Information and stories about Literacy Information.

Girls Education in IndiaIn 2017, India was ranked 130 in human development out of the world’s countries, putting the country on the medium level in regards to human development. This placement is due to imminent barriers that prevent girls from equal access to India’s academic opportunities. By contributing more to girls’ education, India’s ranking would improve as it would help to alleviate some poverty. This article presents the top 10 facts about girls’ education in India.

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in India

  1. The caste system, dating back to 1200 BCE, is a form of discrimination that had been officially outlawed in 1955; however, its influence thrives in India’s modern-day education system. On the top of the system is a group called the Brahmins, and at the very bottom are Dalits (“untouchables”). This method has kept many Dalit girls secluded from promising scholastic endeavors. These children are often from their peers segregated during lunchtime and ridiculed by them in class. This rhetoric causes 51 percent of Dalit children to drop out of elementary school. Another law passed in 1989 was supposed to protect the Dalit caste, but it is not being sufficiently enforced.
  2. Gender inequality has deterred education for girls in India for a long time. In 2017, 32 percent of girls were not enrolled in school in comparison to 28 percent of boys. A male’s education in India is more valued, therefore; it is often seen as unnecessary to financially support a girl’s education due to these binding gender roles.
  3. In impoverished villages where schools are inaccessible and not encouraged, gender roles lead to a third of girls in India marrying off their educational futures. As high as 47 percent of the girls in India are subject to marriage by 18 years of age. This leads to early pregnancies, which makes it impossible to attend school as they must shoulder the stigma and the additional workload. Some regions also don’t permit pregnant girls to attend school, which puts education even further from their grasp.
  4. In 2009, the Right to Education Act (RTE), mandated that it is the right of every child to obtain a minimum amount of education. The program was supposed to make it compulsory for children ages 6 to 14 to access educational opportunities as more provisions were enacted. This was a step in the right direction, but more must be done to actively close the gender gap and retrain society to value girls’ education.
  5. The Right to Education Act in India seems to have improved the country’s ranking when looking at the growth in literacy rates. In 2001, literacy rates were 64.8 percent; however, this had increased to 74.04 percent by 2011. As of 2001, around 54 percent of girls were literate; however, after the RTE, the percentage had increased to more than 65 by 2011.
  6. Every year, 23 million girls in India drop out of school after they begin menstruating due to lack of sanitary napkin dispensers and overall hygiene awareness in schools. Lack of reproductive education leaves 71 percent of girls unaware of what takes place in their bodies during menstruation. Many girls even believe that was is happening is “unclean” and shameful. Even with awareness, lack of sanitary pads in rural areas force girls to use cloths that sometimes cause infections; only two to three women use sanitary pads.
  7. At least 47 percent of schools lack toilets, forcing girls to rid their bodily waste onto the streets, which is morally degrading to them. This is another reason they drop out of school, to avoid this shame. RTE included adding toilets to schools to solve this problem, but it wasn’t enough. Therefore, the Department of School Education and Literacy under Ministry of HRD implemented a program named, Swachh Vidyalaya, which would add $4,582.91 worth of toilets to schools.
  8. In Bihar, where the literacy rate for girls is 20 points lower than for their male counterparts, the trek to school is far. For someone in the Rampur Singhara village, the trek is 4 miles, and the bus fare is too expensive to send the child to school. However, the state government has given free bikes to families to encourage a higher literacy rate in poorer regions like Bihar. The bicycle program instantly showed success as the number of girls registering for schools went from 175,000 to 600,000 in the span of four years.
  9. India is expanding its horizons with technology to combat illiteracy, and it seems that women are benefiting the most. Computer-Based Functional Literacy (CBFL) teaches the basics of reading. This program targets individuals ages 20 to 50, which branches out India’s education system in terms of age for both sexes. Women comprised 81 percent of those who signed up for this efficient program. Girls who are at home due to poverty, gender roles or a host of other reasons are able to engage in education, thereby increasing the literacy rate.
  10. The poverty rate in India has declined from roughly 54 percent in 1983 to 21.2 percent in 2011 ever since educational improvements began taking place. Knowing this, it can be found that if India provided more resources for girls’ education, its GDP would increase. By simply increasing girls’ enrollment in secondary school by 1 percent, the  GDP in India would increase by $5.5 billion.

India aims to grow from a medium developed country to one of higher rank. Considering its recent strides in education, it is possible for India to attain this goal. However, this can only be done by realizing there is still more work to be done in closing the gap between boys and girls as these top 10 facts about girls’ education in India show.

Gowri Abhinanda

Photo: Flickr

living conditions in morocco
Morocco is a country rich in history and tradition with a unique culture that comes from Arab, Berber, French and African influences. While the country faces several economic, political and social challenges, it has also been experiencing continued growth in GDP, indicating the progress in its development. Evidence of the country’s domestic progress can be seen through its efforts in increasing school enrollment and literacy rates and reducing poverty. It has also displayed its progress internationally by taking the lead on environmental progress in the region. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Morocco.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Morocco

  1. Morocco’s government has implemented programs focused on job creation and the reduction of economic disparities that have been effective enough to improve the overall economy. Morocco represents the sixth largest economy in Africa. Its GDP growth rate increased from 2.40 percent in July 2018 to 3 percent by October 2018. Although in previous years, the GDP had been higher, this increase represents a new upswing in growth.
  2. There was slight progress in reducing unemployment in 2018, with a small drop from 10.6 percent to 10 percent by September that year. The High Commission for Planning estimates that 122,00 jobs were created within the last year. In addition, youth unemployment rates dropped from 27.5 percent to 26 percent.
  3. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) concluded in an index evaluation that Morocco is the worst country in North Africa in terms of income inequality. The income share held by the highest 20 percent amounted to 47 percent in 2013 while the lowest 20 percent held a total of 6.70 percent. Distribution of income in Morocco is a challenge that still needs to be addressed.
  4. Although income inequality persists, the poverty rate in Morocco had decreased from 8.9% in 2007 to 4.2% in 2014. The World Bank reported an increase of 3.3 percent in consumption per capita between 2001 to 2014. However, progress is more apparent in urban areas rather than rural.
  5. In order to improve and diversify its economy, the government has been focusing on becoming more innovative. In 2010, research efforts accounted for 0.73 percent of its GDP, making Morroco one of the highest in the Arab world in that focus. In 2009, the country adopted the Moroccan Innovation Strategy by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Investment and the Digital Economy with the aim of developing domestic demand for innovation and improving innovative funding.
  6. Due to severe understaffing, the World Health Organization (WHO) had listed Morocco as one of the 57 countries that could not provide essential healthcare to its citizens in 2010. The government has since taken measures to improve this. It announced the allotment $10 billion to go towards healthcare and education as part of its $46.5 billion 2019 Finance Bill.
  7. In 2001, Morocco had implemented a program to do away with all the slums. The “City Without Slums Initiative” was set to be accomplished by 2011, but was set back considerably after terrorist attacks in 2003. Its purpose was to improve housing, sanitation and quality of life. It is currently only 68 percent complete. Of the original 85 cities that were scheduled to be updated, 58 have been completed.
  8. In partnership with USAID, Morocco has adopted measures to improve its educational system in 2017. Fewer than 15 percent of students who start in first grade are predicted to graduate from high school. The newly implemented program focuses on teacher training, after-school reading programs as well as distributing important learning materials. The program has already trained more than 340 teachers and improved literacy for 12,000 students.
  9. Literacy rates had improved substantially from 41.6 percent in 1994 to 71.7 percent in 2015. However, the adult literacy gender gap in Morocco is still a challenge that the government is facing. In 2015, the male literacy rate reached 78.6 percent; whereas, the female literacy rate was only 58.8 percent. However, these rates improve significantly when looking at the youth between the ages of 15-24. The gender gap is still present in youth, but much narrower, with roughly 88 percent for women and 95 percent for men.
  10. Similarly to the social challenges the whole region faces, Morocco is a patriarchal society. Gender inequality is embedded in the social, political, legal and economic structures of the country. However, the government has taken constitutional measures to increase gender equality. In 2004, it amended the Mudawanna legal code, guaranteeing legal rights for women in areas like property ownership, divorce and child support. Women currently make up one-third of the formal workforce and almost half of the students graduating from university.

Looking to the Future

These 10 facts about living conditions in Morocco illustrate the government’s efforts to not only achieve economic growth but develop overall. The U.N. Development Program indicated that the Human Development Index for Morocco had increased from 0.458 in 1990 to 0.667 2017. The Moroccan government’s 2019 agenda for development is focused on education and a huge investment in its citizens for the purpose of economic transformation.

