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

Improving education in SenegalSeveral countries in sub-Saharan Africa have 50% or more of their populations concentrated in rural areas. With a high density of people in scattered rural areas, improved education in these areas is a priority. Gaps in enrollment and educational attainment are present throughout these sub-Saharan countries. Due to educational gaps, a group of architects formed an organization called Let’s Build My School (LBMS). LBMS focuses on improving education in Senegal.

Education in Senegal

According to the World Bank, in 2020, 52% of Senegal’s population lived in rural areas. In 2017, the country’s literacy rate was almost 52% for those 15 and older. Since primary school is compulsory and free, the net primary school enrollment rate hovers between 70% and 75%. However, this amount decreases significantly for those living in rural areas because of regional inequalities. The percentage of children in Senegal who are not attending school is about 38%. Rates of out-of-school children include 49% of students in rural areas compared to 21% of students in urban areas.

In addition to the regional inequality gap, there is also a significant gender gap in education in Senegal. Patterns of enrollment for males versus females vary by region. Some areas, such as Matam, have more females attending primary school than males with a little more than a 20% difference. On the other hand, a more typical trend shows males having anywhere from 1% to 40% higher enrollment rates in upper secondary school than females.  Due to these trends in regional and gender-based gaps in education, LBMS chose to focus on Senegal as the first area of its focus.

Let’s Build My School

LBMS is a U.K.-registered charity group of architects advocating for education as a universal right. The charity supports access to education in underprivileged areas around the world. It especially focuses on rural African areas and began its first project in Senegal.

LBMS builds schools in disadvantaged areas and remote villages using locally sourced and sustainable construction materials. It employs building techniques that are cost-effective and easy to implement without the need for advanced construction skills. In this way, the local community can be involved in the building projects. In the future, this will allow locals to replicate these efforts as needed.

Keur Racine

So far, LBMS has completed two projects in Senegal. One of these projects is Keur Racine in the Thiès region. The project was completed between May and July of 2017, mainly using clay and tires. LBMS added on to an existing school with two classrooms and an office. This addition increased the school’s capacity to 62 more students.

The foundation was constructed with tires “filled with compacted clay and sand.” The classroom walls were constructed from “sandbags filled with locally sourced material” to allow for natural insulation. The roof was built in a way that allows for ventilation and natural lighting. The sustainable construction of these schools benefits the Earth and the people living on the land by limiting waste and providing access to schooling for rural students.

Importance of Education

A lack of education and poverty typically go hand-in-hand. This is because those in impoverished areas do not have sufficient access to educational resources or opportunities. Education is essential for improving living conditions and eradicating poverty. Quality education creates an aware, knowledgeable and skilled population able to make a better life. According to UNESCO, about 60 million people could break out of poverty if all adults had two additional years of schooling. Furthermore, 420 million people could escape poverty if all adults completed education through the secondary level. For this reason, improving education in Senegal is imperative.

USAID is Improving Education in Senegal

Prompted by the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, USAID worked “with the Government of Senegal in 2007 through a Fixed Amount Reimbursement program to construct middle schools.” The government constructs school buildings using its own funds and resources. After completion, USAID reimburses the government after confirming that the school structure meets certain specifications.

The goal of the project was to build “46 middle schools and 30 water points” by the close of 2016. In partnership with the local NGO, Femmes Plus, USAID looks to improve learning outcomes through the Our Sisters Read program. The program looks to improve the basic literacy of rural children, especially girls.

With the help of organizations such as LBMS and USAID, education in Senegal and other impoverished regions can improve and lift millions out of extreme poverty. Access to quality education is a proven global solution to ending the cycle of poverty. LBMS is an example of a smaller-scale relief effort that is contributing greatly to the overall fight against global poverty.

Kylie Lally
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in EritreaMilitarism and instability are endemic to Eritrea. The degradation of civil society is a result of those two factors. Child poverty in Eritrea is rampant due to such foundations; however, the country is not without benefactors. UNICEF’s aid efforts are improving children’s health within Eritrea despite the current conditions.

