caused many setbacks for students. Many schools closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. A young mother expressed concern by saying, “It does not make me happy that my children are no longer going to school. Years don’t wait for them. They have already lost a lot.”

Thankfully, alternative options for learning are now available. Radio, television and smartphones are the main pipelines that support distance learning. Most recently, CISCO, a telephone company, and the Ministry of National Education and Technical and Vocational Education (MENETP) have launched a support platform to help with limited internet access to ensure learning continues.

Smartphones in Madagascar have proven to be especially useful for informing people of the COVID-19 infection rate and teaching children to wash their hands properly. Furthermore, this technology is providing hope in creating a more sustainable future for people.

– Nancy Taguiam
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in TanzaniaTanzania is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, however, according to the World Bank, poverty from 2007 to 2018 was reduced by 8% overall. There are multiple reasons why the largest East African country is in such despair, such as food scarcity, poor access to education and inadequate health care access. This article will discuss five facts about the causes of poverty in Tanzania.

5 Causes of Poverty in Tanzania

  1. The population rate is increasing faster than the poverty reduction rate in Tanzania. This is causing millions of people to live in poverty and survive off of $1.90 a day or less. According to the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Brief, from 2011 to 2018, there was only a 1.8% decline in poverty. To combat this issue, according to the brief there should be more opportunities available for those living in rural areas. This is because rural areas have the highest rates of poverty.
  2. A lack of a proper education lowers the chances for sustainable employment. A primary issue related to education in Tanzania is the decline in enrollment of children in primary school. According to a report for out-of-school children in Tanzania by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), out of the 1.3 million children aged 7 years old in Tanzania, 39.5% do not attend primary or secondary school. However, as children get older, the likelihood of attending school rises.
  3. Life-threatening diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria impact millions of Tanzanians. Many families have to pay out of pocket to receive continuous treatment. Recurring payments pressure already low-income households, adding to one of the causes of poverty in Tanzania. To mitigate the diseases affecting millions living predominately in rural areas, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided treatment to decrease the severe heath conditions’ growth and spread.
  4. Out of a population of 57.3 million people in Tanzania, 4 million people do not have access to clean water. Additionally, 29 million people do not have “access to improved sanitation.” These circumstances mean women and young girls, primarily, must carry massive amounts of water over a great distance in order to provide it for their families.
  5. The labor force is continuously declining in Tanzania. This can be partially attributed to a lack of government support in initiating sufficient employment opportunities, especially in rural areas. Due to poverty being the highest in rural areas because of poor living environment circumstances, many tend to move into urban areas. Unfortunately, unemployment persists due to people lacking skills for the jobs in their new urban environment. Access to proper education and an increase in attendance in primary and secondary schools will help expand opportunities and skills for more promising and long-lasting employment.

Progress in Eradicating Poverty

The key to eradicating poverty in Tanzania is education. However, for more children to become educated, there needs to be an increase in access to education and school attendance. As of 2020, Tanzania’s literacy rate is 70.6%. However, the literacy rate has fluctuated over the last decade, hindering continuous growth.

Nevertheless, the organization Room to Read is taking the necessary steps to ensure that 14.3 million children are literate. The organization helps young children become educated, literate and aware of personal health and proper forms of family planning. Its work primarily targets young girls. Room to Read distributes its resources not only to Tanzania but also to more than 12 other countries around the world. If Tanzania’s government recognizes the importance of education, a better health care system and an increase in employment opportunities and receives funding to implement changes, the causes of poverty in Tanzania may dissolve sooner than expected. This, in turn, could help set an example for other impoverished countries.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

literacy in EthiopiaThere are 781 million adults in the world who are considered illiterate. This statistic reflects more than just the ability of people to read, it inherently ties to the poverty rate. In fact, 43% of adults with low literacy rates live in poverty. There are multiple issues that contribute to this, however, the most influential factor is education. Several programs address literacy in Ethiopia.

The Relationship Between Literacy and Poverty

In the fight against global poverty, education is a sought-after resource. With increased education comes increased opportunities for those within the community to contribute to the economy and increase their prospects. In order to bolster educational efforts, children must be able to read. Literacy is the foundation of learning and is directly responsible for the success of children in education as a whole.

Without this vital skill, children are unlikely to move on to higher education or secure high-paying jobs. This stagnant economic standing is perpetuated through families because parents with low literacy rates are 72% likely to pass that low literacy rate down. The resulting generational illiteracy is a detriment to the growth of communities because it cements them into a lower economic standing.

The World Bank underscores the importance of literacy in the fight against poverty. It has coined the term “Learning Poverty,” which refers to the inability of a child to read and comprehend by age 10. The severity of learning poverty aids in the prediction of future literacy and economic success. Additionally, the World Bank believes that this statistic is a useful indicator of whether or not countries are meeting global educational goals.

In relation to poverty, these goals are paramount to the rate of sustainable development in impoverished countries. Moreover, poverty would reduce by 12% if all students in low-income countries could read. As nations meet educational goals and literacy rates increase, impoverished communities have the opportunity to create sustainable change in terms of their economic standing and overall quality of life.

Illiteracy and Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, with 109.2 million people. Unfortunately, the country also suffers from rampant poverty — in 2016, 24% of Ethiopia’s population endured conditions of poverty. Poverty is a multifaceted and complicated issue, however, one can generally find a low literacy rate in countries with corresponding high poverty rates. In Ethiopia, this holds true because slightly less than half of the population is illiterate. Given the extreme disadvantage that low literacy rates puts on communities, there have been multiple efforts to improve the Ethiopian education system and increase literacy in Ethiopia.

The READ II Project

READ II is a project that focuses on the education of children considered at risk of school failure or drop out due to the cognitive, emotional and physical effects of hunger, violence and displacement. READ II spans 3,000 schools across 50 districts, ultimately wishing to expand the basic model to reach 15 million learners. Specifically, within the Addis Adaba, Tigray and Amhara regions, the project is working to improve the preparedness of teachers, increase support for women’s education and push for the widespread education of English.

The Unlock Literacy Project

Unlock Literacy is a project founded by World Vision in 2012 that has reached a total of 1.7 million children in the endeavor to increase the literacy rate in impoverished countries. Unlock Literacy commits to the implementation of teacher training programs, better educational resources and appropriate reading materials. The program acknowledges the fact that oftentimes rural areas are unable to attain reading material applicable to the children receiving an education. As a result, Unlock Literacy has aided in the creation of more than 1 million new books in the common languages of the students. Unlock Literacy has also seen success as children who could read with comprehension rose from 3% to 25% after the program.

READ TA

READ TA was founded in 2012 by USAID in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education in order to advance writing and reading among 15 million early education students. With READ TA’s methods, more than $17 million goes toward training 113,385 teachers in safe and practical learning initiatives. In recognition of low literacy’s association with poverty, the program also seeks to improve the student’s overall understanding of class materials. READ TA has accomplished this by giving schools the necessary educational resources designed to appeal to the student reading it. Additionally, READ TA has adapted 320 educational materials to address the local context of communities living outside of administrative regions.

With organizations and programs committed to improving literacy in Ethiopia, the prospect of reduced poverty in the region is hopeful, as is reaching the goal of alleviating global poverty overall.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

housing in GuatemalaGuatemala is a country rich with ancestral heritage and Indigenous peoples, but the poverty crisis has debilitated many of the citizens. Housing in Guatemala is undergoing a crisis, which has widened the housing gap to well over 1.8 million homes. With 54% of people living under the poverty line, housing access is a rarity. This also affects other major areas like sanitization, food security, finding jobs and accessing education. The main priorities of humanitarian organizations in Guatemala are housing, education and health care.

Bill McGahan

Bill McGahan is an Atlanta resident and involved community serviceman. McGahan is also the leader of an annual mission trip that takes high school students to create housing in Guatemala. The long-term commitment to building housing has also highlighted other areas of need. On the trips, students work alongside From Houses to Homes. The student volunteers spend their time holistically addressing the needs of Guatemalans, including health and education.

Housing

Housing in Guatemala is the essential building block to finding permanence and stability. Many Guatemalans live in inadequate housing, are homeless or depend on makeshift shelters built from gathered materials. Housing lessens the risk of diseases from fecal contamination, improves sanitation, strengthens physical security and provides warmth in winter months. These benefits are imperative to stabilizing external conditions and lessening poverty’s effects.

The mission trips each year incorporate the students from the very start of housing to the finishing touches. Each year the participants first raise the funds for building materials. Then the volunteers construct a house in as little as five days. At the end of the building projects, keys are handed to each family, which reflects a new reality for them. In this way, these students “don’t just build houses, they provide a home.”

Education

A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. It is the place to help grow and nurture individuals, including a safe space for learning. Children in Guatemala face constant challenges to their education. The average Guatemalan education lasts only 3.5 years, 1.8 years for girls. Nine out of 10 schools have no books. Accordingly, the literacy rate in rural Guatemala is around 25%. Education is an investment in breaking a pattern of poverty, which is an opportunity not afforded to many Guatemalan children.

Children pulled out of school work as child laborers in agriculture. This provides short-term benefits to families in terms of income but has a high cost in the future when finding work. Contributions to local schools have long-term paybacks for children and their families. Children can further their education, secure future employment and create stable homes for themselves and future generations.

Health Care

Housing in Guatemala is relevant to health as well. The goal is to solve homelessness by providing homes, not hospital beds. Access to quality health care is imperative to providing housing stability. Guatemala needs to improve its health services in order to solve its housing issue, especially since they lack effective basic health care.

Clinical care for Guatemalans is often inaccessible, particularly in rural areas with limited technology. With approximately 0.93 physicians per 1,000 people, there are extreme limitations for medical professionals to see patients. Even in getting basic nutrition training or vaccinations, Guatemalans are severely lacking necessary access. Basic health care is a priority that will be a long-term struggle, but each advancement will create higher levels of care and access for the many Guatemalans in need.

Guatemala is readjusting its approach to finding better access to housing, health care and education, all of which are important for a home. Humanitarians, like Bill McGahan, are finding solutions and implementing institutions that will uplift Guatemalans. Increased housing in Guatemala has been encouraging stability, prosperity and new outlooks on life. The country is seeing great progress in eliminating poverty, one home at a time.

Eva Pound
Photo: Flickr

Schooling During COVID-19As COVID-19 started spreading, schools around the world shut down. For countries with already poor schooling systems and low literacy rates, the pandemic created even more challenges. The world’s most illiterate countries are South Sudan with a 73% illiteracy rate, Afghanistan with a 71.9% illiteracy rate, Burkina Faso with a 71.3% illiteracy rate and Niger with a 71.3% illiteracy rate. Schooling during COVID-19 has only increased the struggles these countries face as they try to promote literacy.

Literacy is an important aspect of reducing world poverty, as countries with the lowest levels of literacy are also the poorest. This is because poverty often forces children to drop out of school in order to support their families. Since those children did not get an education, they will not be able to get a high-paying job, which requires literacy. Thus, a lack of education keeps people in poverty. If countries with low literacy rates make schooling harder to access due to COVID-19, the illiteracy rate will increase, and the cycle will continue. Below are the ways that the four least literate countries are continuing schooling during COVID-19.

South Sudan

After almost a decade of fighting due to the South Sudanese Civil War, literacy rates are already low in South Sudan, as the war inhibited access to education. The government-imposed curfew in response to COVID-19 forced children to stay home. This especially challenges girls, whose families expect them to pick up housework at home due to gender norms. The government provided school over the radio or television as a virtual alternative to schooling during COVID-19. However, impoverished children who lack access to electricity, television and radio have no other option. This lack of access to education for poor Sudanese children will further decrease literacy rates. As a result, children may be at risk of early marriage, pregnancy or entrance into the workforce.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, there was already a war going on when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, creating a barrier to education. In 2019 alone, 200,000 students stopped attending school. COVID-19 has the potential to make this problem worse. Importantly, Afghanistan’s schooling crisis affects girls the most; by upper school, only 36% of students are girls. Further, 35% of Afghan girls are forced into child marriages, and not being in school makes them three times as likely to be married under 18. If they do not finish school, there is a high chance they will never become literate.

COVID-19 may exacerbate girls’ lack of access to school. When schools shut down, the schooling system in Afghanistan moved online in order to continue schooling during COVID-19. But only 14% of Afghans have access to the internet due to poverty. Since many parents are not literate, they cannot help their children with school. School shutdowns may also decrease future school attendance, especially for girls. As such, COVID-19 will perpetuate illiteracy in Afghanistan, with many children missing out on school due to poverty.

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, school shutdowns have put children at risk of violence. Jihadist violence, tied to Islamic militants, has increased in the country. Violence forces children out of school, with many receiving threats, thus decreasing the literacy rate. Though school was a safe space for children, COVID-19 is making this situation worse.