Njoud Mashouka

Photo: Flickr

Reasons to Increase Literacy Rates
When living in the U.S, it is easy to forget that being able to read and write is not something allowed to every person in the world. However, when it was discovered that approximately 32 million Americans could not read at a basic level, society deemed this as a crisis.

Comparatively, though, the crisis of illiteracy is much scarier in developing countries. The CIA World Factbook defines literacy as being able to read and write when older than the age of 15. Countries like South Sudan, Niger, Afghanistan and Ethiopia have literacy rates below 40 percent of their total population. These countries also happen to be the most poverty-stricken countries. This connection leads to the importance of listing five reasons to increase literacy rates.

Five Reasons to Increase Literacy Rates

  1. By being able to read and write, citizens can further develop their education. It is a given that if citizens want a great education, they will have to increase literacy rates. To do this, countries need to prioritize primary education so that the children that are already in school can get a good base. In a report from UNICEF on world education and literacy, it is stated that the focus on primary education had already boosted literacy rates that in turn boosts further education.
  2. Illiterate adults are more likely to fall victim to poor health and to have poor health care treatment later in life. World Atlas reported that there are around 493 million women who are unable or have difficulties reading text messages, filling out forms and reading their doctor’s prescription. If a person cannot properly read documents and prescriptions from a doctor, they might sign off on something without knowing what exactly it is. On top of that, they might not know what medications are good for them. Not to mention, without being able to write, it would be near impossible to keep track of past ailments or family history in the health care system.
  3. Literate adults are more capable of being able to take care of their children. Parents who have a basic education have an easier time making sure their children live to be over the age of five. This way, the cycle of poverty can be broken. Also, parents who have already seen the importance of having an education are more likely to push for their children to get the same level of education. Combined with previous reasons, parents who can properly read their prescription labels will be able to give children the right medicine and with a higher level of education, they are also more likely to have a steady job.
  4. Literacy is one part of the Sustainable Development Goal number four under UNESCO’s plan to reduce global poverty. The goal number four references equal education, affordable further education, widespread scholarships safe and non-violent locations for education and an increase of qualified teachers in each country.
  5. It is very plausible to increase literacy rates and it is producing great results in other countries already. In India, the computer-based functional literacy (CBFL) solution is providing free and remote education to rural areas and low-income areas around the country. It aims to teach children how to read, write and do math in approximately 50 hours. On top of that, the system focuses on teaching words rather than the whole alphabet. The typical participant learns around 500 words that are enough for him to navigate everyday life. More than 700,000 people have already benefited from CBFL in India.

These five reasons to increase literacy rates described in the article above showcase how being able to read and write can vastly improve someone’s life. Even if it does not fully bring them out of extreme poverty, these people will at least have the tools to make progress for themselves. Giving such tools is the least the world can do to help those in need and decrease the world poverty.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Nicaragua
Nicaragua faces mounting violence and instability as citizens go out to the streets to protest the corrupt rule of President Daniel Ortega. During times of chaos, it is important to understand what conditions for citizens have been like in previous years. The following 10 facts about living conditions in Nicaragua presented in the text below both describe the unsettling state of affairs in the country and provide evidence of hope for a brighter future.  

