Education in Suriname
In the South American nation of Suriname, a crisis is festering in public education. Socio-economic disparities concerning wealth, geography and ethnicity are leaving thousands of Surinamese school children behind. While nine out of 10 Surinamese children begin primary school, less than four out of 1,000 finish upper secondary education in Suriname.

How Wealth Disparity Affects Education

At every educational level in Suriname, wealth plays an outsized role in a student’s success or failure. Roughly 85 percent of students complete the primary education level, which is free and compulsory for children ages 5 to 12.

However, when one breaks the percentages down, the influence of wealth in the Surinamese education system becomes apparent. Ninety-eight percent of the richest students complete primary education compared to only 62 percent of the poorest. At the next education level, lower secondary, the completion disparity grows to 77 percent for the richest and 23 percent for the poorest. Growing even more pronounced, one can see the gap at the upper secondary level in the fact that 52 percent of the richest complete education while only 6 percent of the poorest complete upper secondary education in Suriname.

Geography’s Role in the Completion of School

Completion of education in Suriname’s rural areas is lower than the national average. The Sipaliwini, Coronie and Brokopondo regions lack upper secondary schools altogether, and as a result, lack citizens aged 21-23 that have completed upper-secondary level education. In addition to a lack of schools, Suriname has a persistent lack of qualified teachers in rural areas. Educational issues throughout the rural areas present massive obstacles to the children.

Gender and Ethnicity

Dissimilar to the standard gender assumption throughout the world, males maintain lower completion rates as opposed to female counterparts. Sixty-six percent of boys do not complete primary school; the percentage of incompletion among males remains higher than females throughout every level.

Additionally, the Maroon population also exhibits lower completion rates. Fifty-six percent of the Maroon ethnicity does not complete primary education in Suriname. This value is substantially higher than the runner up in lower completion rates – 14 percent of the Creole population does not complete primary education. Similar to Surinamese men, the Maroon ethnicity has the highest incompletion rate amongst ethnicities at every education level.

Solution

In order to improve the Surinamese education system, it will require superior teacher training. This will also allow each student to have a tailored experience with education so they can thrive in the environment. In rural areas, there is often no training for aspiring teachers, leaving these people unprepared for the profession.

The nonprofit VVOB aims to improve the teacher’s ability to instill adequate knowledge in Suriname by working with the Ministry of Education and Community Development (MINOV). The Departments of Inspection and Guidance also work with MINOV to establish training centers, increase professionalism and strengthen the curriculum.

In addition to better training, the Surinamese government should invest in higher wages for teachers. Increased wages will improve educator morale and incentivize young people to pursue careers in education. Additionally, a pre-teaching exam, as well as frequent evaluations, will help ensure teacher quality. These measures will certainly improve education in Suriname.

– Angus Gracey
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Suriname
Suriname, located on the Northern Atlantic coast of South America, originated as a Dutch colony and faced many of the difficulties that other formerly colonized nations face today. Since the introduction of Suriname’s democratic government in the 1990s, the economy, culture and tourism have been thriving. However, despite this economic growth, there is a lack of emphasis on education in Suriname. Surprisingly, most of the adolescents enrolled in school are actually girls. Despite this, girls’ education in Suriname requires improvement.

Improvements to Girls’ Education

Schools in Suriname have been making vast improvements since the 1990s. Following the economic crisis, many schools fell into a state of disrepair and lacked running water, electricity and materials necessary for lessons. This created a sense of apathy and caused school attendance rates among children and teens to plummet. Although the rates of attendance and student retention in secondary school are not currently stellar, they do show signs of improvement. For instance, there were 6,000 adolescents out of school in 2015, half the amount from 2009. This is likely due to the rising GDP and economic status of the country that favors an emphasis on education.

Barriers

Despite these improvements to girls’ education in Suriname, the changes have not occurred throughout the entire nation. In particular, rural areas have fewer resources for education and more barriers for girls to attain one. One of the main obstacles of academic success that girls face is teenage pregnancy; the adolescent birth rate is 62 in 1,000 for girls in the area. Additionally, one in every 10 girls marries before age 15. Poor sexual health education combined with poverty suggests that girls often abandon education in Suriname out of necessity to find work and raise a family.

One could assume that because of the barriers to education that girls face, far more boys would enroll in secondary school than girls, but the opposite is true. In primary education, the distribution is about even; however, once children reach secondary school, many boys drop out while the girls remain. In 2015, 88 percent of girls enrolled in secondary school while only 67 percent of boys attended. This is in high contrast to other nations that people commonly perceive as “developing” because it is usually the women who do not receive as much education as men, and therefore, people do not advocate on their behalf because they are not attending school.

Solutions

Despite many women completing their education, the fact remains that more women experience unemployment than men in Suriname. There is only so much an education can do if gender bias and inequality prevents women from earning a living. In 2016, the percentage of unemployed women was at 21 percent, which was twice as high as their male counterparts.

The dichotomy of girls’ education in Suriname indicates that despite the high percentage of girls enrolled in school, the fight for gender equality in the country is not over. Teen pregnancy remains at a high, which disproportionately (and almost only) affects girls. Many groups such as the Love Foundation give teens resources to educate themselves and their peers on sexual health, which could lead to more adolescents of either gender remaining in school. As girls’ education in Suriname advances, the labor industry must follow so women can fully enter the workforce as well.

– Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Suriname
Suriname, a former Dutch colony, is one of the most diverse (ethnically, culturally and linguistically) countries on earth.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Suriname

  1. Suriname ranks 77 of the 100 most corrupt countries in the world. The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report issued by the U.S. government in March 2017 stated that corruption at the bureaucratic level was deeply endemic and played a role in the inefficient policy-making environment.
  2. Suriname was ranked 94 out of 182 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI). In the same year, the World Bank classed Suriname as an upper-middle income country. Since 2005, the HDI has continually increased which explains the increase in GDP.
  3. Officially, Suriname does not have a minimum wage. However, unofficially, this figure is estimated to be SRD 600 per month, the lowest possible wage for civil servants. This amounts to $3,998 per year.
  4. Suriname has a relatively high poverty rate, with 70 percent of its population living beneath the poverty line. Most of its population works in the mining industry which is extremely vulnerable to shocks in the market. The mining industry contributes to 85 percent of exports and 27 percent of government revenues.
  5. Suriname has one of the lowest GDPs in South America. The country’s economy is heavily reliant on trading natural resources which left it particularly vulnerable to low international prices for commodities such as bauxite.
  6. Between the years 2000 and 2015, there have been 57,811 local cases of malaria in Suriname. However, there has been a significant reduction in the rates of malaria between 2006 and 2015. This has been the result of intensive efforts to contain the disease, such as distributing free, long-lasting insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets as well as several policlinics run by the Medical Mission, providing care for the indigenous population.
  7. Suriname’s cost of living is 70 percent cheaper than in the United States. People in Suriname pay 3.3 percent less for groceries, 58.6 percent less for entertainment and sports, and 82.7 percent less for housing. A one-bedroom apartment in a downtown area of the U.S. costs $1075.75 on average, as compared to $162.92 in Suriname.
  8. Suriname also has high inflation rates, with 55.5 percent inflation in 2016 and 22.3 percent in 2017. Given that the average gross salary in Suriname is $28,093, the inflation rates affect the working poor and middle-class people the hardest, as they are unable to afford basic necessities.
  9. Suriname has four hospitals, as well as several district-level hospitals and private clinics. General access to health care in Suriname is fairly high with around 90 percent of locals living within a 5km radius of a hospital.
  10. Suriname has free, compulsory education up until the age of 12. Children who attend public schools are taught completely in Dutch, but there are private or international schools which teach subjects in English. Many students continue their education to the tertiary level in either the Netherlands or the U.S., even though the Anton de Kom University in Paraimbo offers degrees in medicine, law and some sciences.

In conclusion, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Suriname shows that while there is a considerable way to achieving a developed nation status, the relatively good access to education and healthcare will contribute to a burgeoning economy.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in Suriname
Infrastructure in Suriname is on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to quality, with some facets being up to date and self-sufficient, while others have fallen into serious disrepair due to improper maintenance and oversight. Suriname is sparsely populated in most areas, with most of its people inhabiting the capital, Paramaribo, and the surrounding regions. Most of the country is heavily forested making habitation and transport impossible.

Paramaribo is the country’s main hub with a vast majority of infrastructure in Suriname focused in this one city. Roads, railways, bridges, imports, and exports are all centered in Paramaribo making it the main support for Suriname’s economy. This translated to economic instability with little to no possibility of growth. Unless infrastructure in Suriname is expanded to the outer regions of the country and thence to its neighbors, it will continue to deteriorate and threaten an economic collapse.

Water, railway, and flight are the main modes of travel and transporting goods across the forested areas of Suriname. Unfortunately, many of the roads and airport runways are unpaved, making the operational expenses a fiscal nightmare. According to the 2013 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, the quality of Suriname’s roads ranks 71st out of 148 countries, while the airports and railroads rank 104th and 108th, respectively.

Infrastructure in Suriname is constrained by several factors:

  • electricity tariffs
  • transportation costs, and
  • monopolization of telecommunications by Telesur, a state-owned company.

Despite this monopolization, however, service and access to telecommunication services are far more advanced than all other aspects of the country’s infrastructure, ranking 7th in the 2013 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report. These last few years have seen a rise in government plans for developing infrastructure in Suriname, all focused on increasing the country’s status as an economic competitor. Telecommunication networks are being opened to the private sector, allowing for more competitors and lower rates.

The government’s main concern is developing the Paramaribo port (as the country’s largest) to increase its capacity to handle more exports. This port currently handles from five to six hundred vessels. Exports include 40 percent of the country’s oil (taken from the Tambaradjo oil field), gold, bauxite, rice and tropical wood from its forests.

Investment from the public and private sectors have enabled the development of the physical structure of the ports in Suriname, along with modernization of cargo holds and storage. This not only allows for easier transport but ensures greater protection of goods.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

credit access in Suriname
While small, the South American country of Suriname has a booming mining economy. With a recent rise in oil prices, Suriname has worked to overcome a recent dip in economic growth and currency inflation. Credit access in Suriname is also on the rise, and there have been several advancements in credit access and its reporting in recent years.

International Finance Corporation

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) reported that in 2013, Suriname created a new credit reporting system that increased the access businesses have to information about credit processes. This has been built and implemented to help build better business strategies and manage risky lending strategies, measures that then save small businesses from dangerous credit choices.

Systems like these encourage lending growth and healthy business strategy in small countries. Although Suriname has little to no record of credit histories before 2013, the IFC’s new credit reporting system is a step toward healthier credit access in Suriname.

Female Investors and the U.N.

Suriname is in the process of an economic reboot after economic growth statistics dropped from five percent in 2012  to -10.4 percent in 2016. At a 2012 presentation to the U.N., a representative for Suriname spoke on behalf of the female population of Suriname and presented a proposal for a new national gender policy; the plan delineated how the nation would prevent further discrimination of Surinamese women in business practice.

One of the areas in which women have been hurt by discrimination is in the credit access market. By implementing this new policy-based on the Beijing Plan for Action, Suriname hopes to alleviate the added stress of gender discrimination on its credit market.

Growth of Credit Access

Although only two of many new policies offer a solution for credit access growth, Suriname has a strong and constantly increasing economy that helps to grow credit access within its borders.

– Molly Atchison

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sustainable Agriculture in SurinameThe sector for sustainable agriculture in Suriname is uniquely poised to take advantage of a highly valuable market, eschewing new and higher value organic crops while intensifying the long-held tradition of rice farming. In 2012, agriculture constituted only 9 percent of Suriname’s GDP, decreasing from 15 percent in the 1990s.

The country’s most important crops, rice and bananas, have become nearly stagnant in terms of yield and are facing major overseas competition, causing high export and transportation costs. Rice, as the essential backbone of sustainable agriculture in Suriname, is a focus of the Anne van Dijk Rice Research Institute (ADRON). In addition to rice production, sustainable agriculture in Suriname can increase its value significantly by developing a framework for organic farms.

Rice Production

Through ADRON, the Ministry of Agriculture developed a system for intensifying rice production, increasing it from 4.1 to 4.7 tons per hectare at one point. However, ADRON’s research on seed breeding and crop productivity only got them so far. Small farmers lack proper education and knowledge of the most effective rice production practices, resulting in only 400 hectares of rice being planted in 2007, as opposed to the expected 1000 hectares.

ADRON has since supported the Seed Growers Association, an extension program for the support of small farmers and providing them with the technology they need to create sustainable agriculture in Suriname. According to the International Institute for Sustainability, world rice production must increase 50 percent by 2025 to accommodate average consumption per capita. Since 2009, rice production has shown an upward trend of above 200,000 tons per year, but ADRON is looking to push it even further with the following programs:

  • Plant breeding program: breeding a seed with higher yields and better quality when cooked that will flower at a specific time after it is planted.
  • Crop management program: researching the potential results of planting rice at higher elevations, as well as soil, weed and pest management.
  • Post-harvest processing program: optimizing waste management and researching the cooking quality of different rice varieties.
  • Technology transfer program: reaching out to farmers and farmer field schools through mass media.
  • Rice seed production program: transferring rice produced in Suriname to a separate agency for continued research.

These five ADRON programs will provide the education and technology necessary for the expansion of rice production, as well as an assurance of rice quality that will survive rising competition in the world market.

Organic Farming

Organic farming has become a worldwide trend and highly dynamic market, particularly in Europe, and Suriname is going along with the trend. The Suriname Business Development Center and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have funded multiple projects for boosting organic farming and sustainable agriculture in Suriname. With funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP created the GEF Small Grants Programme, allowing Suriname to begin instituting projects involving biodiversity, sustainable land management and non-timber forest products.

Institutions like the Centre for Agricultural Research provide a gateway to the national market for organic food, creating initiatives to capture national interest. Safe farming, an environmentally friendly initiative for the small-holder farmers, is one of many that uses fewer chemicals in their crops.

Sustainable agriculture in Suriname has become a nationwide focus, with support from the government, research institutions and local farmers. They have the means to succeed and they are taking advantage of it.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to Suriname
Suriname, officially the Republic of Suriname, is a small country on the northeastern coast of South America. Originally a Dutch colony, Suriname gained independence in 1975. Though Suriname is not a widely prosperous country, its economy has recently endured a variety of difficulties.

 

The Netherlands

In 2016, Suriname’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was more than $3.6 billion, the unemployment rate was slightly less than 10 percent and the poverty rate was 47 percent.

Despite gaining its independence, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was Suriname’s heaviest financial donor, sending years worth of humanitarian aid to Suriname. In 2012, the Netherlands suspended all aid to Suriname — approximately 26 million — two years after the election of President Desi Bouterse.

 

The European Commission

The European Commision has also approved emergency funding for Suriname over the years, especially in the case of natural disasters. Suriname is prone to severe flooding, which can wipe out homes and businesses, and increase unemployment and poverty. Usually, this aid is geared toward the population’s health, hygiene and sanitation, food and water.

 

People’s Republic of China

However, shortly after the Kingdom of the Netherlands completely pulled their funding to Suriname, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) increased its humanitarian aid to the country.

Since the immigration boom to Suriname in the 1990s, China has slowly been giving humanitarian relief to the South American country; in 2011, the Chinese government gifted Suriname with a new Foreign Ministry headquarters.

