Education in Oaxaca
There are several barriers to education in Oaxaca, Mexico, including a lack of resources and funding, high poverty rates and inadequate infrastructure. Organizations are working to make quality education accessible to children in Oaxaca and improve literacy rates through reading programs.

Poverty in Oaxaca

According to World Bank data from 2020, agricultural land accounts for about 50% of Mexico’s total land area. However, in rural and typically agricultural-based areas, poverty rates are usually higher than in urban areas and educational attainment rates are low.

Furthermore, in agriculture-based southern states such as Oaxaca, one of the most impoverished states in Mexico, the costs of education are out of reach for many families as about 24% of the population lives in extreme poverty. According to Mexico’s official statistics, in 2020, only 35% of Oaxaca’s population had completed primary school education and just 18.5% had completed secondary school.

Access to education is obscured for many disadvantaged Mexicans in states such as Oaxaca. For those who are able to access education, the lack of funding in schools created inadequate environments for learning. Many early education schools in Mexico do not have access to running water, making it difficult for students to comfortably engage in learning.

The illiteracy rate within Oaxaca State varies greatly across rural and urban communities. In 2020, the illiteracy rate within Oaxaca’s largest urban city, Oaxaca City, stood at 2.37%. On the other hand, one of Oaxaca’s more rural municipalities, Santiago Yaitepec, had an illiteracy rate of 28%. In 2020, in Santiago Yaitepec, less than a quarter of the population had completed at least a middle school education and about 6% achieved a high school diploma.

Improving Literacy and Education in Oaxaca

The Ananda Learning Center is situated in San Sebastián Río Hondo, a rural village in Oaxaca with about 2,000 residents. It aims to provide a holistic and affordable private-level education to Indigenous Zapotec children from the village. The school teaches in both English and Spanish to open up more opportunities for children. The Ananda Center allows quality education for disadvantaged children and is currently fundraising to continue its operations.

A nonprofit organization named Fundacion Alfredo Harp Helu Oaxaca (FAHHO) aims to improve education and literacy among Oaxaca’s disadvantaged children. The FAHHO has established several libraries in areas of Oaxaca so that children and adolescents may access reading material to improve their literacy skills.

The FAHHO also runs mobile libraries to improve reading skills among children. A van supplied with “books, boxes, mats, shelves and easels” travels to communities and coordinators conduct reading initiatives and fun learning activities. The FAHHO established the We Keep Reading Program in 2008 and relies on the help of voluntary readers. By 2014, the initiative reached more than 6,000 children a week within 21 schools across more than five of Oaxaca’s municipalities.

The FAHHO and the Ananda Learning Center focus on improving literacy and education in Oaxaca’s most disadvantaged communities. Empowering children with education will allow them to rise out of poverty — a positive impact that will have a community-wide reach in disadvantaged areas.

– Micaela Carrillo
Photo: Flickr

Literacy and Child Mortality
While many might not think there is a connection between child mortality and literacy, there most certainly is. In fact, a closer look at the link between literacy and child mortality indicates that the more educated a woman is, the higher the chance of her baby’s survival.

Global Child Mortality and Literacy

Child mortality refers to the number of children that die before reaching age 5 per every 1,000 live births. This issue is prevalent to some degree everywhere around the world, but some regions have higher rates of child mortality than others. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), global child mortality rates have significantly improved since 1990, reducing from 93 per 1,000 live births to 37 in 2020.

In terms of global literacy, the ability to read and write, today the rate stands at 87% in comparison to 12% in 1820. However, strong regional disparities still exist — countries in sub-Saharan Africa still have the lowest literacy rates. For instance, in Mali, literacy rates decreased to 31% in 2020 due to the disruption of conflicts. Additionally, South Sudan’s literacy rate stood at 35% and Afghanistan noted a 37% rate.

The Link

According to research from the Harvard Kennedy School, when a woman can read and write, her child has a 36% higher chance of living past the age of 5 than if the mother was illiterate. In fact, when mothers receive a basic education (six years of schooling and the ability to read and write), child mortality rates drop 68%. Furthermore, for women in this same study with no education whatsoever, “38.5% have had a child die.”

Unfortunately, many individuals in developing countries do not receive a quality education even if they complete many years of schooling. An Annual Status of Education Report assessing students aged 14 to 18 in rural India found that even though “[more than] 80[%] had completed grade 8, roughly half or less could do simple division, calculate how much a price discount of 10[%]would save them, follow simple instructions or understood measuring length with a ruler.”