A Brief History

Eritrea is one of the few countries that can truly be considered a fledgling state in the 21st century. After a decades-long secession war, the Eritrean government achieved full independence from Ethiopia in 1993. They solidified the totalitarian one-party dictatorship that has retained power since. A brief period of peace followed, during which promised democratic elections never materialized. Then, Eritrea’s unresolved border disputes with Ethiopia escalated into a war that lasted from 1998 to 2000. It killed tens of thousands and resulted in several minor border changes and only formally ended in 2018. In the wake of this war, the Eritrean government has sustained a track record of militarization, corruption and human rights violations that has continually degraded civil stability. As of 2004, around 50% of Eritreans live below the poverty line.

Eritrea’s Youth at a Glance

Housing around 6 million people, Eritrea’s youth make up a significant proportion of its population. Eritrea has the 35th highest total fertility rate globally, with a mean of 3.73 children born per woman. It also has the 42nd lowest life expectancy at birth at a mere 66.2 years, with significant variation between that of males (63.6 years) and females (68.8 years).

Forced Conscriptions of Children

Under the guise of national security against Ethiopia, Eritrea has maintained a system of universal, compulsory conscription since 2003. This policy requires all high school students to complete their final year of high school at Sawa, the country’s primary military training center. Many are 16 or 17 years of age when their conscription begins, which led the U.N. Commission of Inquiry to accuse Eritrea of mobilizing child soldiers.

The Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report also blamed Eritrea’s conscription practices for a number of grievances. Its prolonged militarization has wide-reaching effects for the country. Many adults are held in service against their will for up to a decade, but it is particularly damaging to Eritrean youth. Students at Sawa face food shortages, forced labor and harsh punishment. Many female students have reportedly suffered sexual abuse. Besides fleeing, “Many girls and young women opt for early marriage and motherhood as a means of evading Sawa and conscription.”

Further, “The system of conscription has driven thousands of young Eritreans each year into exile,” HRW claims. They estimate that around 507,300 Eritreans live elsewhere. Because of its conscription practices, Eritrea is both a top producer of refugees and unaccompanied refugee children in Europe – they not only result in child poverty in Eritrea, but in other regions as well.

Education Access

HRW claims that Eritrea’s education system plays a central role in its high levels of militarization. It leads many students to drop out, intentionally fail classes or flee the country. This has severely undermined education access and inflated child poverty in Eritrea.

Eritrea currently has the lowest school life expectancy – “the total number of years of schooling (primary to tertiary) that a child can expect to receive” – of any country. Eritrea has reportedly made strides to raise enrollment over the last 20 years. However, 27.2% of school-aged children still do not receive schooling, and the country retains a literacy rate of only 76.6%. Illiteracy is much more prevalent among females than among males, with respective literacy rates of 68.9% and 84.4%. In general, girls and children in nomadic populations are the least likely to receive schooling.

Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

As mentioned earlier, over half a million Eritreans have fled the country as refugees. Around one-third of them – about 170,000, according to the WHO – now live in Ethiopia. A majority reside in six different refugee camps. As of 2019, around 6,000 more cross the border each month. Reporting by the UNHCR shows that “children account for 44% of the total refugee population residing in the [Eritrean] Camps, of whom 27% arrive unaccompanied or separated from their families.” Far from being ameliorated by domestic education programs, child poverty in Eritrea is merely being outsourced to its neighbors.

Children’s Health as a Site for Progress

Adjacent to these issues, UNICEF’s programs have driven significant improvements in sanitation, malnutrition and medical access. Its Health and Nutrition programs, among other things, address malnutrition by administering supplements, prevent maternal transmission of HIV/AIDS during birth and administer vaccines. Teams in other departments improve sanitation and lobby against practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.

In its 2015 Humanitarian Action for Children report on Eritrea, UNICEF wrote that Eritrea “has made spectacular progress on half the [Millennium Development Goals],” including “Goal 4 (child mortality), Goal 5 (maternal mortality), Goal 6 (HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases) and is on track to meet the target for access to safe drinking water (Goal 7).”