Also in 2012, China gave Suriname a grant of over 4 million to further the cooperation between both countries; however, it is unclear where this money is going. Since 2009, the Chinese embassy stated that development projects in Surinam — such as help with low-income housing, transportation, seaports and network television — are underway, despite any major initiatives.

 

Investment and Infrastructure

Within the last 10 years, China has set up various companies, businesses, shops, casinos and restaurants throughout Suriname. While this has vastly helped decrease unemployment, the poverty rate is still high, with nearly half the country living below the poverty line. In exchange for the land, China continues to give Suriname grants, buildings and advancements for the military.

 

Health-Related Aid

But not all of China’s aid is geared toward infrastructure and employment. In 2016, China provided Suriname with $1 million in humanitarian aid specifically geared toward Zika-related assistance. This included medical supplies and funding for medication and hospitalization for those affected. Zika virus is an infection most commonly found in Central and South America and can be fatal.

Suriname still has a long way to go before it is a completely stable country. The poverty rate still needs to lower significantly and the GDP must increase to be considered a prosperous economy.

Despite these much needed improvements, Suriname has already started distributing humanitarian aid itself. In September 2017, Suriname sent humanitarian aid to Cuba to help with relief efforts after hurricane Irma.

Though the success of humanitarian aid to Suriname is slow, the funds thus far have laid a solid groundwork. The Surinamese now have the tools they need to become a prosperous and independent country.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

5 Development Projects in Suriname

There are several important development projects in Suriname that are currently taking place to help the country positively progress. The United Nations Development Programme, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Bank all currently have active development projects in Suriname.

Suriname’s economy is dependent on mineral resources such as oil, gold and bauxite as well as natural resources, due to the fact that four-fifths of the country is covered by tropical rainforest. The country as a whole, however, still needs help to keep its economy from faltering and to improve climate control.

 

The UNDP’s Projects

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is one of the organizations that has implemented different development projects in Suriname to assist in the country’s needs when it comes to climate change. The UNDP currently has three active development projects in Suriname called National REDD+ Strategy, Suriname Global Climate Change Alliance and Strengthening the National Assembly of Suriname.

The National REDD+ Strategy project’s purpose is “to ensure success in continuing to preserve Suriname’s natural capital, enhance the value of forest-related services and benefits for its peoples and contribute to the international fight against climate change and the preservation of healthy ecosystems.”

The Suriname Global Climate Change Alliance project’s purpose is to support Suriname in improving its current climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts by providing more knowledge on the effects of climate change and developing tools that target adaptation measures, as well as strengthen capacities for mangrove conservation.

The Strengthening the National Assembly of Suriname project’s purpose is to provide best practices in parliamentary development, good governance, policy guidance and initiate capacity building initiatives.

 

The CDB’s Projects

The Electricity System Upgrade and Expansion Project is another development project in Suriname that has been created by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the government of Suriname. The project’s objective is to deliver a more reliable, efficient and sustainable electricity supply in Suriname.

When discussing the importance of the project to Suriname, Vice President of Suriname Ashwin Adhin said, “Our government will leave no stones unturned to achieve the objectives necessary to improve the energy sector. We will do this together with CDB and other important people and institutions.”

 

The IDB’s Projects

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is the largest source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean, has also partnered with Suriname to create a developmental project to assist the country’s needs. The IDB Group Country Strategy with Suriname 2016-2020 project’s objective is to support Suriname’s economic stabilization.

This project is complemented by a longer-term view on the modernization of the public and private sectors in the country. Reducing subsidies, lowering public spending while protecting the social safety net, strengthening public administration and strengthening human capital are all important parts of the project’s focus.

Development projects in Suriname like the ones these organizations are implementing will continue to help the country of Suriname in its goal to become a thriving country.

– Kennisha L. Crawford

Photo: Flickr

women's empowerment in surinameSuriname, a small country in South America, has had issues in the recent past with women’s rights. While there has been growth, it has taken many years and it is difficult to continue the changes in the country. Certain actions have been taken by other countries and women’s groups to promote women’s empowerment in Suriname.

Suriname has enacted laws to dismantle inequality. Mostly created during the 21st century, an example is the Penal Code, which, once amended in 2009, penalized rape within marriage. The Law on Combatting Domestic Violence was passed in 2009. It punishes all forms of violence, and has, along with increased awareness, cut instances of domestic violence from 1,769 in 2009 to 1,213 in 2010.

This increased awareness continued in 2015 when Iceland convened with Suriname in January to discuss violence against women. In 2013, the two countries were ranked almost exactly opposite in women’s rights, with Iceland first and Suriname 110th in the world. The conference was the first time the United Nations brought together male leaders of nations to specifically discuss gender equality.

Another program for women’s empowerment in Suriname was an exchange between the South Dakota National Guard and the Suriname Defense Force. In March 2017, there was a three-day conference about Women in Leadership. Four women from Suriname went to South Dakota to learn about support services and the opportunities in which women can serve. By the end of the conference, the women were able to work with foreign partners and share their experiences to gain an understanding of each other’s cultures.

Elsewhere, there is the Ilse Henar Foundation for Women’s Rights in Paramaribo, Suriname. As women tend to have a disadvantageous position in Suriname society, the foundation seeks to eliminate these inequalities. For example, in 2006 they started a project called “Elimination of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace in Suriname.” The NGO helped draft legislation specifically regarding this topic, and it organized vulnerable women’s groups for domestic workers and migrant women workers.

Several agencies and countries are taking a stand for women’s empowerment in Suriname. By addressing gender inequality, it will enable women to improve their social standing while benefiting society as a whole.

– Nick McGuire

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Suriname

The smallest country in South America, Suriname is one of the world’s poorest countries, with over 70% of its population living under the poverty line. While the country has seen some economic growth in recent years, its tumultuous political history explains many of the current causes of poverty in Suriname.

Having been a Dutch colony for a number of centuries, Suriname’s relationship with the Netherlands is a complicated one. For a long time after its independence it relied on Dutch aid to propel its economy; however, relations deteriorated in the late 1990s, and in 2014 Suriname was dropped as a recipient of Dutch development aid.

The government of Jules Wijdenbosch ended Suriname’s structural adjustment program in 1996 in an attempt to make taxation more equitable for the country’s large poor population. As a result, tax revenues fell and the government was unable to implement an alternative. Mining, construction and service sectors declined and, combined with increased government spending, a bloated civil service and reduced foreign aid, the country faced a massive fiscal deficit, estimated at around 11% of the GDP. Eventually, this led to a long period of inflation, where consumer prices skyrocketed and it took the average Surinamese citizen more than two years to register a business.

The causes of poverty in Suriname began with Dutch colonization and continue to suffer from structural shortcomings and poor governance, as is common with many postcolonial nations in the global South.

Suriname and the Netherlands maintain a strained relationship after Desi Bouterse’s military government rose to power. He is currently convicted on a number of drug and corruption charges in the Netherlands but was re-elected as the president of Suriname in 2010. Under his regime, the nation’s political climate became saturated with ethnic polarization and corruption.

The economy of Suriname became more diversified and independent once Dutch aid stopped. Bauxite is the primary source of revenue, as well as agricultural exports and oil and gold extraction. These improvements are, in many ways, a double-edged sword, since the environmental fallout of such extraction is incredible. It has also led to a spike in forced child labor, with more children being recruited into the mining industry. Education rates have dropped, health problems and malnutrition have increased and high poverty rates continue to run rampant.

However, almost 80% of Suriname’s landmass is untouched rainforest and protected bioreserves, which have attracted many tourists over the years. With a rise in eco-tourism and diversification of exports, the potential for Suriname’s economy to improve is high. A large number of local and international organizations are working to provide educational services and health facilities, particularly to children in need. A number of groups focus on empowerment and legal advocacy as a way to bring about grassroots change. With an increase in foreign investment and local change to tackle corruption, some of the problems faced by the Surinamese can be addressed.

Paroma Soni

Photo: Flickr