Many developing countries do not have the funds to pay for high-skilled educators, training and quality educational materials, which leads to a subpar classroom experience. This creates a cycle: when the quality of education is low, families become reluctant to use their minimal resources to send their children to school, leading to another generation of uneducated people. Still, attending school has proven to be beneficial in the sense of lowering child mortality.

Women and the Effects of Schooling

Education empowers women in developing countries by giving them the tools and knowledge to make informed choices throughout their lives. But, research also shows that attending school, aside from just the knowledge one attains, also helps women to build social networks, which is very important in empowering women.

An educated woman understands how to take care of herself and her unborn baby during pregnancy and knows how to detect early warning signs of complications so that she may seek assistance from a health care professional.

Education also increases women’s bargaining power within their own houses, which, in turn, decreases their risk of domestic violence and helps improve the quality of life of the women and children.

Despite various issues with education in developing countries, there are still many benefits women receive from an education. These benefits directly correlate with higher chances of survival for their children, showing a link between literacy and child mortality.

– Evelyn Breitbach
Photo: Flickr

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

Charities Operating in Argentina
Argentina is one of the southernmost countries in South America. Though it boasts a 98% literacy rate, a solid public healthcare system and one of the most robust economies in all of South America, it suffers from a high national poverty rate and concerns in the healthcare and education sectors. Both the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must work to improve the living conditions for Argentinian citizens. Here is an overview of the country’s poverty situation and a few impressive charities operating in Argentina.

Argentina’s Poverty Situation

In 2011, the population in urban centers had an estimated poverty rate of 12.2% (earning less than $5.50 per day). However, a national economic recession in 2018 combined with the financial toll of the COVID-19 pandemic led to the sharpest increase in poverty in Argentina in recent decades. Approximately 41% of the urban population now falls below the national poverty line.

Beyond high poverty, Argentina struggles with inequalities in key sectors including education and health care. Though Argentina has a relatively strong education system, there is a trend of high dropout rates and low college attendance as well as a steep inequality in education quality between urban and rural areas. Similarly, though Argentina has universal health care, it is decentralized, creating a large discrepancy in the quality of care. In particular, healthcare access is either poor or absent in more rural, remote areas of the country. These issues call for help from a variety of charities operating in Argentina.

4 Helpful NGOs Operating in Argentina

  1. Sumando Manos Foundation: One NGO doing great work in improving nutrition and health care in Argentina is the Sumando Manos Foundation. The organization has helped more than 7,000 children and their communities since its founding in 2005. It does this by “providing food and critical medical and dental attention and teaching fundamental health care.” Sumando Manos operates by visiting the same communities over a span of many years. Common dental problems and nutritional deficiencies have decreased by more than half in the communities that Sumando Manos serves. That is tangible evidence of Sumando Manos’s strong impact.
  2. La Casa Ronald de Argentina: McDonald’s humanitarian healthcare initiative in Argentina, La Casa Ronald de Argentina, provides support for families with young family members who have cancer and other complex care needs. Specifically, La Casa Ronald provides rooms within hospitals and houses where families can stay with their children while they receive medical care. This is an incredibly important service in Argentina where most quality medical care is located in urban centers and families have to temporarily migrate to accommodate the situation. Casa Ronald also has a Healthy Habits Unit that promotes healthy lifestyle choices and a Wellness Unit that provides snacks and books to families during their long days at the hospital. Since its founding in Argentina in 1998, Casa Ronald has provided nearly $37 million to 280,000 children and families facing healthcare emergencies
  3. Fundacion Leer: A third organization improving the quality of life in Argentina is Fundacion Leer. It is dedicated to providing educational resources throughout the country with the goal of 100% literacy for children across Argentina. In operation for over 25 years, its impact is no doubt a part of the literacy rate increasing from 93.9% in 1980 to 98.1% in 2015. In its time, Fundacion Leer has provided more than 2.5 million children with assistance in learning to read and write, more than 2.5 million books to educational institutions and trained 27,613 adults to teach basic literacy skills.
  4. Cåritas Argentina: Cåritas Argentina, an institution of the Catholic Church, exists to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life in Argentina. The organization provides direct aid, but also more central to its mission, its 40,000 volunteers provide emotional and spiritual support for vulnerable families. As its website explains, “The challenge is not only to provide food or shelter, but to accompany families and be the gateway to listen, contain, organize and plan tasks that stimulate human development.” Cåritas Argentina works in many sectors including early childhood education, addiction prevention and food response. Two specific examples of achievements include helping 5,300 families construct and maintain their own homes through its Habitat initiative and maintaining a network of  180 inclusive educational spaces.