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Nicaragua

  1. Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, right after Haiti. Although the country’s economy has been growing in recent years, the fact about poverty still remains true and emphasizes the fact that there is a lot of work to be done.
  2. The unemployment rate for people between the ages of 15 and 24 is 8.5 percent. The country has the 110th highest unemployment rate out of 161 countries. Thus, Nicaragua does relatively well in terms of ensuring employment for its citizens.
  3. In 2015, 29.6 percent of the population was living below the poverty line. This number is quite high and suggests a dire need for economic growth.
  4. In 2016, 23.7 percent of the adult population was obese. This marked Nicaragua as the country with the 63rd highest adult obesity rate out of 192 countries. With development, it is important that the country initiate programs that provide its people with proper nutrition.
  5. In 2016, the life expectancy at birth for an average male was 72 years and for an average female, it was 78 years. Among the ten facts about living conditions in Nicaragua, this one is generally the most promising one as it indicates the relative general health of the population.
  6. In 2016, the infant mortality rate was 17 deaths for every 1,000 life births. In 2015, the United States faced just under 6 infant deaths for every 1,000 life births. This suggests that maternal and infant care in Nicaragua needs improvement.
  7. The labor force participation rate in 2017 was 66.6 percent. The rate of self-employment was 45.1 percent. This rate of participation is pretty much average for developing countries although low in comparison with developed countries.
  8. If literacy is defined as the ability to read and write, then 82.8 percent of people aged 15 years and older in 2015 were literate. Over 83 percent of women and 82.4 men were literate. This was the 106th highest literacy rate of 162 countries.
  9. In 2018, the approximate yearly minimum wage in Nicaragua was $2,218. This places the country in the top 37 percent of countries that are ranked by the minimum wage. There are 72 countries with higher minimum wage than Nicaragua.
  10. Between January and December of 2017, there were 55 reported cases of gender-based killing of women. In June 2017, an amendment to the Comprehensive Law on Violence against Women was approved. It reduced the definition of femicide to the private sphere suggesting that only crimes between spouses and partners would count as femicide.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Nicaragua provide a mixed account of the status of the country. Nicaragua is developing and it cannot be, in any case, characterized as a stable country. Recent progress, however, indicates that the country could have the potential to develop and attain stability. Late violent outbursts linked to government corruption thwart such hopes for progress and the current priority for the Nicaraguan people should be finding peace and justice through dark times. It is important to remember the progress that Nicaragua has made, and can continue to make after such peace is settled.

– Julia Bloechl

Photo: Flickr


In 2012, the female completion rate for primary education in Guinea was only 61.5 percent. In some rural areas, this number was as low as 34 percent. Furthermore, the secondary school participation rate was around 40 percent for male students, compared to less than 26 percent for their female peers.

UNICEF, USAID, and other humanitarian organizations have introduced grassroots programs promoting girls’ education in Guinea. Programs include COMEF, which encourages mothers to become advocates for their daughters’ schooling. UNICEF championed the Accelerated Girls Education Initiative, which sought to increase enrollment rates but also the quality of girls’ education in Guinea. Many of these initiatives have made great strides with gender equity since Guinea is second in the region only to Ghana in terms of gender equity in the schooling system. Yet, large disparities still exist, and many young girls face hurdles in the effort to obtain an education.

Barriers to girls’ education

Perhaps the largest barrier to girls’ education in Guinea is the deep-rooted sense of tradition and culture. In the type of cultured place as Guniea is, women are often viewed as solely mothers and housemakers. Such values often outweigh the perceived benefits for girls’ educational attainment, particularly in rural regions. It is a common belief that if a girl is educated, she will leave the home and lose her morals, making marriage and reproduction more difficult. Teen marriage in Guinea is very common- between 2008 and 2012, nearly 36 percent of teen girls were married. Thus, many girls drop out of school in favor of household chores that include watching younger siblings, cooking, marriage, and childbearing.

These traditional views create a dangerous cycle of illiteracy. Illiterate mothers are less likely to become advocates of their own daughter’s schooling. Programs have been established that encourage mothers to learn more about the importance of their daughter’s schooling and help them to become champions of girls’ education in Guinea. Through this participation and self-growth, mothers can become better role models for other mothers and their daughters.

Boys’ education is viewed more favorably by local communities, often being described as a “better investment.” This deep, systemic gender bias is very difficult to overcome. Parents that face limited resources and may only send one child to school will undoubtedly choose a son. Not only is boys’ education prioritized, but boys also face fewer challenges at school, such as exploitation, violence, and sexual assault.

Problems in schools

Female students in Guinea are often subject to sexual assault, abuse, and exploitation. Instances of teachers demanding sexual favors in return for passing marks, even if previously merited by student’s academic work, are way too common. Often there are no repercussions for the guilty teacher save a slap on the wrist. To ensure that girls have a safe learning environment, there must be codes of conduct for all teachers and strict ramifications for such behaviors, including loss of job and inability to be hired at any other institution.

Girls also face a risk to security due to lack of proper sanitation facilities. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, an estimated 10 percent of school-aged girls in Africa skip school during women’s period or drop out due to lack of adequate facilities. With a slight improvement in sanitation in Guinean schools from 1997 to 2002, enrollment rates for girls increased 17 percent. Many schools still lack proper bathrooms with many lacking separate toilets for boys and girls and others missing complete privacy measures including cracked windows and broken doors.

There is a strong correlation between the number of female students in schools and the number of female teachers at that school. In 2017, less than half of the primary school teachers and only 30 percent of secondary teachers were female. Having a female teacher not only makes young girls feel safe in the classroom but also gives them a positive role model, making them empowered and motivated to finish their own schooling.

Effects of education

Education is a powerful weapon and shield for young girls. It protects them against child labor, increases participation in the workforce, increases earning capacity, decreases early marriage, and reduces infant and child mortality while also having positive effects on child nutrition. Educated women are more likely to understand their rights and how to exercise them socially, politically and economically. Finally, girls’ education can create a positive cycle meaning that educated mothers are more likely to enroll their own daughters in school and promote higher levels of educational attainment.

While Guinea has made significant progress in terms of girls’ educational availability, improvement is still needed. Support from government officials, religious leaders, and local community leaders may help to eradicate the traditional and apathetic view of girls’ education. Protecting girls against gender-based violence and sexual abuse and securing adequate sanitation facilities will create a safe learning environment. Increased representation of female teachers will promote female empowerment. If these main barriers to girls’ education in Guinea are eradicated then enrollment and completion rates will skyrocket.

– Jessie Serody

Photo: Flickr

Mindfulness in Education Systems of IndiaIn recent years, India has improved its education system greatly. An increasing number of children have access to education and enrollment rates in primary school are on the rise. Over 98 percent of Indians have access to a primary school within one kilometer of their home. Yet, the nation still faces challenges with poor education and high dropout rates. In an effort to combat these challenges, India has introduced mindfulness in education systems across the country.

Education Challenges in Delhi

India is among the top five countries for children not attending primary school. There are over 1.4 million students between the ages of 6 and 11 not enrolled. Approximately 29 percent of children drop out of school before finishing the five years of primary school, and only 42 percent of students complete high school.

Many schools are not able to handle the needs of all the students. Only 74 percent of schools have drinking water and over 50 percent of schools have working restrooms for girls. Recent reports show that learning levels are not being reached, and standardized tests show that countless children will not progress in the school system. This highlights the need to improve the quality of education in India.

The Lasting Ramifications of Stress

Many students face external problems, such as poverty, that can seriously hinder their education. New Delhi slums have astounding illiteracy rates of 70 percent; however, the entirety of New Delhi has an impressive literacy rate of 86 percent. In the 2011 census, it was reported that 3.9 million residents of New Delhi live in slums. Non-government reports have estimated that the number of impoverished people living in the slums is much higher, sitting around 8 million. Residents of the slums lack access to adequate plumbing, drinkable water and transportation.

Children who are constantly exposed to poverty-related stress can have serious health consequences later in life. Physical reactions from stress, such as increased heart rates, stress hormones and adrenaline take a serious toll on a child’s health. Eventually, these children are at a higher risk of developing diabetes and other life-altering illnesses.

Over time, the structure of a child’s brain is forever altered. Cognitive functions are impaired, which can have disastrous consequences on a child’s emotional responses and attention span. Impoverished children are also at a higher risk of suffering from depression. In fact, one out of four children surveyed between the ages of 13 and 15 face the challenges of depression in India. In contrast, children who do not experience stress or depression experience healthier sleeping habits and are able to easily fight off illnesses due to having stronger immune systems.

Mindfulness in Education

India is combating stress-related illnesses and the inability to focus in class among children with an additional course in “Happiness.” The course objective is to improve the students’ emotional well-being through meditation, story-telling and other activities that focus on mental health. The students will learn mindfulness, empowering them to be less distracted and to improve their ability to focus. Apra, a primary school teacher, believes that mindfulness in education will help many students in Delhi. She adds that the course will specifically benefit children from poorer families as they will have “time to be happy.”

Mindfulness in education has shown encouraging results in urban schools. Created as an alternative to detention, Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore has implemented an afterschool program dedicated to meditation and mindfulness. Success can be noted by the drop in suspensions at school. During the 2012-2013 school-year, 4 students were suspended. However, the following year there were no suspensions, something the school attributes to this program. Moreover, a study by Stanford University found that mindfulness in education has also helped lessen symptoms of PTSD.

Mindfulness in education is not the solution to end poverty, but it is a method that can be used to lessen the disastrous effects on impoverished children. Studies on mindfulness in education are still very new, but studies point in the direction that mindful practices will have tremendous results for students. Furthermore, the evidence shows that disadvantaged children will greatly benefit from this practice. For India, this could mean that retention rates in school will rise, and more children will be able to receive a quality education.