As an alternative for schooling during COVID-19, Burkina Faso has broadcasted lessons on the radio and TV. However, many students do not have access to these technologies. Even if they do, staying at home does not protect them from violence, which could prevent them from going to school. In Burkina Faso, many children also travel to big cities to go to school. But without their parents being able to help them economically, many are now forced to get jobs, entering the workforce early. This lowers the number of children in school as well as the country’s literacy rate.

Niger

In Niger, 1.2 million children lost access to schooling during COVID-19, lacking even a television or radio alternative. Schools have since reopened, but children still feel the impacts of this shutdown. Before COVID-19, at the start of 2020, more than two million children were not in school due to financial insecurity, early marriage or entrance into the workforce. COVID-19 forced many children to give up schooling forever, as they had to marry or begin work and fell behind in school. As a result, this lowered the country’s literacy rate.

Improving Literacy Rates During COVID-19

While COVID-19 did prevent many children from accessing the education they need, many organizations are working to help them meet this challenge. One of these organizations is Save the Children. It is dedicated to creating reliable distance learning for displaced students, support for students and a safe environment for students to learn.

COVID-19 has left many students without access to education, jeopardizing the future for many. In the countries with the highest illiteracy rates, a lower percentage of children with access to education means a lower percentage of the population that will be literate. Improving literacy rates is key reducing poverty, as it allows people to work in specialized jobs that require a higher education, which then leads to higher salaries. If literacy rates drop, poverty will only continue to increase. This makes the work of organizations like Save the Children crucial during the ongoing pandemic.

Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

literacy rate in mozambiqueBefore 1975, the education system in Mozambique was selective and disproportionally catered to the Portuguese populations. Churches owned private schools to serve the upper-class Portuguese. The only schools available for Mozambique natives were missionary schools. This system discriminated against Mozambique natives and led to some disastrous results. In particular, many Mozambique natives attended a school that taught inefficiently because the missionary schools had low budgets. Some teachers did not show up, and schools did not provide enough textbooks; if they did, they were outdated. This combination created antiquated learning curriculums with no standardization or structure. When Mozambique declared its independence from Portugal, the National System of Education (SNE) was created to run standardized education for all populations in Mozambique. Over time, the literacy rate in Mozambique has increased, a change that can be attributed to the SNE as well as other important initiatives.

The Current Education System

Mozambique law requires that all citizens attend school through the primary levels, grades one to six. After grade seven, the law requires students to take a national exam in order to qualify for entrance into secondary school, which runs from grades eight to 10. After secondary school, the majority of students either return to their parents’ subsistence farms, gain employment as teachers or are unemployed due to limited space in universities.

However, Mozambique’s primary school population more than tripled from 1995 to 2005, going from 1.3 million to 3.8 million. The number of unenrolled children in primary school accordingly decreased from roughly 470,000 in 2010 to 354,000 in 2018. Meanwhile, the gross enrollment ratio for students in secondary school has steadily increased, going from roughly 25% in 2010 to 35% in 2017. The gross enrollment ratio for students in university (tertiary) education has increased slowly from roughly 4.5% in 2010 to 7% in 2018. The end result of these numbers naturally increased the literacy rate in Mozambique. For example, the literacy rate in Mozambique among those 15 or older has increased from 25% in 1980 to 60% in 2018.

Increasing the Literacy Rate in Mozambique

The Ministry of Education initiated a new program to decentralize curriculum development and monitoring so that only 20% of the national curriculum would be allocated for “local” curricula. These local curricula would teach students specific skills or techniques they may need in their particular region or district. Importantly, the initiative has led to the increased enrollment of students as well as an increased literacy rate in Mozambique.

The Mozambique government has also made great strides to increase access and efficiency of the education system. It has taken away school fees and invested in creating more schools while providing more resources for students at the primary level. The education secretary now receives almost 15% of the state budget, which has significantly helped push for an increased enrollment rate and literacy rate in Mozambique.

The 2012–2019 Education Strategic Plan and the 2015–2018 Primary Education Operational Plan focused on two areas to improve upon: quality and access to education. The government wanted to focus on pre-primary and primary education so that students receive a solid foundation for learning. This would increase the population’s and future generations’ literacy rate. To accomplish this, the government has cited the following priorities: promote increased access to early learning and school readiness, improve quality of primary education, promote increased access for vulnerable children, retain adolescent girls and create efficient capacity building for better planning, management and monitoring at the national, sub-national and local levels.

International Aid and Assistance

World Education is an organization that creates programs to help improve education in countries all over the world. It has contributed significantly to the Ministry of Education’s planning for increased literacy rates within the country. In particular, World Education has helped implement the Early Grade Reading Project. This project would train more teachers in creating instruction materials, evaluating students and understanding reading improvement. World Education has also introduced the Let’s Read program to Mozambique. This program helps develop students’ skills in writing and reading in the local language. It also improves their speaking and listening skills in Portuguese.

The World Bank has also provided significant funds and assistance for the increased literacy rate in Mozambique. In 2015, the World Bank approved more than $107.9 million to support quality, access and equity of education. Some of the activities these funds help to support include improving school readiness through early childhood development programs, implementing curriculum reform, adding more teacher-training, enhancing local and state governance in curriculum creation and focusing on resources for more vulnerable students.

What Is the United States Doing?

The United States has recently allocated $15 million to the Mozambique Ministry of Education during the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds will help set up a crisis management team; provide distance learning programs through technology; enforce psycho-social support for children experiencing distress, anxiety or trauma; re-stock textbooks when school re-opens and adjust classes  for students who are falling behind or have special education needs.

Final Takeaway

The Mozambique government has persevered in improving its literacy curriculum, increasing access to education and resourcing schools. The literacy rate in Mozambique has steadily increased since 1980 as a result. Importantly, this increased literacy rate will continue to serve the Mozambique people as they work to further improve education.

Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Guatemala
Guatemala is a country made up of six primary ethnic communities, though the population mostly comprises people belonging to the Mestizo and Maya ethnic groups. These ethnic groups are generationally skilled in creating traditional forms of art, which include weaving, beading and embroidering. More than half the Guatemalan population lives in a highly populated southern mountainous area. Within this region also live the majority of communities that experience poverty in the country. Many individuals from ethnic communities in this region use art to leverage themselves out of poverty in Guatemala.

Poverty in Guatemala

While Guatemala’s GDP has increased by an average of 3.5% over the past five years, high rates of poverty still exist within the country. About 59.3% of the Guatemalan population (9.4 million people) live below the poverty line. In surrounding Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) regional contexts, the average per capita growth is 1.6%. Due to high population growth rates since 2000, Guatemala’s recent annual per capita growth is only 1.3%. High population growth rates are, in part, caused by a young population, with a median age of 23.2 years.

The Literacy Gap

Guatemala also experiences lower rates of literacy among women than men. As of 2018, 85.3% of men and 76.7% of women were literate in Guatemala. Between 2002 and 2014, literacy rates among women improved by 13.03%. In recent years, organizations like MayaWorks have worked to address the low literacy rates among women in Guatemala. MayaWorks is a nonprofit organization that partners with women from rural communities to transform artisanal skills into sustainable businesses. Across 125 partnerships that MayaWorks has established with skilled Guatemalan artisans, more than 40% of women have never received a primary education — and therefore lack literacy skills. Through one program, MayaWorks offers women in rural Guatemala access to primary education to improve their literacy. Business and literacy training programs enable women to not only improve situations for their families and communities but also to decrease overall rates of poverty in Guatemala.

Supporting Women’s Education and Entrepreneurship

MayaWorks has shared stories of how business and literacy training programs can relieve women suffering from poverty in Guatemala. The Tz’utujil indigenous group makes up 30% of the Maya ethnic population and is primarily in a rural highland region of Guatemala. Women from this ethnic group are skilled in creating Maya-style crafts, including cultural staples such as crochet, hand weaving and treadle foot loom weaving. With the help of MayaWorks, more than 52 Tz’utujil women from Santiago Atitlán are leveraging their artisan skills and sharing their cultural forms of expression with businesses in the United States. These partnerships allow for extended solutions to both local and national poverty in Guatemala through international support. Meanwhile, the international business of Mayan artists is strengthening relations between Guatemala and the United States.

The work of Mayan artisans, combined with the financial and educational support of MayaWorks, has already begun to alleviate poverty in Guatemala. Overall literacy levels for Guatemalan women have increased, which has also led to the employment of more women within the country’s workforce. According to the World Bank, employment rates for women in Guatemala have reduced from 45.6% in 2000 to 37.84% in 2019. On a localized level, while many women are now able to obtain security for their families and communities, there are still challenges for women to gain employment. However, MayaWorks promises to help Guatemalan women become successful. Above all, working with MayaWorks equips women to be self-sufficient in running businesses and managing finances. This results in a generationally sustainable, long-term solution for reducing poverty in Guatemala.

Lilia Wilson
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