These charities operating in Argentina fight poverty reduction by giving citizens skills, opportunities and services essential for success in life.

– Xander Heiple
Photo: Flickr

Tablets to Children
The Can’t Wait to Learn Program (CWTL) which began in 2021 runs in five countries and provides tablets to children in remote areas with high learning poverty. The program aims to provide education to children affected by conflict in Sudan, Jordan, Chad, Uganda and Lebanon. On June 23, 2022, a report announced that learning poverty in low-income and middle-income countries had increased by 13%.

The learning poverty increase is due to lowered household income and extended school closures during the pandemic and conflict in given countries. Learning poverty measurements occur by studying 10-year-olds’ ability to read and comprehend simple written text. In 2015, learning poverty in low-income and middle-income areas was at 57%. As of June 23, learning poverty increased to 70% of children unable to read simple text.

Can’t Wait to Learn

The Ministry of Education (MoE), UNICEF, War Child Holland and Ahfad University partnered to create the first Can’t Wait to Learn Program. They created the program in Sudan in in 2014 with their e-Learning Sudan (eLs) Project. This phase of the Can’t Wait to Learn program focused on math games on tablets.

In Sudan, conflict affects 2.6 million children. As of August 2019, approximately 3 million children were not in school. This amounts to around one-third of children who are old enough to attend school missing crucial learning.

The Can’t Wait to Learn Project relies on local facilitators who can travel to villages and understand how to use the tablets. In Kassala, Sudan Can’t Wait to Learn established learning centers in 23 communities. This was the start of Can’t Wait to Learn’s fight against learning poverty, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Can’t Wait to Learn @ Home

In refugee camps in Uganda and Lebanon, CWTL adapted to have children learn remotely. In June 2021, Uganda’s government enforced a 42-day lockdown, meaning that schools were closed to children and travel was limited. With public transit closed, War Child Holland provided bikes to facilitators to check on families and deliver charged tablets to their homes.

With the pandemic, more than 1.2 million children in Lebanon missed school. War Child Holland has 40 locations in Lebanon, helping Lebanese families that cannot send their children to school. More than 40% of children spend their family finances on essential items such as food. In response, War Child created Can’t Wait to Learn @ Home, where families receive a manual to help their children use their tablets.

Inside and outside of schools in developing countries, CWTL provides tablets with educational games to children. The games are meant to teach children how to read, write and count. In each country, games receive adjustments for specific languages and needs of the children in the area. Out of school children who may have never used a computer before can learn with a tablet without teacher assistance.

Results and Future

Children in the program showed improved skills greater than those in the Government Alternative Learning programme (ALP). Children improved their math skills by two times and reading skills by 2.7 times with the ALP. COVID-19 worsened the learning poverty crisis, showing risk of children missing out on $21 trillion in possible income.

Can’t Wait to Learn and Can’t Wait to Learn @ Home provide the opportunity for children to continue their schooling despite the state of where they live. Through crises, a pandemic and low family income, the program continues to provide tablets and learning opportunities to children around the world.

Sara Sweitzer
Photo: Flickr

Literacy Rates
Literacy is fundamental when investing in the future and working toward greater health, economic prosperity and gender equality and is a fair indicator of a nation’s relationship with education. Former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova summarized this perfectly when she said “the future starts with the alphabet.” As a proven pathway out of poverty, education leads to higher literacy rates, which can ease economic burdens in developing nations.

Global Literacy Rates

According to the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), in 2016, the global literacy rate stood at 86% for individuals 15 and older in comparison to 91% for youth aged 15-24. These high percentages are indicative of increased access to basic education. Across the past 65 years, “the global literacy rate increased by 4% every five years from 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015.”

However, there is a large disparity among developing countries, specifically those in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, in 2019, Niger’s youth illiteracy rate for ages 15-24 stood at 60.3%, which is a constraint for economic and social development in the nation.

From an economic perspective, any effort toward increased literacy marks a returned investment in the nation’s growth. High illiteracy rates place a financial burden on nations. The World Literacy Foundation found in 2018 that the economic cost of illiteracy in the U.S. alone is more than $300 billion, and in terms of the global economy, illiteracy costs the world $1.2 trillion.

Literacy for Poverty Reduction

Established research highlights the correlation between high literacy rates and a high GDP. Friedrich Huebler, the head of the Education Standards and Methodology Section of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, conducted a study in 2005 where he plotted the school net enrollment ratios (NER) against GDP per capita of 120 different countries. His findings showed that “the higher the income levels of a country, the higher the levels of school enrollment.”