Figures illustrate this progress on child poverty in Eritrea. Since 1991, child immunization rates have jumped from 14% to 98%, safe water access rates are up at 60% from 7%, iodine deficiency has plummeted from 80% to 20% in children and the under-five mortality rate sits at 63 deaths per 1000 births, rather than at 148.

Child poverty in Eritrea is a far cry from being solved, but it is not a lost cause.

Skye Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

Solar Technology Alleviating PovertyGivePower, founded in 2013 by Hayes Barnard, is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to use solar technology in alleviating poverty worldwide. The United Nations reports that, as of 2019, “over two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, and about four billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.” These water-related stress levels are expected to rise with increased population growth and global economic development. Ultimately, yielding a rise in poverty.

Solar Technology: A Solution to Poverty

Solar technology presents a solution to this growing, global, water crisis. This is because solar technology holds the power to supply clean water and efficient energy systems to communities located in virtually any part of the world. Since 2013, GivePower has worked to help some of the world’s poorest countries gain access to a source of clean, renewable and resilient energy. This has in turn allowed for more readily available, clean drinking water, agricultural production and self-sustaining communities. For example, in 2018 alone, GivePower granted access to clean water, electricity and food to more than 30,000 people in five countries. Since its founding, GivePower has completed projects in the following six countries:

  1. Nicaragua: Though education through the primary stages is mandatory for Nicaraguans, school enrollment numbers are low. During its first-ever, solar microgrid installation in 2014, GivePower, recognized the importance of education. In this vein, GivePower shifted its resources toward powering a school in El Islote, Nicaragua. The school’s enrollment has improved tremendously, now offering classes and resources for both children and adults.
  2. Nepal: In Nepal, access to electricity has increased by nearly 10% for the entire Nepalese population, since GivePower began installing solar microgrids in 2015. Installation occurred throughout various parts of the country. Rural villages now have access to electricity — allowing schools, businesses, healthcare services, agricultural production and other forms of technology to prosper. Part of GivePower’s work in Nepal includes installing a 6kW microgrid on a medical clinic in a rural community, ensuring essential services.
  3. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): During 2016, the GivePower team reached the DRC, where civil war has ended in a struggle for both people and the country’s wildlife. The DRC is home to many of the world’s endangered species, making protection of the country’s wildlife essential. GivePower has successfully installed solar panels for ranger stations in one of Africa’s oldest national parks. In this way, wildlife thrives. This power provides a means for rangers to meet their basic needs and increases the likelihood that rangers can protect wildlife.
  4. Puerto Rico: In 2017, Hurricane Maria, a powerful category four hurricane, devastated Puerto Rico. The disaster left many without shelter, food, power or clean water for months. GivePower intervened, installing solar microgrids and reaching more than 23,000 people. The organization provided individual water purification systems to families without access to clean drinking water and installed solar microgrids. In this effort, the main goals were to restore and encourage more disaster relief, emergency and medical services. Furthermore, the refrigeration of food and medication and the continuation of educational services were paramount in these efforts.
  5. Kenya: Typically, only about 41% of Kenyans have access to clean water for fulfilling basic human needs. Notably, about 9.4 million Kenyans drink directly from contaminated surface water. During 2018, using solar technology in alleviating poverty, GivePower provided electricity to Kenyans living in Kiunga. Moreover, GivePower also increased access to clean water through a large-scale, microgrid water desalination farm. The water farm provides clean water for about 35,000 Kenyans, daily. The organization has also reached the Namunyak Wildlife Conservatory located in Samburu, Kenya. There, GivePower installed solar panels to ensure refrigeration and communications at the conservatory.
  6. Colombia: In 2019, GivePower installed solar microgrids in Colombia to preserve one of the country’s most famous cultural heritage sites. Moreover, the microgrids helped to support research conducted in the area. The grids installed have been able to sustain a 100-acre research field and cold storage units.

Solar Technology Alleviating Poverty: Today and Tomorrow

Renewable, clean and resilient energy has granted many populations the ability to innovate. In this way, other basic, yet vital human needs are met. Using solar technology alone in alleviating poverty has been enough to create water farms that provide clean water to thousands. With water and energy for innovation — agricultural production flourishes. This, in turn, addresses hunger issues while also working toward economic development. Having already touched the lives of more than 400,000 people, GivePower and solar technology present a promising solution in alleviating global poverty.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Sanitation in Egypt
In Egypt, approximately 8.4 million people do not have access to good sanitation, but the country has made many attempts throughout the years to improve sanitary conditions. As a result, many people and young children are enjoying a better quality of life. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Egypt.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Egypt

  1. USAID Reforms: USAID has invested $3.5 billion to bring portable water and sanitation to Egypt. Starting in 1978, the organization has helped advance wastewater systems in Cairo, Alexandria and the three Suez Canal cities. This provided clean water to 25 million Egyptians.
  2. Health Impact: Drinking contaminated water can lead to very serious illnesses and, in some cases, death. In Egypt, diarrhea is the second-leading cause of death. This can be especially problematic for children under the age of 5. Statistics even show that about 3,500-4,000 children under 5 die each year.
  3. The Water Crisis: Recently, water has become very scarce in Egypt. This is due to uneven water distribution and the mismanagement of resources. The pollution of the Nile River, the main source of water and agriculture, is also a big issue for water sanitation.
  4. Population Growth: Since the 1990s, Egypt has seen a 41 percent population growth, meaning that more and more people are crowding around water sources like the Nile River. Dr. El- Zanfaly with the American Institute of Science wrote that the crowding directly links to the “contemporary rural sanitation problem.”
  5. Toilet Troubles: Another sanitation issue for Egypt is access to clean toilets. The majority of the Egyptian people have toilets that either has bidet tubes or are squat toilets. With squat toilets, users require a hose and bucket to flush and wash their hands. Both types can become very unsanitary, especially public toilets.
  6. Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Program: On September 21, 2018, The World Bank announced that it granted a $300 million loan to Egypt. The loan was to improve access to rural sanitation. As a result of the program, 833,000 Egyptians have gained access to local water and sanitation companies and additional financing will help 892,000 people in 178,000 households.
  7. North Sinai Initiative: USAID partnered with the Holding Company for Water and Wastewater. They work together to improve water sources by digging deep regulated wells and constructing desalination plants, reservoirs and portable water transmissions. Estimates determined that by 2019, the initiative should have provided clean drinking water to 300,000 of the 450,000 people living in the area. The total cost of the project was $50 million.
  8. Menstrual Hygiene: The lack of clean water can especially impact women. NCBI conducted a study with 664 girls aged 14-18. In this study, it found that on average the typical female Egyptian adolescent cannot bathe nor change her sanitary pad as frequently as she should. Not maintaining menstrual hygiene can cause frequent rashes and yeast infections. Unfortunately, there are little to no actions in place to fix these issues.
  9. Ancient Times: The Ancient Egyptians had revolutionary methods of staying hygienic and clean with in-home bathrooms and communal dumps. They would gather water from the Nile to do laundry and bathe. The communal dumps or irrigation canals caused vermin and diseases to grow and spread. As technology and resources evolved, so did Egyptian methods of sanitization.
  10. Impact on Schools: One in five schools in Egypt are unfit because of sanitation and contamination problems. Programs like the water, sanitation, hygiene interventions or WASH spread knowledge to teachers and students.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Egypt show that the country has made many attempts to better the quality of life of its people. With time and further resources, Egypt should increase the prevention of sanitation issues and reduce the spread of diseases.

– Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr

Importance of Primary EducationOf all the resources that may cause enrichment of a nation, none are as valuable as the cognitive attainments of its population. The issue of access to primary education remains a critical one for many nations, particularly those in the developing world. Access to primary education and the impediments to its universalization may determine a nation’s trajectory for many years. Below are 10 facts about the importance of primary education.

10 Facts About the Importance of Primary Education

  1. Primary Education Consequences: Major life-long consequences accrue from access to primary education. The cumulative nature of the learning process, whether in literacy or numeracy, requires the early internalization of basic abstractions. Without this process at a young age, children fall behind in the trajectory of cognitive development and fail to reach their potential. Moreover, primary educational access facilitates the identification of, and assistance to, both gifted and struggling young minds.
  2. Nations’ Development: A nation’s development relies considerably on the access of its population to educational institutions. Access to primary education, regardless of class or caste or income, levels the social playing field. Gender equality, another significant marker of national development, improves alongside the universalization of access to educational institutions, including primary schools.
  3. Refugee Children: According to the United Nations, roughly 39 percent of refugee children across the globe do not receive a primary school education. This enrollment statistic contrasts sharply with that of non-refugee children, with 92 percent receiving primary school education. From 2017 to 2018, the number of unenrolled primary-school-age refugee children rose to a total of four million.
  4. Teachers: UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics calculates that ensuring primary education access for all requires roughly 24.4 million more primary school teachers. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers a scarcity of primary school teachers in more than 70 percent of its constituent nation-states. South Asia falls directly behind Sub-Saharan Africa in its primary school teacher scarcity crisis, requiring approximately four million more teachers by 2030 to attain the goal of universal primary education.
  5. Disabled Children: A UNESCO study of 37 countries determined that children with disabilities face a greater likelihood than their non-disabled peers of total exclusion from primary school and are more likely to experience fewer years enrolled in school and suffer major literacy deficits. These disadvantages are more likely to afflict disabled girls, thus sharpening gender asymmetries. Of the studied countries, Cambodia exhibited the most dramatic gap between disabled students and their peers, with 57 percent of the former unenrolled compared to 7 percent of the latter.
  6. Gender Parity Improvements: Data suggests improvements in gender parity in access to primary education. Sub-Saharan Africa features a 2 percent gap between the genders in non-delayed access to primary education, with 29 percent of girls unenrolled compared to 27 percent of boys. However, of children two or more years above the standard enrollment age, girls remain at a disadvantage compared to boys, attesting to the persistent influence of gender expectations on access to primary education.
  7. Violence and Exploitation: Children deprived of access to primary education risk a greater likelihood of suffering violence and exploitation. Where educational deprivation results from conflict or natural catastrophe, the danger of child trafficking intensifies. Conflict and natural disasters impeded educational access for approximately 39 million girls in 2015. As girls face a greater likelihood of impeded educational access than boys in conflict-ridden or disaster-affected regions, girls likewise face an increased risk of child trafficking out of proportion with their population percentage.
  8. Education Cannot Wait (ECW): On December 11, 2019, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) announced a $64 million educational funding initiative in the conflict-ridden countries of Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria. Though targeting affected youth of all backgrounds, this project places particular focus on girls, disabled children and refugees. This initiative will facilitate teacher training and student enrollment in vulnerable regions. Ultimately, this project anticipates the mobilization of governments, NGOs and civilians for the growth and maintenance of secure and effective educational sectors.
  9. The LEGO Foundation: The LEGO Foundation announced a grant of $100 million on December 10, 2019, for an early learning solutions initiative targeting crisis-affected groups in Ethiopia and Uganda. Play-oriented learning programs will improve the skill sets of both primary-school-aged and pre-school children. These play-oriented learning strategies assist children in surmounting trauma that may otherwise impede their scholastic potential. Roughly 800,000 children will benefit from this project.
  10. The Global Partnership for Education: December 10, 2019, witnessed the grant of $100 million by The Global Partnership for Education for educational initiatives across Asia and Africa. Burkina Faso, for instance, plans investment of its four-year GPE grant of $21 million toward improving primary school enrollment and developing pedagogical infrastructure. The investment of $21 million in Somalia’s Somaliland region seeks to rectify gender imparity in access to primary education.

Access to primary education provides the foundation upon which the talents of a nation’s youth may grow. Moreover, there exists a strong relationship between primary education and the promotion of such values as gender equality and social mobility. Although an indispensable institution in the contemporary age, crises both man-made and natural threaten primary education across continents. Fortunately, initiatives involving NGOs and governments promise to overcome these impediments, the importance of primary education weighs more as a right rather than a mere privilege.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Education in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste is a Southeastern Asian country occupying the east side of the island, Timor. The small country is home to a little more than 1 million people. Unfortunately, the literacy rate is only 67.5 percent. Improving the quality of education has been a struggle, but there has been significant progress in the past 18 years. Here are eight facts about education in Timor-Leste.

 8 Facts About Education in Timor-Leste

    1. By 2001, a year before gaining its independence, 90 percent of schools had been destroyed due to the violence and destruction that ensued from Indonesia’s rule over the country. These destroyed schools had once employed 6,000 teachers and educated 240,000 children. After Timor-Leste gained its independence, the country had to completely rebuild these institutions from the ground up.

    2. Because of the focus on rebuilding education, Timor-Leste was able to make quick progress. Between 2002 and 2014, enrollments went from 240,000 students enrolled to 364,000. The number of teachers doubled during this time, going from 6,000 to 12,000. Primary education enrollment increased from 68 percent in 2005 to 85 percent in 2008.

    3. Despite the increase in school enrollment, many young and adult Timorese lack the basic education needed to fully participate in society and contribute to the economy. Unfortunately, 27 percent of the adult population is semi-literate and 37 percent is completely illiterate.

    4. In 2010, the World Bank set up its Second Chance Education project to boost the number of out-of-school youth and adults who have access to an equivalency program to receive the education they missed. The Second Chance Education project ran from December 2010 to December 2015, supporting the Ministry of Education in Timor-Leste. Its major goals included training staff members, developing school curriculums and improving existing adult literacy programs. The same year, the government aimed to accelerate the completion of basic education for uneducated students due to lack of availability, while trying to build the education system back up. Government expenditure on education had increased from 13 percent in 2004 to 25 percent in 2010.

    5. The quality of education has room for improvement. About 70 percent of students in grade one could not read a single written word in Portuguese and the native Tetum language, the two most commonly spoken languages in the country. This, however, decreased to 40 percent by the end of grade two. Still, by the end of their second year of schooling, 40 percent of kids are still illiterate.

    6. Many teachers have only completed secondary school themselves. But with UNICEF supporting the Ministry of Education, teachers are trained in order to improve the quality of education. Teachers who have already gone through training have noticed that with their new direction toward teaching, students are more engaged and more conversation between instructor and student.

    7. There is a large gap between access to education between rural and urban areas. For urban residents, the enrollment rate for pre-secondary and secondary levels is 100 percent, while in rural areas, it is only 60 percent. Likewise, the literacy rate for youth ages 15-24 in urban sections of the country is 94.3 percent, but 78.5 in rural locations. The Education Management Information System works toward future teacher redistribution. This will place more teachers in rural areas in hopes of increasing the quality of education and bridging the gap between rural and urban.

    8. CARE’s Lafaek Education project provided “Lafaek Prima,” educational magazines written in Tetum, for 85,276 students in grades three and four. This builds off of what these students already learned in grades one and two; the content prepared in collaboration with teachers, educational staff and the government, ensures that the magazine is suitable for their students.

Despite working from the ground up, education in Timor-Leste has greatly improved since it gained its independence in 2002. The government has stepped in, as well as other organizations, to prioritize educational needs across the country. In the long term, this will assist the Timorese in climbing out of poverty.

Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Venezuela
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, located on the northern coast of South America, is well-known for its education system. For many years, Venezuela was the pinnacle of education in the region for decades, but following recent political and economic crises, the education system has suffered greatly. Here are eight facts about education in Venezuela.

8 Facts About Education in Venezuela

  1. The School System: School for all children between ages 6 and 15 is mandatory and free. Under the country’s 1999 constitution, higher education is still free throughout the country, although not many pursue it. The education system shows astonishingly low levels of discrimination on social grounds as well, boasting nearly equal enrollment rates of male and female students.
  2. Higher Education: There are 90 institutions of higher education in Venezuela. Most students come from the wealthiest 20 percent of the population since less-wealthy students may have to get jobs immediately. Universities feature a universal entrance exam that they use to boost enrollments in the millions nationwide. In 2017, only 44,000 enrolled at the University of Carabobo, compared to 56,000 10 years before.
  3. School Attendance: In addition to a drop in college enrollments, many children have dropped out of regular school as well. In 2013, there were only around 254,709 school-age children and adolescents who did not attend the free schools. According to a 2019 UNESCO study, the numbers reached 557,327, which is more than doubled compared to just six years ago. Children and adolescents have poor attendance because there is a lack of water and food at school and at home, and are all side effects of the current economic issues in the country.
  4. Colombia’s Education System: Many of the primary-school-age children not attending Venezuelan schools are instead trekking across the Colombian border to attend classes there. The mass influx of students is placing a strain on Colombia’s education system.
  5. Absence of Teachers: Many teachers are also quitting. As of 2018, the average teacher in Venezuela currently makes the equivalent of $10-30 USD a month, which is below the poverty level. This makes teaching a much less desirable profession, forcing teaching positions to fall to new graduates and other professionals that do not have the qualifications to teach.
  6.  Studying Abroad: The U.S.-Venezualan relations have harmed study abroad prospectives for Venezuelan students. Following the U.S. travel ban that has impacted countries such as Venezuela and Yemen, many students have been unable to obtain student visas to study in the United States. While the ban does not prevent students from applying to institutions in the U.S., it puts their applications under scrutiny, leading many to pursue an education in other countries.
  7. Literacy Rate: On the bright side of these eight facts about education in Venezuela, 97.13 percent of Venezuelans over the age of 15 can read and write. This is the highest literacy rate in the entire region.
  8. Foreign Aid and Nonprofits: As of 2019, Venezuelan President Maduro conceded to requesting foreign aid, which gives countries in the United Nations the ability to help with the economic crisis at large, despite the fact that most of the money will not go to education specifically. Within the country, organizations, such as Cuatro Por Venezuela, provide the aid they can. Cuatro Por Venezuela provided over 480,000 individual meals from 2017 to 2019, and are still doing more.

To conclude these eight facts about education in Venezuela, one should note that the main reason Venezuela’s education system was so successful in the past is because of the amount of resources it dedicated to it. The country has not changed this and combined with the worldwide collective desire to ensure the protection of education as a right, it should have a hopeful future.

– Anna Langlois
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the leaders in education within the European Union. With a national initiative to have accessible education to all of its citizens, the Swiss education system ranks number six on the Study E.U. education ranking of 2018. So what exactly is it that allows for such a praiseworthy education system? These eight facts about education in Switzerland show why the country is so successful in the education of its people.

8 Facts About Education in Switzerland

  1. Canton School Systems: Each canton – a Swiss state – has primary responsibility for how the schools in their area are run. Effectively each canton runs their own education system, though there is an overruling federal educational system: The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Each canton can create its own structures such as school calendars and education plans. There is, however, an agreement among the cantons to keep a baseline level of continuity. This opens individuals up to the ability to shop the public schools that fit their own and their child’s needs.
  2. International Schools: Switzerland has a host of schools that cater to international families, operate bilingually or are privatized. This creates a smoother transition for English speaking individuals who can then benefit from education in Switzerland.
  3. Number of Schools: There are currently around 44 schools in Switzerland that specifically accommodate international students and are a part of the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS). This schooling goes from primary up to secondary and offers both day and boarding options. Many of the schools follow the Swiss canton curriculum, but many also provide curriculums based on the individual’s home country.
  4. Homeschooling: Homeschooling is not a common practice within Switzerland; some cantons have even outlawed it. In August 2019, the Swiss supreme court rejected a mother’s appeal to the right to homeschool her child. It declared “the right to private life does not confer any right to private home education.” The court also stated that the cantons have the right to decide what forms of schooling they will allow and are in the best interest of the children that reside within their districts. Only 1,000 children receive homeschooling throughout all of Switzerland, a country with more than 8.5 million citizens. Many are against homeschooling in Switzerland because they believe it to be a deprivation to the child’s social education. They believe that a child can only achieve this through daily peer interactions. Further, many believe that homeschooling causes inequality within society because not every family can afford its costs.
  5. Compulsory Education: Education in Switzerland is compulsory for all who reside in the country, regardless of legal residency status. Though it varies by canton, most children have mandatory education for 9 to 11 years. Children begin schooling anywhere from ages 4 to 6 and must stay in school until about the age of 15. Education is typically more sympathetic to the individual in Switzerland. Switzerland has adopted the idea that every child learns differently and requires different support structures within school.
  6. Formal, Vocational and Apprenticeship Training: After their compulsory education, children have the option to continue on with formal education or begin vocational and apprenticeship training. Even though attending a university is comparably more affordable in Switzerland than in other countries, many students opt for vocational and apprenticeship education. Apprenticeships and vocational training can last anywhere from two to four years and can equate to a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. This depends on the duration and weekly hours of involvement in the individual’s education.
  7. Specialized Education: Special education in Switzerland is a right. Specialized education professionals give individuals living with special needs free support until the age of 20. The cantons vary but typically offer special needs students access to both mainstream schools and special needs schools. The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASIE) assesses children before entering the special education system. It does this in order to determine and advise parents on what may be best for their child. Switzerland joined the EASIE in 2000 in an attempt to better integrate its special needs citizens into mainstream society.
  8. Free Schooling: Schooling is free—kind of. Though compulsory education is free, it does equate to higher taxes for citizens. Further, schools often ask many parents to help with providing school utensils for the classrooms. Many argue that Switzerland’s excellent educational system is because of the country’s vast amount of wealth and higher tax rates. After all, in 2019, a global report listed Switzerland as the wealthiest country in the world, accounting for 2.3 percent of the world’s top 1 percent of global wealth.

Switzerland’s educational system is the ultimate goal for what education should be across the world. These eight facts about education in Switzerland show how the country is striving to create a more learned and prosperous future for its youth. Switzerland is a fantastic example of a country that has met the fourth goal on the global goals for sustainable development: quality education.

– Emma Hodge
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Keep Young Girls in School
CAMFED (Campaign for Female Education), a nonprofit providing unprecedented opportunity to young girls in the sub-Saharan regions of Africa, emerged in 1993. According to a study by the World Literacy Foundation in 2015, of the 781 million illiterate people around the world, two-thirds of the people within that total are women. CAMFED is an organization working on keeping young girls in school by helping alleviate the financial burdens of families that want to give their daughters education but may not have the means to.

CAMFED’s Motivation

Upon the organization’s origin in Zimbabwe, it provided financial support for 32 girls, inevitably keeping young girls in school. The initial purpose of the nonprofit was to showcase that if poverty was no longer an obstacle, the cultural norms would become nonexistent, and girls would attend school alongside boys if given the opportunity. This purpose still lies at the forefront of the nonprofit’s premise and has helped it grow exponentially over the past 26 years.

CAMFED’s IMPACT

As of 2019, CAMFED has already supported 3.3 million girls in school across sub-Saharan Africa, with nearly 6 million benefiting from an improved educational environment. It supported approximately 52,700 children through primary school just in 2018 alone, in addition to the 64,700 supported through secondary schools. The girls’ communities choose them to become a part of the program because they know better than anyone which girls are the most vulnerable and deserving of the organization’s help.

CAMPED’s work extends far beyond the realm of the classroom, however. It provides uniforms, school supplies and sanitary products to support each girl to the full extent that it can. The organization is unique in the sense that it personally invests in the welfare and success of each girl that it takes under its wing. The organization also helps the girls find jobs upon graduation, and while a majority of the women have gone on to become teachers or doctors, many have started their own businesses. The girls that were a part of the first group still involve themselves in the organization and have founded the CAMA alumnae network, which now has grown to 138,000 members. It is a way for them to mentor young women and advocate for the program that changed their lives for the better.

CAMFED and Michelle Obama

The organization is primarily internationally based and has offices in the U.S.A, Canada and the United Kingdom. It receives most of its funds from various government contributions and large statutory organizations, but also receives support from individuals. In October 2018, former first lady Michelle Obama welcomed the CAMFED alumnae chapter, CAMA, to the Global Girls Alliance. It was her first major acquisition of a program that she made for the Obama Foundation and a momentous one for the nonprofit. The organization exists on the premise of the rights of women as grassroots leaders and the importance of keeping young girls in school to help alleviate the obstacles that a majority of women around the world are facing.

– Joanna Buoniconti
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