– Stefanie Babb

Photo: Flickr

Female Literacy Rate
In September 2017, a BBC News correspondent reported a 60-year old woman from East Africa, Florence Cheptoo, learning to read for the first time. This feat is surprisingly uncommon for Cheptoo’s demographic in Kenya.

Although Kenya is one of the “best-educated low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa,” the literacy rate among females, particularly the elderly, are lower than males. According to Global Ageing Campaign, “literacy rates among older people – especially older women – remain low and are often lower than for the population as a whole.”

The literacy rates among women have increased exponentially within the last 30 years, since the National Literacy Campaign launched in Kenya in 1979. During this time, according to a study from the International Review of Education, around 35 percent of males 15 and older and 70 percent of females in the same age group were illiterate. Furthermore, 93 percent of women over the age of 55 could not read.

In 1993, women comprised 70 percent of those enrolled in the adult literacy programs in Kenya, due to a lack of available educational opportunities for girls. Prior to the National Literacy Campaign, Cheptoo, who was born in 1957, did not receive support from her parents for education, encouraged instead to get married and have children. This is typical in sub-Saharan Africa, where females are often persuaded to marry early and are “unlikely to find any professional opportunities that enable economic self-sufficiency,” according to Daraja Academy.

Today, the female literacy rate is 74.9 percent, compared to the literacy rate of males at 81.1 percent, a stark difference from the literacy rates of the past. The female literacy rate is continually increasing with the support of secondary schools for girls including Daraja Academy and Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy, which allow females of the future generations to secure an education.

Adult literacy programs are bridging the education gap for women who did not receive proper schooling in their youth. These literacy programs are a turning point for women, like Cheptoo, and provide them with learning opportunities to increase their knowledge of the world that surrounds them.

Ashley Howard

Photo: Flickr

Rwanda on the Rise
Although faced with problems in the past, the education system in Rwanda is making an ambitious effort to attain gender equality and increase early-grade literacy, as revealed by a 2016 UNICEF study. Thanks to government programs aimed at improving basic education and utilizing newer teaching methods, literacy rates in Rwanda signal signs of improvement.

With a population of more than 11 million, Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, and half of its population is under 18. With such a large community of young people, the improvement and dissemination of education throughout the country is vital for its socioeconomic development. Rwanda’s government values education as critical for peaceful development, and has thus increased its allotment in the national budget from 17 percent (2012-2013) to 22 percent (2017-2018).

Rwanda has enjoyed a decrease in poverty over the past 20 years, accompanied by economic growth and burgeoning education standards. The country has also sought to improve education by focusing on key challenges such as dropout rates, teacher training and the improvement of educational tools for special needs children.

Because of these efforts to improve education, literacy rates in Rwanda have increased steadily. Early-grade literacy programs focus on teaching children in their native language of Kinyarwanda, which then continues into lessons in French and English. Assessments indicated that children were greatly affected by the improvement in their learning environments and the results of educator training.

This dedication to education is paying off – Rwanda has the highest primary school enrollment rate of any country in Africa, and has achieved gender parity in elementary education programs, with girls’ enrollment actually higher (98 percent) than boys’ (95 percent). In secondary education, girls now comprise 52 percent of enrolled students.

There are still a few challenges facing the Rwandan school system. Children in rural areas, as well as those born during or shortly after the 1994 genocide, are far behind in literacy and lack access to quality education. UNICEF has found that teacher training and parental involvement are two key factors in improving education in rural Rwanda.

Despite hurdles to improving its education system, Rwanda is making great progress in improving the lives of its children. With continued focus on rural school systems, educator training and early-grade reading programs, its government stands to strengthen and stimulate an entire generation of young minds. If the rising literacy rates in Rwanda are any reflection of the trajectory of the country’s children, they will find they have only the sky as the limit.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

Education in Morocco
Education in Morocco has staggered slowly towards greater improvements in their learning infrastructure as illiteracy rates remain high. According to a 2015 statement by the National Agency for the Fight Against Illiteracy (ANLCA) approximately 10 million men and women are still illiterate.

Mounia Benchekroun, a Moroccan consultant in social and educational development stated in the The Arab Weekly, “The figure of 10 million illiterate in Morocco should raise a national awareness that would require a much stronger national political engagement in order to fight this scourge.”