When it comes to cost per student in regard to literacy rates, there is a stark global trend: “In high-income countries, for instance, households shoulder a larger share of education expenditures at higher education levels than at lower levels – but in low-income countries, this is not the case.” The amount a household spends on education directly correlates to higher education rates. Because of this, low-income countries are falling behind in education levels because of the low private spending on education in comparison to their higher-income counterparts.

Books For Africa Works to Increase Literacy Rates

Books For Africa is working to “end the book famine in Africa” by collecting and distributing books, tablets and computers across the African continent. Tom Warth founded BfA in 1988 when he visited a Ugandan library with an extreme scarcity of books. He went back to the U.S. and spoke with “publishers, booksellers and librarians” at the Minnesota Book Publishers’ Roundtable, prompting the start of the organization.

Through a simple idea, Books For Africa has made a profound impact on the access to knowledge in Africa. According to its website, “last year alone, Books For Africa shipped 3.1 million books, and 224 computers and e-readers containing more than 885,000 digital books to 28 African countries.”

The organization’s methodology has been proven to increase education and literacy rates. According to USAID’s research, “children and youth who learn to read are healthier, more self-sufficient, can earn a better living and have more opportunities to become productive members of their societies.” Not only does the increased access to books promote literacy but it also contributes to the development of children and communities at large.

Room to Read

Room to Read is an international nonprofit that is fighting specifically for increased access to girls’ education alongside children’s literacy. This mission is important as more than two-thirds of the 796 million illiterate people in the world are women.

John Wood founded the nonprofit in 1998 when he visited a school in Nepal with 450 students and very few resources. Wood began with 3,000 book donations from family and friends. Wood soon left his job at Microsoft as director of business development to pursue his passion for education with co-founders Erin Ganju and Dinesh Shrestha.

Since its founding, the nonprofit has reached more than 32 million children across 15 developing nations. About 20 million children have enrolled in Room to Read’s literacy initiative and the organization has provided training to more than “200,000 teachers and librarians.” Specifically, in the arena of girls’ education, 2.8 million girls have enrolled in the organization’s girls’ education program.

Room to Read prioritizes working directly with “local governments, schools, communities and families” to highlight the importance of education “and how [these groups] can play a role in enabling students to achieve their full potential.” Additionally, 87% of the organization’s staff work in their countries of origin, ensuring that the efforts are more grassroots and built from the community.

High literacy rates are paramount for economic development, and with a continued commitment to further this at the grassroots level and beyond, global poverty rates can reduce.

– Imaan Chaudhry
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

School Feeding Program in RwandaRwanda is a small, densely populated country in Africa, located just south of the equator. Though the country has made great strides in poverty reduction since the 1994 genocide, 55% of the population still lived in poverty in 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic halted a period of economic boom and, as a result, the World Bank expects poverty to rise by more than 5% in 2021. International aid and development programs in Rwanda are more important than ever, especially when it comes to providing reliable, nutritious food sources. Chronic malnutrition affects more than a third of Rwandan children younger than 5 and the World Food Programme (WFP) considers nearly 20% of Rwandans food insecure. One key initiative aiming to eradicate malnutrition in Rwanda is the WFP’s Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda.

History of the Home Grown School Feeding Initiative

The WFP’s Home Grown School Feeding initiative works with local governments, farmers and schools to provide nutritious, diverse daily meals for students and enrich local economies. These Home Grown School Feeding programs currently operate in 46 countries with each program tailored to the needs of local people.

The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda began in 2016, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Mastercard. The program serves daily warm meals to more than 85,000 learners in 104 primary schools. The program benefits both students and their families in several major ways.

5 Benefits of the Home Grown School Feeding Initiative

  1. Improves Nutrition. Agriculture is the basis of Rwanda’s economy, but desertification, drought and other problems are decreasing harvests. As a result, many families struggle to grow enough food to feed themselves. The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda provides students with meals of either maize, beans or hot porridge. The school-provided meal is often the only regular, nutritious meal available to many students.
  2. Improves Hygiene. Along with kitchens and ingredients, the WFP also supplies schools in Rwanda with materials to teach basic nutrition and hygiene. One strategy includes installing rainwater collection tanks and connecting them to handwashing stations. Additionally, WFP workers build or renovate bathrooms at each school. Connecting the school to a reliable water supply also benefits the local community by decreasing the distance villagers travel to access water. School handwashing stations are also open to the community, improving health and hygiene for everyone.
  3. Improves Focus, Literacy and School Attendance. According to Edith Heines, WFP country director for Rwanda, “a daily school meal is a very strong incentive for parents to send their children to school.” In primary schools where the WFP implemented the Home Grown School Feeding Program, attendance has increased to 92%. With the implementation of the program, students report increased alertness in class and better grades and performance. One child from Southern Rwanda, Donat, told the WFP that before his school provided lunch, he was often so hungry that he did not want to return to school after going home at lunchtime. Now that his school provides lunch, he looks forward to class each day. Literacy rates have also improved dramatically at schools where the program operates and the WFP reports that student reading comprehension has increased from less than 50% to 78%.
  4. Teaches Gardening and Cooking Skills. The WFP develops a kitchen garden at every school involved in the Home Grown School Feeding program. Children participate in growing and caring for crops, learning valuable gardening skills that they can take home to their parents. Children are also instructed in meal preparation and in proper hygiene.
  5. Diversifying Crops at Home. Students also receive seedlings in order to provide food at home and to diversify the crops grown in food-insecure areas. Crop diversification can help improve soil fertility and crop yields. Sending seedlings home also promotes parent and community involvement in the program, ensuring the program’s long-term stability.

Looking Ahead

The Home Grown School Feeding program in Rwanda has improved the quality of life for many children living in poverty as well as their families. By fighting to end hunger in food-insecure areas of Rwanda, the WFP has improved hygiene, nutrition, school attendance, literacy, crop diversity and more. The continuation of the program in Rwanda and in other countries around the world will enable further progress in the fight against global poverty.

Julia Welp
Photo: Flickr

Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy
An estimated 750 million youth and adults worldwide can neither read nor write. This is one of the many challenges that prompted UNESCO’s 40th General Conference. The agency’s Member States proposed a solution, “Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy,” on Nov. 15, 2019. This strategy’s grand objective is to extend UNESCO’s undivided support to all countries. A special focus will be on members of the Global Alliance for Literacy, the majority of whose populations show the highest literacy levels.

Strategic Priority Areas

The Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy aligns with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, this plan follows SDG 4, “Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

The strategy has four key priority areas:

  1. Support Member States in the development of strategies and national literacy policies and strategies. To achieve this, UNESCO will work hand-in-hand with the Member States to develop learning techniques. The techniques will have a comprehensive perspective and undergo integration into public systems.
  2. Aid the education needs of disadvantaged groups, such as women and girls. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population comprises women. Consequently, UNESCO’s strategy will focus on women and other specific populations that face disproportionate disadvantages. Indigenous peoples, refugees, immigrants, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities will also be a priority in the plan.
  3. Leverage digital technologies to increase access to education and improve learning outcomes. UNESCO will help the Member States fully exploit technological innovations — such as Artificial Intelligence, Open Education Resources, etc. — that can potentially transform their learning environments. To do this, UNESCO will reinforce partnerships with outstanding research institutions and private corporations.
  4. Monitor progress and assess literacy skills and programs people’s literacy skills. To assess progress with SDG 4.6.1 indicator, UNESCO will deploy data-based learning assessment systems and powerful tools like the Global Education Monitoring Report, among others.

Literacy Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic: Attainable or Impractical?

The Coronavirus pandemic has left education systems hanging by a thread and exposed the many cracks that existed even before the pandemic. In her opening statement of the UNESCO 2020 Global Webinar, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini, encouraged nations to make literacy “a force of inclusion and resilience” as they strive to reconstruct and attain more sustainable development.

UNESCO conducted a survey on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on literacy programs in August 2020. It revealed that out of a total of 49 adult literacy programs, more than 90% underwent suspension as a way to abide by coronavirus containment measures such as lockdowns.

In response to the coronavirus, UNESCO has developed the Global Education Coalition. So far, the coalition has helped over 70 countries to counter the effects that the pandemic has had on their education systems. This platform has made it possible for 82,000 teachers and 500,000 students in Senegal to carry on with their studies through the Ministry of Senegal’s “Ministry Distance Learning” platform. Furthermore, UNESCO has projected to add another 1.5 million learners and teachers through a partnership with Microsoft.

UNESCO has also assisted in creating educational resources, such as handouts, videos and guides for instructors and parents in Lebanon. These many programs have contributed to enhanced learning during these unprecedented times.

Not Easy but Possible

Despite the frailty that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, UNESCO’s Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy is thriving. The strategy is concrete proof that although the journey toward literacy is not a walk in the park, the end goal is still attainable. So long as nations are willing to push for it, literacy is possible all across the world, even during COVID-19.

Mbabazi Divine
Photo: Flickr