In recent years, increased assistance from the U.S. has greatly improved education in Macedonia.

Macedonia is a relatively small country north of Greece, with a population of just over two million. While its economy is considered stable on a large scale, corruption and lack of a strong legal system contribute to an unemployment rate of 30 percent.

Macedonia developed a positive relationship with the U.S. after gaining its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Since then, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has worked to improve the country’s economic and democratic stability.

Although education in Macedonia has improved (98.5 percent of individuals are literate), the country lags behind other transitioning countries. Macedonia’s 2015 PISA scores in reading, mathematics and science were among the lowest in the triennial survey of worldwide educational systems.

Since 2002, USAID has collaborated with the Macedonian Ministry of Education and Science. Together they focus on developing reading comprehension and ethnic integration skills, as well as improving the learning atmosphere for those with disabilities.

The Interethnic Integration in Education Project works to encourage educational environments that do not discriminate based on ethnicity. Through community outreach, faculty training and renovating schools as an incentive, the U.S. European Command has reached 63 schools.

Another USAID-funded project, Readers are Leaders, strives to improve literacy and numeracy competence in primary school-aged Macedonian students. Results show that the project’s interactive system has aided the performance of more than 1,500 students.

USAID helps fund two more programs, one specifically for visually impaired students. By carrying out preventative eye-screenings of young children and equipping resource centers with Braille textbooks, the Children with Visual Impairments Project helps give equal access to education to visually impaired students. The Social Inclusion through Technology project helps disabled students develop the skills to find employment and work in information and communication technology.

Education in Macedonia is taking increased priority in the country’s government agenda. In 2015, the Macedonian Ministry of Education and Science began a campaign to provide scholarships for students to travel and study abroad.

The Ministry also encourages international students to attend its universities and has nurtured a reputation as a historically rich and ethnically diverse setting for furthering one’s education.

Through existing programs and continued cultivation, it is hopeful that education in Macedonia will continue to improve.

Emily Trosclair

 

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Macedonia
The small landlocked European country of Macedonia, located north of Greece, has only been officially declared an independent nation since 1991 after winning independence from Yugoslavia. During this short time, the population of Macedonia has struggled with the spread of poverty and remains among the ten poorest countries in Europe. Here are four facts about poverty in Macedonia:

  1. Nearly one-third of Macedonian citizens are poor. A calculated 30.4 percent of people in Macedonia live below the poverty line. Macedonia’s national population is just over two million people, which means a shocking 600,000 individuals are currently living below the poverty line. This is more than double the rate of poverty in the U.S., which measured at 13.5 percent in 2015.
  2. Political and ethnic tensions are contributing factors to the widespread poverty. Suspected government corruption in elections and ongoing prejudice between the Albanian and Macedonian populations prevent the stability necessary for economic improvement. As one Western diplomat claimed while choosing to remain anonymous, “When people have no money, they try to find someone to blame. In Macedonia’s case, ethnic groups blame each other for their misfortunes.”
  3. Unemployment is a major cause of poverty in Macedonia. The rate of unemployment in Macedonia was 23.4 percent in 2016, rendering one in four people unable to find work. The shift from a Yugoslavian command economy, in which the central government mandated many aspects of the market such as prices, incomes and investments, to the modern democratic economy, subject to volatile influences such as supply and demand, has left many citizens without job opportunities.
  4. Children may suffer the effects of poverty in Macedonia more than the adults. Even as progress is made to reduce the national poverty level, families with young children have far higher rates of poverty compared to the national average. According to a comprehensive study by UNICEF, the rates of poverty in Macedonia among households with children increased from 49.3 percent in 2002 to 66.6 percent in 2007. This is especially true among small-scale farmers in rural areas, who comprise 40 percent of the poor in Macedonia.

Future efforts to improve the economic standing of Macedonia will depend largely on expanding the job market and improving local infrastructure. Foreign investors may be able to solve both problems, especially from the United Kingdom and from Germany, as Macedonia continues to stabilize its new governmental structure and appeal to other European countries for support.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr