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
Photo: Flickr

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
Photo: Flickr

BubzBeauty Helps Build Schools
Pencils of Promise is a nonprofit organization that emerged in 2008. Since then, it has built 512 schools in Ghana, Guatemala and Laos, and has helped 102,215 children obtain a quality education in those countries. Not only does the organization raise money for schools, but it also has programs to help support teachers working at and students attending these schools. Through Pencils of Promise, YouTuber BubzBeauty helps build schools in its three countries of interest.

BubzBeauty’s Involvement with Pencils of Promise

On August 8, 2015, Lindy “Bubz” Tsang announced her first campaign with Pencils of Promise to raise $50,000 to build two schools in Laos. She felt compelled to use her YouTube platform and large following to help children in poverty obtain an education and better their lives. For this first fundraiser, Bubz designed a sweatshirt for her subscribers to purchase; 100 percent of all proceeds went toward the school fund.

It was a huge success, and on January 18, 2016, Bubz released a vlog of her visit to one of the two schools, named Beauty of Knowledge. The name was a tribute to her beauty channel on YouTube, since it and its subscribers were what made the building of the school possible. As Bubz says in her vlog, “beauty doesn’t have to be just about makeup and skincare. Beauty is also knowledge.”

Building Schools in Laos and Ghana

Before the building of the new schools, the kids in Tad Thong, Laos went to school in a temporary classroom structure made from bamboo with a makeshift roof. There was no way for it to support all the children coming to attend, so the school held six grades in only three classrooms. In Saen Oudom, Laos, children also attended school in extremely poor conditions, with the building having a leaky roof and many safety hazards. Thanks to Bubz, both towns have a safe space for the kids’ education to continue and thrive. Tad Thong now has a five-classroom school and Saen Oudom a three-classroom school.

Since then, Bubz has raised money to build a total of five schools, ultimately impacting a total of 3,469 children around the world. Bubz and her beauty community have helped construct two schools in Laos and three in Ghana. The Ghana fundraiser gained monetary aid from another shirt design with all profits going toward the campaign. Additionally, Bubz created an eye shadow palette where $2 from each one sold went toward the fund. Here is a list of the three areas Bubz has helped:

  • Atravenu, Ghana: Four grades were sharing two classrooms in a chapel. This proved to be a distracting environment for both teachers and students, hindering the education process.

  • Kpando Torkor, Ghana: The school building had unfinished classrooms. The first and second graders were in the most unsafe rooms and the 91 students attending caused overcrowding, a safety hazard.

  • Mafi Agorve, Ghana: Children were attending school in makeshift structures that did not include windows or doors. This exposed them to harsh sunlight throughout the day and outdoor distractions.

With Bubz’s help, all three towns were able to build a three-unit class structure, and Kpando Torkor was also able to renovate its already existing classrooms.

Plans for the Future

In the description of her most recent update video on the schools (May 10, 2019), Bubz wrote, “When we build schools, we’re not just building a physical structure, we also build up a child’s confidence, dreams and goals. We build up communities’ potential and standard of life.” Bubz’s campaigns through BubzBeauty not only helps build schools but also helps the communities surrounding those schools flourish more than they would have without her help. Education leads to a better life for these children and brighter futures for the countries.

Even present day, BubzBeauty helps build schools with Pencils of Promise. In May 2019, she announced that profits from her formulated lipstick would go toward a fund to raise money to build a school in Guatemala.

“Not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear lipstick.” — Lindy Tsang

– Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr

Building Schools Using Recycled Plastics
Education in Cote d’Ivoire continues to be a major challenge in the country which has had a literacy rate of 53.02 percent among 15 to 24-year-olds as of 2014. In fact, more than 2 million children are out of school due to a lack of infrastructure. Classrooms are often full beyond capacity with more than 100 students. Fortunately, West Africa is building schools using recycled plastics as a ground-breaking initiative to change the status quo.

The Fighting Women

Abidjan, a city in Cote d’Ivoire, produces about 288 tons of plastic waste every day. The country recycles only 5 percent of the waste, and when it is, it is usually women that do so informally. These women recover the waste and use it to make money.

A women’s group called The Fighting Women makes a living from collecting plastic and selling it for recycling. However, The Fighting Women is now a part of a project that will not only clean up the environment but will also help improve education. The Fighting Women is an organization of 200 women that collect plastic. A woman named Mariam Coulibaly runs the organization and she has been collecting trash for 20 years. Coulibaly’s organizational skills are what made the project possible. The plastic that these women collect go into bricks in order to build schools.

Conceptos Plasticos

UNICEF in Cote d’Ivoire has partnered with Conceptos Plasticos, a for-profit plastic recycling Colombian company that will turn plastic to bricks and build schools for children. This project will help reduce the issue of overcrowded classrooms and give children the opportunity to attend school.

In 2018, the first African recycled plastic classroom emerged in Gonzagueville. It only took five days to build this classroom as opposed to the nine months it would take to build traditional classrooms. In addition, within the first year, two small farming villages, Sakassou and Divo, constructed nine demonstration classrooms. These new classrooms included bricks that are cheaper and lighter than traditional ones, and also last longer.

Before the new plastic classrooms, children would go to school in traditional mud-brick and wood buildings. The mud-brick would erode from the sun and rain, and require repairs constantly. However, the newly built plastic classrooms are way better and longer-lasting. The classrooms are fire retardant and stay cool in warm weather. In addition, the classrooms are waterproof, have excellent insulation and can fight off the heavy wind. UNICEF and Conceptos Plasticos are planning to build 500 classrooms for more than 25,000 children with the most urgent need in the next two years.

Further Success of the Project

On July 29, 2019, a plastic converting factory opened in Cote d’Ivoire, which is also the first of its kind. This factory produces easy to assemble, durable and low-cost bricks others can use to build classrooms. The factory will solve a lot of major education challenges that children in West Africa face. According to UNICEF, kindergarteners from poor areas will be able to join classrooms with less than 100 students for the first time. Once the factory is fully functioning, it will recycle 9,600 tons of plastic waste a year and provide a source of income for women that collect trash. Moreover, there are plans to expand this project to other countries where there is a high percentage of children that are out of school.

Now, children are able to sit comfortably in classes that were once too overcrowded. This project of building schools using recycled plastics has not only constructed classrooms, but it has also reduced plastic waste in the environment. Although there is still a large number of children out of schools, this innovative project to help build schools in West Africa has been tremendously successful and has impacted the lives of many women and children.

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Orphans in Tanzania
Team Nelson is a nonprofit organization based out of Atlanta, GA that works to send orphans in Tanzania to school. In 2017, there was a 79 percent net enrollment rate in primary school but only a 23 percent net enrollment rate in secondary school. After primary school, many teenagers have to find work to help provide for their families, so retention is a huge issue in secondary school. Many of the orphanages in Arusha, Tanzania lack the funds to send their children to school, so McCrea O’Haire and her board began to raise money to send the first boy she met, Nelson, to school. From there, it grew.

Team Nelson has been successfully raising money and awareness in order to send more Tanzanian orphans to school. The organization also encourages kids to prioritize their education and reap the greater benefits of completing their education instead of leaving to find work. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to interview McCrea O’Haire about Team Nelson about sending orphans to school in Tanzania.

Who is Nelson?

Nelson is one of the first kids that O’Haire met in Tanzania and the inspiration behind Team Nelson. Upon first meeting him, she recalls him having a reserved and shy nature, as he was just trying to blend in with the other children. It was not until she learned of his situation that she saw him for who he really was and “realized how important it is to help the invisible children that people might not notice.” She eventually decided to transform Team Nelson into much more than just one child. Originally, she did not intend to do anything other than sending Nelson to school, but she received an outpour of support from family and friends which snowballed her intentions. Once she felt the support around her, she had the inspiration to do more.

The Future of Team Nelson

In running this nonprofit, O’Haire cites two main challenges. Firstly, everyone in the organization also works full-time jobs and have careers, so there are many difficult compromises that it must make. Secondly, there are always language barriers and cultural differences her team encounters when they visit Arusha. She cites their desire “to help people living across the world while not interrupting their cultural flow or offending anyone,” noting that this is not always easy.

Within the next five years, O’Haire hopes the organization continues its current trajectory. In the past year and a half, it has been able to send 18 children to school, so in five years, it would like to send around 50 or more kids. One of her favorite things about Team Nelson is the “one to one love” that they currently have. She wants to help as many kids as possible but also does not want the program to include thousands of kids that members of the organization have never met.

Addressing Systemic Issues in Tanzania

AIDS killed Nelson’s mother and alcoholism afflicted his father. His family alone represents a larger, systematic issue resulting in the death of many parents and caretakers in Tanzania, which has left about 3.1 million orphans in Tanzania. O’Haire cites this problem as one of the main reasons she and her team decided to create Team Nelson; “A lot of the problems in Tanzania revolve around offering more opportunities for education and helping the children further their lives with increased resources and tools.” She emphasizes the importance of sexual health education that children receive in school and the need for recurring doctor’s appointments.

If the government continues to receive pressure to employ more top-down approaches, she says, there will be drastic improvements in health and education. Fortunately, the Tanzanian government recently decided to make all lower-secondary education free in order to retain more students, as there are currently 1.5 million adolescents that are not in school.

Although it is quite difficult to live in rural Tanzania right now, O’Haire underscores the positivity of everyone she has met there. Prior to her trips there, she prepares herself to be the beacon of hope and energy that they may need but quickly reminds herself that Tanzanians are a happy group. In hard times, she reminds herself of the objectives of Team Nelson, which is sending children to school. She must often turn down requests but notes the importance of staying focused on her organization’s goals and trust in that impact.

If you would like to help Team Nelson and the orphans in Tanzania, O’Haire encourages a monthly donation of just $10, which directly contributes to getting children an education. In the case that providing a financial contribution is not possible, she hopes that “people will spread the word about this cause and really care about the problems our world is facing.”

To learn more, please visit https://www.weareteamnelson.com/.

– Jessica Haidet
Photo: Flickr

Education in South Korea

South Korea has long led the pack in terms of academic benchmarks. However, when addressing academic performance, analysts explain that emphasis should be placed on the achievements of individual students rather than giving credit to a loosely-defined education system that valorizes bureaucracy rather than pupils. In the end, South Korean scholars practice extreme self-discipline and must cope with acute stress to maximize their academic performance and to carry South Korea to the forefront of global education rankings. These eight facts about education in South Korea catch a glimpse into the life of students and the rigorous curriculum.

8 Facts about Education in South Korea

  1. Schooling is compulsory in South Korea until the age of 15. Pupils begin their education at 6-years-old when they attend primary school. When they reach 12-years-old, they transition to a lower secondary school for three years. At 15-years-old, South Korean students decide to continue their education by completing an entrance exam and committing to an Academic Senior Secondary School or a Vocational Senior Secondary School.
  2. In 2012, South Korea offered free half-day kindergartens for children of ages 3-5. Parents also have the option of enrolling their children in tuition-based private preschools, although the former option is becoming more popular. At a rate surpassing 90 percent, enrollment in early childhood education is very high compared to the rest of the world.
  3. Before attending a university, South Korean students enrolled in secondary school must take the suneung, the extremely rigorous and fateful college entrance exam that largely governs one’s future. On the day of the suneung, flight paths are diverted around testing centers to prevent test-takers from losing focus on the exam. Months, and even years leading up to the suneung, parents will enroll their children in weekend and after-school test preparatory academies called hagwons. These are notoriously referred to as cram houses.
  4. Discipline serves as the bedrock of education in South Korea. Students are obliged to rise and bow when their teachers enter the classroom, and South Koreans generally tend to have enormous respect for their mentors. Along with principal subjects such as science, mathematics and language, civil morality is a central pillar manifested in curricula throughout the entirety of compulsory schooling.
  5. A strongly-rooted cultural emphasis on discipline becomes blurred with the stress epidemic. The typical school day in South Korea begins at 8 a.m. and ends around 5 p.m., and following a short break at home, many students return to school libraries or hagwons to study into the later hours of the evening, sometimes even until midnight.  The stresses of attaining educational achievement sometimes reap fatal outcomes; in South Korea, suicide is the leading cause of death among teenagers.
  6. South Korean students consistently perform among the best in the world, according to statistics of standardized test scores and college drop-out rates. Although the South Korean education system placed third in the world during the first quarter of 2019, it was ranked as the best in the world for four consecutive years from 2013-2017.
  7. Alongside learning subjects such as basic Korean language and mathematics, students in grades one and two take subjects that reaffirm South Korean values that emphasize happiness and discipline, such as “Good Life,” “Happy Life” and “Wise Life.”
  8. Following major reforms beginning in 1995, education in South Korea has been transitioning from focusing on optimizing standardized test results and cramming students for college entrance exams to implementing a new curriculum that incorporates the humanities and realities of a globalized world. Class lectures emphasize community and global citizenry, and teachers underscore the importance of learning about new cultures and foreign intellect.

These eight facts about education in South Korea show mixed results for students. South Korean students have incredible performance rates, yet they are also susceptible to high stress-induced suicide rates. It is worth taking a critical look at their curriculum to better understand what works and what doesn’t.

– Grayson Cox
Photo: Flickr

quiz show in Jamaica
Students from 64 different high schools across Jamaica spend all year studying song lyrics, historical figures and other trivia facts as they gear up to compete in the annual Schools’ Challenge Quiz (SCQ). It is a quiz show in Jamaica that has become a nationwide television phenomenon.

Winners of the quiz show receive an award of thousands of dollars in college scholarships, giving them the opportunity to go to college. This year, St. Jago High School emerged victorious against the 11-time quiz champion, Kingston College.

Chanarie Lindsay, Leory Cassanova, Abigail Barnes and Joel Henriques represented St. Jago High School. This was St. Jago’s fifth year winning the SCQ and Abigail Barnes was the first girl to win the competition.

Crime & Gang Violence in Spanish Town, Jamaica

St. Jago High School is located in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, Jamaica. Many know Spanish Town for its high crime rates and prevalent gang activity. Spanish Town has one of the highest crime rates in Jamaica and incoming travelers should avoid it. In January 2018, the Jamaican government declared a State of Emergency in Kingston Metropolitan Area and also warned visitors to avoid Montego Bay and Spanish Town due to violent crime and gang activity.

Schools in Jamaica are prime recruiting grounds for gangs. Gang involvement within the youth in Jamaica is prevalent, especially in inner-city schools such as St. Jago. Youth are also at risk of becoming homicide victims. In 2013, 79 percent of all homicides were due to gangs, 97.3 percent of people that received arrest for murder were males, 84.8 percent of these suspects were age 35 or younger and more than 51 percent of victims were 35 and younger.

Team building and educational activities are the key deterrents from violence in this area, and the SCQ has promoted a positive, educational alternative to gang involvement for St. Jago students. Students often stay at school after class to practice for the quiz, preventing them from encountering gang affiliates on the streets after school. Furthermore, the SCQ team in St. Jago has formed a community among the students that many young individuals lack in impoverished communities.

Education in Jamaica

Though primary and secondary education has been increasingly accessible after major education reform in Jamaica, academic achievement has remained relatively low. In 2009, more than 24 percent of students entering primary school did not master any national assessments. Recently, Jamaica ranked 54th out of 149 countries in education, according to the Legatum Prosperity Index, which assesses countries based on access to education, quality of education and human capital. Furthermore, tertiary education in Jamaica is rare. In 2017, the college graduation rate was 6.2 percent despite a 79.7 percent high school graduation rate.

The effort and hard work students put in every day to win the SCQ competition can foster academic achievement, and winning the quiz show in Jamaica provides high school students a chance to pursue higher education.

Improving Youth Engagement in Jamaica

Many young Jamaicans are out of school because either they cannot afford to pay for school fees and supplies or they do not have any access to education. In 2017, 27,535 adolescents were out of school, and gross enrollment rates have declined from 91.62 percent in 2011 to 82.37 percent in 2017. These young individuals do not have the privilege to go to high school or pursue higher education, therefore, they are less likely to find jobs.

To alleviate this issue, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) launched the Caribbean Youth Empowerment Program (CYEP) initiative. The CYEP is a youth empowerment program in Jamaica that focusses on training young individuals in technical, vocational, entrepreneurship and life skills. So far, more than 490 companies have offered graduating students opportunities, like mentoring and internships and 94 percent of companies have hired interns and employees after receiving reports of satisfaction from CYEP.

Television Jamaica

In addition to the quiz show in Jamaica, Television Jamaica—a major television network and the host of the SCQ— is offering one SCQ participant $500,000 each year to fund his or her tertiary education and a three-week internship at TVJ. To be eligible for this scholarship, an SCQ participant must fill out an application, write a 700-word essay, maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 and have two teacher endorsements.

After 50 years of the SCQ, it has remained the most popular TV show in Jamaica and has been integrated into its culture. The country celebrates quiz alumni. The SCQ is a medium for Jamaica’s entertainment and educational success. It has created a platform for students across the country to exercise their team-building skills, dedication and sportsmanship, as well as show off their school pride.

Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Improving Child LiteracyChild literacy is often taken for granted, but around the world, millions are growing up without the ability to read or write. What many do not realize is that literacy has a direct effect on poverty. According to a study conducted by the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization, there are links between illiteracy and higher unemployment. The study also found that illiterate adults are more susceptible to illnesses, exploitation, lower pay, and human rights abuses.

The inability to read or write is a self-perpetuating cycle because it traps illiterate communities in poverty without the tools to help themselves out. These conditions make illiterate communities more at risk of violence and conflict. In fact, 40 percent of illiterate children live in countries with active conflicts. The issue prompted the United Nations to launch the International Literacy Decade in 2003, which has taught around 90 million people to read and write. Despite this effort, there are still millions of vulnerable children around the world that need assistance to escape illiteracy and its negative consequences. There are many organizations dedicated to improving child literacy rates and these are just three NGOs working hard to bring education to the world.

3 NGOs Improving Child Literacy Across the Globe

  • Room to Read: Room to Read is an NGO founded in 1998 that began its work in Nepal. Room to Read’s vision is to improve literacy and access to literature in low-income communities, with a special focus on gender equality in education. The NGO has now spread all over Southeast Asia and Africa and has benefited around 16.6 million children worldwide. The NGO has distributed 24.1 million books, trained 15,285 librarians and teachers, and has partnered with 30,337 schools to implement its literacy program. In addition to the literacy program, Room to Read also has a specific program for girl’s education which aims to close the gender gap in classrooms of developing countries. Room to Read has received many commendations, most recently receiving a perfect “four stars” rating from Charity Navigator for the thirteenth year in a row.
  • World Literacy Foundation: The World Literacy Foundation was founded in 2003 with the guiding mission to provide books, tutoring and literacy tools to children in communities that otherwise would not have access to these resources. WLF began transporting books to Africa in 2005 and shortly after developed low-cost eBooks that could be distributed in local languages. In 2016 WLF designed and implemented “Sun Books”, which are solar powered tablets that bring educational books to classrooms in Uganda without electricity or the internet. In 2014, WLF ran the first World Literary Summit to increase cooperation with other literacy organizations. Since then, the summit has been held in 2016, 2018 and is scheduled again for 2020. So far, WLF has been active in more than 93 countries, has provided access to literacy resources to 250,101 children, and last year alone reached more than 350,000 children and adolescents.
  • Pratham: Pratham was founded in 1995 in Mumbai, India with the goal of having “every child in school and learning well.” Pratham is one of the largest NGOs in India, operating in 21 out of 29 Indian states and with volunteers in 300,000 Indian villages. Its mission is to improve literacy and the quality of education in India by supplementing government efforts and supporting teachers and parents. Pratham’s lead program, Read India, was launched in 2007 and has reached more than 30 million children. The program also provided training for around 61,000 teachers to improve literacy all across the country. Pratham has been a strong advocate for education reform to improve basic competencies like reading, writing, and arithmetic in Indian school children. Several state governments use Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Reports to plan yearly education programs. In 2013 Pratham was named one of the top 100 NGOs in The Global Journal for their pioneering work in primary and literacy education in India.

There are still 124 million children and adolescents that are not enrolled in school and one in four children in developing countries is illiterate. Tackling child and adult illiteracy is no easy task but it is NGOs like Room to Read, WLF and Pratham that are making big strides in closing the literacy gap. By providing training and resources to the neediest communities, these three NGOs provide disadvantaged children the fundamental tools needed to escape poverty.

– Isabel Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

Floating SchoolsFloating schools are exactly what their name suggests, they are schools floating on water, typically on a boat. They are essential to providing year-round education in regions where rainy seasons and flooding often disrupt the school year for the most vulnerable children. Floating schools have proved to be incredibly effective in providing an uninterrupted education in places like Bangladesh, Nigeria and Colombia where extreme weather often makes getting an education more difficult.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is located in the massive delta created by the Ganges, the Meghna and the Brahmaputra Rivers meaning that the majority of the country is below sea level. The monsoon season, from June to October, can leave up to two-thirds of the country under water. Naturally, this extreme flooding makes it impossible for children to get to school for a significant part of the year which can be very harmful to a developing mind.

Enter the nonprofit Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha and its 23 floating schools. The floating schools usually take the form of large boats and use solar panels to provide electricity and power computers. These schools bring the classroom to Bangladeshi children when they cannot get to it themselves. In addition to the school boats, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha operates a flotilla of boats acting as libraries, adult education centers and solar workshops. In 2012, the organization won the U.N. Prize for Inspiring Environmental Action.

Nigeria

The neighborhood of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria spans across the Lagos lagoon making the region at perpetual risk of flooding and waterlogging. Around 250,000 people live in Makoko in crude housing that often deteriorates because of heavy rains. These conditions make it especially difficult to give children in this community a consistent education. The Nigerian architect, Kunlé Adeyemi, in collaboration with the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the United Nations, designed and built Makoko’s prototype floating school. The school was three stories, used plastic drums to stay afloat and housed around 100 students.

Unfortunately in 2016, after the school had been decommissioned, the structure collapsed during heavy rains after what Adeyemi described as “three years of intensive use and exceptional service to the community.” The Makoko community and the international community alike welcomed the school. In 2014, the floating school was shortlisted for the design of the year award and an improved version of the school is already in the design process to replace the collapsed one.

Colombia

In northern Colombia, in the town of Sempegua, the rainy season invariably brings flooding and disruption. Andres Uribe and Lina Catano, in partnership with the United Nations Development Fund and Colombia’s National Disaster Risk Management, constructed and inaugurated the first floating school in Latin America in 2014. The architects behind the project designed the school so that it could float during the rainy season and function on ground during the dry season, making it operative year-round. The schoolhouse can fit 60 children and around 400 underprivileged families will benefit from the floating structure. The school is also part of a loftier project that Uribe outlined, “and when we talk about floatable housing solutions, we are not just imagining schools, but houses, health centers, sports centers, or commercial zones, so the town can continue to be productive.”

These floating schools provide consistent access to education to children who otherwise would not be able to get to school on a regular basis, but also provide viable infrastructure solutions to places where persistent flooding has been disruptive for decades. Floating schools are just the beginning; the future leaders educated inside these schools are sure to continue developing the full potential of floating infrastructures for their communities.

– Isabel Fernandez

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Top 5 Reasons for School Dropouts in Tonga
Tonga, a Polynesian country and archipelago comprising of total 169 islands (36 inhabited) has achieved tremendous progress in improving the nation’s primary school enrollment. Although these rates are high, the school completion rates continue to decrease. About 3,000 Tongan students drop out of secondary school each year. In the text below, the top five reasons for school dropouts in Tonga are presented.

Top Five Reasons for School Dropouts in Tonga

  1. Due to tight household budgets, Tongan youths are now looking to get into the workforce as soon as possible. Dropping out of school and entering the workforce is deemed necessary when household funds are low because income is needed in order to survive. It was reported that 25 percent of Tongan households live under the poverty line, not having enough money to provide for basic needs. Male dropout rates are higher compared to female dropout rates. It is important to note that there is a higher percentage of men that participate in the workforce compared to women.
  2. About 88 percent of Tongans live in rural areas, therefore, Tonga’s remote location is driving Tongan youths to search for employment opportunities in other countries such as New Zealand and Australia. Dropping out of school to look for employment opportunities in different countries is more appealing than attending and graduating from school because graduating doesn’t necessarily guarantee employment in Tonga. Tonga is currently struggling to keep up with the high demand for jobs.
  3. Religion plays a huge role in many Tongan households and it is an important cultural factor that can affect whether or not Tongan youths continue their education. In many Tongan households, most of their money is spent on personal expenses, emergencies, church donations and education. Church donations were the second most popular use of mobile money transfers and remittances. Education tends to come in last on that list due to the importance of necessities and their devotion to the church. Since household budgets are tight, there may not be enough income or it is not seen as a top priority for Tongan youths to continue their education.
  4. The lack of diverse and targeted vocational training programs in Tonga is driving Tongan youth to look for employment and educational opportunities elsewhere. Many Tongan youths become disinterested and drop out of school because they are seeking vocational programs that will equip them with skills that will help them into the workforce. Unfortunately, Tonga is not yet able to offer Tongan youths these options.
  5. About 70 percent of Tongan adults reported receiving remittances from migrant family members and relatives. Remittances have become a very common source of income for many Tongan households. Tongan youths see the importance and dependency of remittances in their households, therefore, it is seen as one of the only options to provide for their families. This also pushes Tongan youths to drop out of school.

Work of Nongovernmental Organizations

Various nongovernmental organizations have been working on providing employment and education opportunities for Tongan youths. The Skills Employment for Tongans Project aims to help the Tongan government to create a cash transfer program to help Tongan households with their tight household budgets. It also will provide technical and vocational education training courses to help Tongan youths establish skills that will allow them to become employable in Tonga and in other countries.

The Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Project (PEARL). The goals of this organization are to help children gain skills that will prepare them for school and help them learn to read and write for their first years of primary school. Preparing Tongan children at an early age will help implement the idea that education is important.

These top five reasons for school dropouts in Tonga are still problems that the nation of Tonga is facing, but the Tongan government is getting help from various nongovernmental organizations in trying to keep up with the high demand for employment and educational opportunities. It is a difficult task, but with the joint effort of government and NGOs, as well as other countries, this can be achieved.

– Jocelyn Aguilar

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