Morocco’s High Commissioner for Planning Ahmed Lahlimi also shared his analysis on illiteracy rates in 2014. Lahlimi stated it was more common for adults over 50 years old to be illiterate, which is approximately 61.1 percent. In contrast, only 3.7 percent of children under 15 years old face illiteracy. There is an evident gender gap as approximately 41.9 percent of women are illiterate compared to to 22.1 percent of men.

Although the National Education and Training Charter (CNEF) lagged behind in its goal to reduce illiteracy to less than 20 percent by 2010 with complete eradication by 2015, this issue of high illiteracy rates is accompanied by good news. Literacy rates have made strides throughout the years for education in Morocco, increasing with the implementation of literacy programs by NGOs and with a new 2024 goal to eradicate illiteracy.

Lahlimi states that rates have dropped to 32 percent compared to 42 percent of the population 10 years prior. Moreover, Morocco has earned the Confucius Literacy Prize honorable mention for their improvements in literacy rates between 2004 and 2012. A continued emphasis on improving literacy rates for education in Morocco is significant in creating equality and advancing the health and development of the country as a whole.

The Global Education Monitoring Report states that educated mothers are less likely to die in childbirth by two-thirds and that child mortality would be reduced by a sixth. Literacy plays an important role in mortality rates through the ability to read. Literacy provides information to make well-informed decisions, such as utilizing a nurse at birth or understanding nutrition. In addition, according to Alfalit International, research has shown that illiteracy can limit an individual’s ability to understand and process information necessary to take care of oneself.

With the importance of literacy among Moroccan men and women, ANLCA calls on national and international powers “for a new impetus to-wards a literate Morocco.” New improvements for education in Morocco will come in addition to an eradication of illiteracy by 2024.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

India's Gender Gap

As two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population or 496 million people are women, the gender gap in literacy rates remains conspicuous. The Guardian calls the gap “stubbornly unchanging” as gender inequality persists and overall literacy rates improve.

In the past 20 years, youth literacy rates have jumped from 83 percent to 91 percent while the number of illiterate youth declined from 170 million to 115 million. Yet the difference between literacy rates for men and women have remained quite stable.

For instance, India’s gender gap is stark. The country holds the largest illiterate population and constitutes one-third or 187 million of all illiterate women around the world; there is a 24 percentage point difference between men and women. About 75 percent of Indian men have at least a basic level of literacy while 51 percent of women are literate.

This disparity in literacy rates remained persistent throughout the years according to data collected by India’s National Commission on Population. For example, in 1951, literacy rate for males was 27 percent while just a mere 8 percent of women were literate — a 19 percentage point difference. In addition, in 1981, 56 percent of men were literate with 30 percent literacy rate for women — a 26 percentage point difference.

Taking a Closer Look at India’s Gender Gap

As the gender gap remains stable although overall literacy rates are on the rise, this predicament is an interesting puzzle that requires a closer look at possible causes.

According to Planet Read, the following social factors have contributed to India’s gender gap:

  1. gender-based inequality
  2. social discrimination and economic exploitation
  3. domestic responsibilities dominating educational responsibilities
  4. low female enrollment in schools
  5. low retention rate and high dropout rate

It is obvious that abiding social and cultural norms have been a roadblock towards promoting a more balanced ratio in literacy rates.

In a report by the University of Maryland, College Park, Aparna Sundaram and Reeve Vanneman observed a counter-intuitive relationship between an increase in women’s labor force participation and literacy rates. In areas that promote the idea of women in the labor force, there are also lower rates in literacy and education levels.

One may assume that the participation of women in labor force contributes to an equalization in women’s status and, thus, a decrease in the gap between men and women literacy rates. However, this does not seem to be the case. The solutions towards resolving disparity seem much more complex than simply promoting an equalized labor force.

As more education is provided to a society as a whole, the more likely it would be for the persisting gender gap in literacy rates to decrease. Sounds like a paradox, but it is a solution worth noting.

As literacy is tied to thriving economies, it is important to focus on improving the gender gap in literacy rates. According to data, an increase in literacy rates correlates with a decrease in the share of the population living in poverty — on less than $2 per day. Moreover, focusing on educating women more specifically would, according to Bloomberg, yield a “growth premium” in DGP trends around the world.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr