UNESCO and Worldreader are providing mobile devices to fight illiteracy. According to UNESCO there is direct relationship between poverty and illiteracy. People living below the poverty line and those who are illiterate are in the same portion of the population. Increasing the availability of books to the almost 800 million illiterate adults and children in developing countries will change lives.

Knowing how to read and write improves educational success, health, earning potential, safety, and ultimately breaks the cycle of poverty. Literate people are empowered to seek jobs for which they might otherwise be unqualified. The increase in earnings potential contributes to overall economic growth. Literacy is related to improved self-esteem, increased community involvement, and more.

Socio-economic status is directly linked to literacy. People living in poverty and lacking access to enough food and clean water are less likely to attend school and learn to read and write. Adult literacy rates are lower in households belonging to the poorest people. In countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, the Sudan and Togo there is a 40 percent literacy gap between those living in poverty and the rich.

Access to books is necessary so that children can develop reading and writing skills, yet as many as 40 percent of schools in Africa do not have access to reading material, and if they do, it is not current, level-appropriate, or relevant to readers’ interests. Only five percent of poor families in developing countries have books in their homes for children under the age of five.

What is the answer?  Worldreader believes that providing mobile devices to fight illiteracy is part of the answer. Almost six billion of the seven billion people on Earth have access to a mobile device, providing mobile devices. Providing access to mobile devices including mobile phones, e-reader apps and e-readers will help to level the playing field.

In places where access to books is limited, Worldreader and UNESCO are helping by providing mobile devices to fight illiteracy. Worldreader is providing schools with e-readers, mobile phones as well as the Worldreader Mobile reading app. Authors and publishers around the world are helping by translating and digitizing popular book titles as well as top trade and textbook titles. Most books are free.

In surveys and interviews conducted by UNESCO and completed by more than 4,000 people in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe, it was revealed that people read more on mobile devices and enjoy reading more, too. They also read to their children more from mobile devices.

Clearly leaving a bunch of books on a table or even on a mobile device does not necessarily mean that people will read, but they certainly won’t if they don’t have access. Hopefully, having access will promote both curiosity and literacy.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr

Education in Samoa
While the Samoan education system has achieved much over the years, the oceanic nation still has room to grow, especially in terms of dropout and retention rates. Here are six facts about education in Samoa.

  1. The Education Sector of Samoa serves a population of approximately 193,000 on a land area of 2,820 square kilometers, comprising the two main islands of Upolu and Savai’i and eight small islands. Samoa is a lower middle-income country with a GDP of nearly $761 million in 2015 with a life expectancy of 73.4 years and a Gender Development Index (GDI) of 0.956 (in comparison, the U.S. has a GDI of 0.995).
  2. According to a 2012 UNESCO report, 99 percent of adult Samoans are literate, compared to the Pacific average of 71 percent and the global average of 84 percent.
  3. Early childhood education in Samoa is provided mainly by nongovernmental organizations. The participation rate remains low, with the actual number assumed to be higher due to community‐run, unregistered pre‐schools. Little is known about how these informal early childhood educations perform or how they compare to federally funded programs.
  4. Primary school enrollment rates are high, and most children go on to complete the full cycle of eight years of primary education. Secondary school participation rates have room for improvement, with 50.6 percent of boys and 69.5 percent of girls of secondary school age attending secondary school. Of those attending secondary school, however, graduation rates were above 90 percent in May 2016.
  5. Recent Samoan national reports highlight education as a critical issue in the perpetuation of rural poverty. The 2013 Samoa Hardship and Poverty Report described a strong correlation between poverty, vulnerability status and the level of education of Samoan citizens. The analysis found that males with no tertiary education in urban areas are more likely to be vulnerable to poverty than other demographics. While only 12 percent of Samoans are formally employed, and most live off of informal wages, low-paid employment opportunities in both formal and informal sectors, which do not require any training beyond a secondary education, tend to be male-dominated and concentrated in urban areas.
  6. Informal educational programs play an important role in the delivery of basic education. These include ‘ā’oga faifeau,’ or religious programs, that supplement regular education and nongovernment organizations that provide second chance educational programs for dropouts. Samoa’s Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture has recently begun incorporating practical subjects and vocational education and training programs to meet the learning needs of both students and the economy.

Compared to the Pacific community and even a majority of the world population, Samoan schools demonstrate characteristics of effective education programs. However, increased emphasis on secondary school retention and the role of informal and vocational education could possibly improve the quality and effectiveness of education in Samoa.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr


Located off the coast of Africa is a small country called Seychelles. Despite numerous hurdles that made receiving an education in Seychelles a struggle, the Ministry of Education has made important strides in the educational system since the country’s formation.

After gaining independence in 1976, Seychelles had little formal education made available to the people. In fact, the government did not start a program to improve the adult literacy rate until the late 1980s.

This program encouraged adults to attend literacy classes and school, if possible, to improve their education. Consequently, the adult literacy rate rose as high as 85 percent in 1991. Today, the literacy rate is around 94 percent, taking into account all residents of the small country.

The improvement in literacy is not the only good news about education in Seychelles, though. Since 1981, the government has supported free education, allowing children to attend school without having to pay for tuition. Also, the government mandates for students aged 16 and younger to attend school.

This is all a result of the government’s effort to improve education in Seychelles to benefit all residents. According to Commonwealth Education Online, the government wants to “empower young people in order to enhance national productivity and social cohesion, and to enable them to participate fully in the global marketplace.”

These plans are going well, as around 94 percent of children now complete primary education in Seychelles.

In 2000, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) laid out goals for 164 countries to achieve by 2015. Some of these goals concerned adult literacy and early childhood development and education. By 2014, Seychelles was the only country in Africa to meet the goal of providing education to all residents before the 2015 deadline. Other countries in Africa made significant strides in their education system. However, according to the Seychelles News Agency, 31 of these countries were not expected to achieve UNESCO’s goals until as late as 2020.

Clearly, the government has made improving education in Seychelles a top priority. Though the country has not opened a university for the continuation of education, a teaching college is available. Many students choose to study in the United Kingdom for university tuition, and the government is in cooperation with the University of London to open a center for higher learning in the island nation.

Education in Seychelles has come a long way since the country’s formation, and only plans on improving.

Jacqueline Nicole Artz

Photo: Flickr

Girls Through Education
While 91 percent of children around the world go to primary school, only 50 percent of refugee children are as lucky. These odds are startling, especially considering that 69 million girls remain out of school worldwide and that this number is expected to increase due to the refugee crisis. UNESCO plans to change that.

“Changing the World of Refugee Girls Through Education” is the aim of UNESCO’s new partnership with Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Save the Children, showcased in late January. Its main goal is to raise awareness of the extreme vulnerability of refugee girls and to secure solutions for their future through education and skills development.

The project is geared toward Syrian and Jordanian women who struggle to continue basic education or pursue work opportunities. The partners are working to help develop the life, business and vocational skills of these women, all while encouraging them to share their experiences.

The program, which is based in Jordan, offers refugee girls innovative job search techniques and helps them develop skills required to gain employment. In addition to all this, UNESCO helps them find opportunities in today’s global marketplace. If needed, one-on-one psychological counseling is also provided.

Schools also play an important role in identifying refugee children at risk of abuse, sexual and gender-based violence as well as forced recruitment. Even more so, they can help connect them with appropriate services, according to a recent UNESCO report.

Classrooms can also act as a place of transformation for many kids. Becoming educated can help one become a well-rounded person and gain a foundation of learning, which is a big step in helping one stand on his or her own feet.

This is even more important for refugee girls. Educating these girls empowers them and reduces the number of girls getting married at a very young age. This is a massive problem for girls in developing countries, where one in three girls is married before the age of 18.

Solving such a problem requires commitment, time and effort. This is just what the UNESCO partnership is hoping to accomplish by supporting refugee girls, raising their confidence and shaping their future.

Mayan Derhy

Photo: Flickr

 Global Education
The United Nations Global Education 2030 Steering Committee has much to celebrate after its gathering in Paris in December. Now, for the first time, several organizations are building a harmonized framework for monitoring progress and creating educational baselines in 2017.

The Committee

The Global Education 2030 Steering Committee is composed of 38 members as well as co-convening agencies such as UNICEF and World Bank. The goal of the committee is to support the member states and partners to achieve the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4) and other education-related targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in September 2015 with the intention of eliminating poverty by 2030. The international community recognized that education was essential for the success of all 17 of its goals.

The key to realizing these education related targets is monitoring progress, establishing baselines for education and harmonizing data on spending.

The Meeting

At the two-day meeting at UNESCO headquarters, the Global Education Steering Committee discussed how to cooperate with the Educational Commission and endorse tools for measuring progress. The committee ultimately decided on how to work together in terms of advocacy, policy and strategy, monitoring, review and financing.

During the first day of the meeting, the committee endorsed indicators to track progress across the SDG4. It aims to “ensure inclusively and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and is a crucial part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

On the second day of the meeting, the Committee focused on how countries, regional organizations and global mechanisms can best work together. They decided to develop platforms for the respective countries to share their experiences on emerging issues in education.

Areas for Improvement

The global education community faces important data gaps in regard to education financing. It is almost impossible to judge how much money is spent on each child’s education around the world. This is because very few countries respond to global questionnaires about education finance.

The funding that goes into education also needs to be better monitored in terms of effectiveness and equity. In response to these issues, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) is working with the World Bank to develop an approach to harmonize the available data and to improve the way organizations use this data.

Hope for the Future

According to UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education Qian Tang, “Education is at the nexus of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. Education is finally being recognized globally “as a basic human right, as a force for empowerment, transformation and peace”.

Overall, the Global Education 2030 Steering Committee has made great progress in mapping out education advocacy for the next two years. This collaboration, along with the emphasis on monitoring progress, will be crucial in realizing the essence of the SDG 4 agenda: that all children receive a quality education.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr

Global education fund
Sunny Varkey, an entrepreneur from India who lives in Dubai, launched the Varkey Foundation Challenge Fund in March 2016. The $200,000 global education fund was created to support education projects across the globe.

Varkey set up the Challenge Fund to help accomplish the goals of his non-profit, the Varkey Foundation, which works to ensure every child in the world has access to quality teachers.

The fund strives to provide good teachers and quality education to all children, no matter their circumstances.

“The Challenge Fund looks to support early-stage initiatives which build the capacity of teachers and to strengthen the status of the teaching profession,” Varkey said.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States and South Asia are facing massive teacher shortages. This has put efforts to provide quality teachers and education for children at risk.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found that sub-Saharan Africa must raise its current stock of teachers by 68 percent in less than a decade to provide its students with enough teachers.

However, simply hiring teachers will not solve the problem. Educators will need adequate training and support in order to provide quality instruction.

The minimum qualification to become a teacher is approximately nine years of schooling. Unfortunately, 43 percent of teachers in the Congo and 55 percent of teachers in Lao People’s Democratic Republic do not meet this requirement.

The countries that need the most new teachers are also the countries with the least-qualified teachers — this issue is one the Varkey Foundation Challenge Fund hopes to fix.

Varkey’s first projects have already been chosen but non-profit organizations from any country may apply for a portion of the global education fund.

The company will start with organizations in China, Ghana, the Middle East and Ukraine according to The Economic Times. Partner organizations that offer innovative solutions that support the fund’s mission are also offered grants of up to $50,000.

Alice Gottesman

Photo: Pixabay

UNESCO Education StudyOn July 15, a UNESCO education study found that 263 million youth and children worldwide do not attend school.

This group is comprised of about 61 million children of primary school age (6-11 years), 60 million of lower secondary age (12-14) and 142 million of upper secondary age (15-17). Most of these children reside in sub-Saharan Africa, where over a fifth of children of primary school age, a third of children of lower secondary age and nearly 60 percent of youths of upper secondary age were found to be out of school.

Out-of-school rates are particularly high among youth age 15-17 because in many countries, although primary and lower secondary schooling is mandatory, upper secondary schooling is not. Furthermore, youth in this age group are often of legal working age and must choose between employment and education. Those living in poverty often pick the former option in order to provide for their families.

In addition to wealth, other barriers to education include location, armed conflict and sex. Girls are less likely than boys to attend school. The study found that 15 million girls of primary school age will never have the opportunity to attend school; only 10 million boys will face the same predicament. More than half of these girls live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although the numbers are shocking, they are still better than those from 2000, when 374.7 million children and youth were out of school. Progress has been made, but the results of the UNESCO education study show that there is much more work to be done.

This is especially true considering the pledge that more than 160 countries made at the 2015 World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea. At the meeting, leaders promised to provide all girls and boys with quality and publicly funded primary and secondary education by the year 2030, a goal that is still far from actualization.

Education has always been inextricably linked to development. Quality education decreases poverty, promotes health and provides economic growth. Improving education is the key to creating more sustainable societies.

Ugochi Ihenatu

Photo: Pixabay