Success of The Straight Talk Foundation and Irish Aid Bursary Program in UgandaDespite being a much smaller country than the United States, Ireland has contributed much of its resources to help end global poverty through funding for a variety of foreign aid, humanitarian and development assistance projects.

Irish Aid

Irish Aid is the country’s official program that fights against poverty and hunger around the world, and which makes up a key part of Ireland’s foreign policy. According to Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the program helps poorer countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, pursue development while also providing humanitarian assistance.

In 2015, €647.51 million was spent on Irish Aid, which comprised 0.36 percent of Ireland’s gross national product. Irish Aid uses this money for programs related to agriculture, nutrition development, health, HIV education and emergency assistance in times of crisis.

The Straight Talk Foundation

One country that Irish Aid has worked closely with is Uganda, and one of its partners is the Straight Talk Foundation, which began in 1993 as a newspaper funded by UNICEF. Initially, it targeted Ugandans between the ages of 10 and 24 and focused on reproductive health and HIV education. As it continued to develop, the foundation eventually expanded the topics it covered and started to work with adults in the community rather than just the youth, because of the important role adults, teachers and parents have in the lives of children.

Today, the Straight Talk Foundation works with both adults and youth and provides knowledge and support on topics such as HIV, general life skills, the environment, education, livelihoods and disability needs. The foundation’s mission is to provide reproductive health education to youth, as well as support their general well-being and development, through communication strategies based on evidence, advocacy and various services aimed at a young audience.

Irish Aid Bursary Program in Uganda

In 2016, the Irish government updated and relaunched the Irish Aid Bursary Program in Uganda as part of its new strategy for foreign aid to the country. The program has been supported by Ireland for 13 years and was designed to help Ugandan youth located primarily in the Karamoja region of Uganda pursue post-primary level education.

A bursary program is similar to a scholarship in that it is money given by an institution or organization to people specifically so they can attend a school.

Also in 2016, the Straight Talk Foundation took control of the bursary program in Uganda. The program provides 200 scholarships for disadvantaged students in the Karamoja region of the country who seek further education after primary school.

The Irish Embassy to Uganda’s website states that since 2005, 1,750 students have benefited from the bursary program, over half of which are young girls. The program covers the cost of tuition, necessary school supplies, transportation to and from school and HIV education.

Speaking to students at the event dedicated to the relaunch of the bursary program in Uganda, Ireland’s ambassador to the country stated that, “’It is our intention that this Irish government-funded bursary scheme will continue to provide educational opportunities to you and many in your communities, empowering you to achieve your dreams.”

As Ireland continues to fund its bursary program in Uganda and provide other forms of foreign assistance, more young Ugandans will gain access to education, and as a result, the opportunity for better livelihoods and futures.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Flickr

Supporting Global EducationThe global youth unemployment rate is a concern, especially for global business leaders and nonprofits that advocate for lowering the poverty rate. As of 2016, there were 71 million unemployed people between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the International Labor Union (ILU). There are many ways to fix this problem, but one way to help unemployed youth in developing countries is by supporting global education.

This is a problem that affects all the countries of the world, but is especially hard on youths in developing countries. The increased number of unemployed youths in developing regions such as the Caribbean, Latin America and Western Asia had a great impact on the overall increase of the global youth unemployment rate, while numbers of youth unemployment rate in developed countries stayed about the same. Additionally, many jobs that youths can get in developing countries are low-paying jobs. The ILU estimates that 38 percent of working youths are living in extreme poverty (less than $3.10 a day).

Supporting global education is an investment in the youths of developing countries. With an education, the younger generation can learn the skills they needed to get higher paying jobs. A report conducted by the International Commission for Financing Global Education Opportunities found that 40 percent of employers worldwide had difficulty finding people with the required skills for their job openings. By investing in global education, more people can enter the workforce with in-demand skills and find more opportunities. In the long run, this enables the economy to grow and helps the country develop.

One organization supporting global education is Global Partnership for Education (GPE). GPE focuses on developing countries and brings together teacher organizations, private foundations and international organizations in order to strengthen educational systems. GPE’s goal is to make inclusive education accessible to everyone by the year 2030.

GPE is just one organization that is focusing on education to lower the unemployment rate of youths. If students in developing countries can access and gain the skills they need for jobs, the poverty rate for those developing countries will improve.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

Education in Yemen
On August 13, 2016, a Saudi-led airstrike killed 10 children at a school in the country’s northern region, and all were under the age of 15. Unfortunately, children in Yemen have become accustomed to this fallout from the civil war that has raged within their country since March of 2015. Currently, education in Yemen has become a crucial subject for the country’s youth, who struggle to continue learning despite the war surrounding them.

Here are some features of what education in Yemen looks like for millions of children today:

  1. On any given day, the number of children in Yemen who miss out on school exceeds 2 million. Reasons range from lack of textbooks and chairs to the destruction and militarization of school buildings.
  2. Children in Yemen often face grave danger both in and out of class. Students have been killed on their way to school as well as while attending classes, raising questions within families as to the safety of pursuing education.
  3. Staying home, however, raises further concerns. The fear of child recruitment is very real — children as young as eight have been counted by the U.N. as some of 1,200 enlisted to fight in the conflict. Education proves an effective tool for keeping children from the violent arms of war.
  4. According to the U.N., more than 3,600 schools have closed in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015. Bombings destroyed many of these buildings, while many others are now used as training facilities for military forces. UNICEF currently estimates that it needs $34 million for its Back-to-School campaign to help rebuild Yemen’s education system, which includes building restoration, training, textbooks and provisions.
  5. In the 14 years leading up to the conflict, education in Yemen saw an incredible period of growth and improvement. Yemen’s enrollment rate rose from 71.3 percent to 97.5 percent during this time, an incredible stride, according to The World Bank.
  6. In July 2015, UNICEF and Yemen’s Ministry of Education trained 50 teachers and social workers to help children deal with the psychological fallout of living in the country torn apart by civil war. Specialized training in psychosocial approaches offers a healing hand to children growing up in war zones and helps equip them with the tools to deal with the violence.

In the midst of such difficult times, both teachers and students have proven that education in Yemen is a valuable thing. Although a large number of children currently struggle to find ways to learn, their path is becoming increasingly clear due to the hard work and resolution of educators in their country.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

The Fight Against Child Labor in Gaza: Organizations Unite
As organizations unite, the fight continues against child labor in Gaza. The ongoing power struggle between the Israeli government and Hamas has led to adverse effects on the 1.8 million population of Gaza, with nearly 80 percent of the population relying on foreign aid. Children have been burdened by the combined effects of child labor and penurious standards of living. As a result, the plight of youth has deteriorated in Gaza.

The situation has especially been exacerbating since the Israeli blockade on the Gaza strip.

An analysis conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) highlighted that child labor in Gaza has risen. The Jerusalem Post has additionally reported that a large proportion of the children are below the legal age of 15.

With rising food prices and varying degrees of income disparity, the situation has furthermore declined. The deficiency in the labor market has made it hard for people to find work. As a result, child labor in Gaza continues to be an ongoing issue as young children are forced to work for meager amounts to support their families without insurance.

“I work to help him (my father) earn a living. My brother also works to help him. The situation is not good. We don’t have money to pay to paint our home and not even to buy a ball. We don’t have anything. My salary is not enough,” said Mahmoud Yazji in an interview with the Jerusalem Post.

Neighboring countries have taken on the humanitarian initiative and many organizations strive to help these vulnerable children. Here are just a few of the organizations:

  • Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization
    A convoy from the Organization regularly delivers medical supplies. It has collectively contributed a massive $40 million to Gaza since 2009 and has renewed hope for nearly 600,000 Gaza residents with efficient health care services.
  • Turkish Red Crescent
    The inception of the first aid station by the Turkish Red Crescent will benefit many in Karara. Moreover, the recent steadfast Israel-Turkey deal has greatly helped bolster the transportation of aid. Five hundred trucks have so far made their way through the disputed territories with the supervision of the Turkish Red Crescent.
  • Additionally, the organization SOS Children’s Villages has been providing care and early education to young children in Rafah since 1999. Their Youth Home has also helped young people with basic training to adjust to the challenges that adult life entails.
  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has also taken on this effort by providing a high level of education to the youth in Gaza. They have garnered expertise in this field over the last three years.
  • Gaza’s Social Affairs Ministry of Labor has conducted and organized initiatives that will aid in making the youth more self-sufficient by teaching them essential skills like carpentry and sewing.

Such efforts are aimed at encouraging the youth and increasing the propensity to remain in school. Increasing literacy rates are also vital to make the youth competitive for the labor market. This is vital because the youth unemployment rate now stands at 60 percent.

Moreover, The El-Wedad Society for Community Rehabilitation is spearheading the push for children’s rights by visiting families and emphasizing the vitality of education through seminars and sessions.

Strengthening the insurance policy and increasing the bargaining power of the youth is also essential to help combat the issue. Businesses who use means of exploitation and child labor should be blacklisted by the U.N. to accentuate the magnitude of the violation.

A possible cessation of hostilities between the Hamas and the Israeli government does not seem likely, especially after the revolts that rocked 2014. However, the widespread impact of such progressive endeavors will take some time to reach the heart of every youth in Gaza.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Techno Girls: Guiding and Empowering Young South Africans
South Africa has made huge strides for fostering a more egalitarian society through addressing gender-based violence and combating gender stereotypes. An initiative called Techno Girls has offered up its hand in minimizing gender gaps, addressing the gender disparities head-on in the educational and career sector.

Techno Girls is an initiative started in 2005 by UNICEF in partnership with South Africa’s Department of Education, the Ministry in the Presidency: Women, the Department of Education, the State Information Technology Agency and Uweso Consulting.

The program provides opportunities for girls who prove academic merit between the ages of 15 and 18, and who come from disadvantaged communities to begin exploring career avenues in traditionally under-represented sectors — math, science, technology and engineering.

According to Statistics South Africa, in 2012, the percentage of women in non-agricultural employment increased slightly from 43 percent in 1996 to 45 percent.

Moreover, in the results for the National Senior Certificate Examinations in 2010, it was reported that 52 percent of boys passed in comparison to 44 percent of girls. For Physical Science, 50 percent of boys passed while 46 percent of girls did the same.

Although gender equality has improved over the years, more work needs to be done to balance out gender ratios within STEM subject matter and career sectors. Girls are often discouraged from pursuing a career in engineering or science and Techno Girls is working to change that.

For instance, Techno Girls provides mentorship, shadowing experiences and skills development initiatives where girls can gain insights and leadership skills in the public and private sectors.

Previous opportunities have included shadowing at the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), INVESTEC, and the Johannesburg Roads Agency.

As of 2016, over 5000 girls have benefited from the program and have moved on to receive university or college scholarships. The Techno Girls Alumni Program also provides support to ensure a higher completion rate at tertiary level schooling, and in securing job opportunities in their chosen fields of study.

Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, said that she wanted Techno Girls to run the economy to show that, “the struggle by women in 1956 was not in vain.”

“Whatever degree you take, it opens doors – it is a key. It gives you the ability to use logic, the ability to analyze any situation and the ability to think scientifically,” Xingwana explained.

With the program’s success and popularity, the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities identified Techno Girls as a key government program in furthering goals for gender equity.

Moreover, Techno Girls has been expanded to all nine provinces of South Africa. Women’s empowerment and potential in STEM sectors are on its way in South Africa.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

Youth Skills Gap
On July 15, the U.N. celebrated World Youth Skills Day. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for sustained investment in youth skills to help achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Across the world, a huge generation of young people is entering the workforce.

Unfortunately, many of them lack the skills necessary to have successful and engaging careers or even to be gainfully employed. Those aged 15-24 make up 40% of those unemployed worldwide, even though they only make up 18% of the global population. Many of those who are lucky enough to be employed are working jobs that provide little in the way of remuneration or protection.

The inability of young people to find good jobs is a major contributor to continuing poverty. This poverty, in turn, plays a powerful role in breeding both localized violence and global extremism. Addressing this situation calls for many responses, one of which is attacking the global youth skills gap.

In today’s economy, digital and communicative skills are in demand but schooling, especially in poorer countries, often emphasizes traditional skills, meaning that educational models that may have been successful in the past are in danger of becoming outmoded. According to a survey from the Asian Development Bank, communicative and language skills are seen as being most valuable. More broadly, in many places, there is a significant mismatch between the skills needed for work and the skills that people have.

Fortunately, there are many steps that can be taken to address the youth skills gap head-on. According to the World Economic Forum, social and emotional learning (SEL) provides children with the framework they need to adapt to a wide array of situations in their future careers. Training children to adapt to different situations, rather than over-focusing on specific skills that may or may not be useful, increases their readiness to participate in a wide range of careers.

The World Bank has sought to address the issues of the youth skills gap and youth unemployment head-on through a variety of individual programs. From the Caribbean to South Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa, these programs have helped increase employment and provided youth with skills of lasting value.

Efforts to improve the effectiveness of education, direct job training projects and job-search assistance are just a sampling of the work being done to bridge the gap.

Like so many contributors to global poverty, the youth skills gap is anything but an intractable problem. Rather, with the concerted effort of individuals, governments, businesses and multilateral organizations it can become less and less of an obstacle to shared prosperity.

Jonathan Hall-Eastman

Photo: Flickr

Sex Education in Guatemala
Guatemala has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Latin America. By age 20, 54 to 68 percent of indigenous or uneducated women have married or become pregnant.

This number is raised by a high rate of sexual abuse that boys and girls suffer: 10,000 cases are reported every year. One of the many reasons these statistics are so alarmingly high is a lack of comprehensive sex education in Guatemala. In 2012, only two percent of schools had effective programs; but fortunately, many advocates have worked to counteract these dismal statistics over the past few years.

Comprehensive sex education is incredibly beneficial to children of all genders. The National Survey of Family Growth discovered that pregnancy rates for 15 to 19-year-olds are 50 percent lower for teens who receive comprehensive sex education than for teenagers who received less education.

Guatemalan children need to be taught about contraceptives, STIs, HIV, pregnancy and especially consent. Programs should emphasize the goals of improved gender equality as well as increasing male involvement in family planning. These alterations would allow teenagers to have more control over their reproductive health as well as counteract the dangerous culture of violence and rape.

Fortunately, new legislation has paved the way for improvement. The 2010 Preventing through Education Act calls for comprehensive sex education in Guatemala and increases teenage access to sexual health services.

Sex educator Ana Lucía Ramazzini insists that “sex education cannot be successful in Guatemala without being taught from a feminist viewpoint that addresses consent, assault and the power dynamics and social inequalities between men and women.” Two other laws have been similarly positive — hospitals are now required to report pregnancies for girls under 14, and the marrying age with parental consent has been raised from 14 to 16.

Three years after the Prevention through Education Act, a program with gender equality views was incorporated into nine regions. After the 2010 law passed in Guatemala, the rate of teen pregnancy decreased from 90 births per 1000 women ages 15-19 to 81 births in 2014. While the statistic is not overtly dramatic, the steady decline does indeed bode well for the future.

Ten Guatemalan organizations and a handful of international organizations continue to transform sex education from bill to reality. UNAIDS works to educate people about HIV and decrease the stigma surrounding the condition for the 65,000 people in Guatemala who live with the disease and require treatment. Two Guatemalan organizations in particular, Asociacion Pro-Bienestar de la Familia de Guatemala (APROFAM) and Incide Joven, have done exceptional work in this field.

APROFAM is a family planning organization that serves Guatemala with 27 permanent clinics, five mobile facilities and a large number of community distributors. Their clinics and workshops provide education for both men and women about the effectiveness of contraceptives and family planning services. Using media from comic strips and television shows, they educate the public on both sexual health as well as issues of consent and abuse.

Incide Joven is a similar organization, but its uniqueness stems from the fact that it is entirely youth-run. Like APROFAM, Incide Joven is dedicated to making sex education available for teenagers. Their advocacy was very successful in creating the valuable Gender and Cultural Diversity office as part of the Ministry of Education to oversee new sex education. APROFAM and Incide Joben share sex educator Ana Ramazzini’s ideology by encouraging both genders to take an active role in family planning.

With such high rates of abuse and teenage pregnancy, sex education in Guatemala is a tough job. Fortunately, children are growing more aware of their rights and the risks of young sex. A 10-year-old listing off information about HIV at a UNAIDS event said that “[children] are very young for sex. Ah! And that our body is only ours and no one can touch it.”

The emphasis on consent in sex education in Guatemala not only builds a better-informed public, but it also is a large step in the right direction for female empowerment and youth rights.

Jeanette Burke

Photo: Bustle

Education in Singapore
For the first time in history, Singapore has been named as having the top two universities in all of Asia. This includes the National University of Singapore, which rose 14 spots in the World University Rankings since 2012. The method for success goes back many generations, as education in Singapore instructs not only academics but teaches respect for authority and an understanding of the gravity of education.

Singapore, among other Asian nations, neared the top of the international league tables for over a decade. These tables measure child proficiency in reading, math, and science, with high scores showing the success of Singapore’s education system. Singapore’s education method is to approach classrooms with a highly-scripted way of teaching, making teachers ‘teach to the test’ instead of adapting to children’s different needs.

Students in Singapore ‘learn how to learn,’ a generally ineffective method that has been unusually successful in Singapore. Instead of checking the students’ level of understanding, teachers are instructed to check whether students can get the correct answer. The prescribed national curriculum sets the standard by which students learn, with little flexibility or deviation.

Singapore’s universities have been able to compete in the global economy by pouring financial support into research and strategically positioning each university. From the start, students are instructed on their expectations through primary, secondary and post-secondary education.

However, the first lessons students learn are how to know and how to love their country. By strengthening the pupils’ appreciation for their country, they then also appreciate the meaning of receiving an education.

Students in Singapore have been instructed since birth to follow the national and cultural standards that reproduce the instructional regime. Teachers instruct with a type of ‘folk pedagogy’ that reinforces the nature of their instruction, such as ‘teaching is talking and learning is listening.’ However, in recent years these policies have relaxed to lessen student stress.

Despite their unorthodox success, Singapore is realizing that balance is just as important as educational prowess. Education in Singapore has changed to accommodate more stress-relieving activities, such as white-water rafting, since experts in Singapore’s education system now aim to give students a more well-rounded life.

The goal is to move students from being academic-based people to leading emotionally-healthy lives, a change that should positively impact Singapore’s education system. With a combination of previous methods and these new changes, Singapore’s high status in education in Asia and around the globe should remain consistent.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Pixabay

Project-based learningThe concept of project-based learning is powerful: actively working through a project allows students to show creativity and adaptability that may be lacking in students who are exposed only to a traditional classroom setting.

In India, project-based learning places students’ focus on solving issues of personal interest and mitigates the high pressure of traditional education.

Often, students are lectured by teachers for the sole purpose of learning information to perform well on standardized board exams. These tests have the potential to determine whether a student can attend top colleges, receive the best jobs and have an overall successful future.

This method of testing puts intense pressure on students to the point where cheating scandals occur every year. Numerous gadgets are marketed and sold, one example being small in-ear microphones that allow someone to remotely feed students test answers. According to the Los Angeles Times, there have even been reports of principals allowing students to cheat for a fee.

Students who perform well on these tests often go on to top colleges and careers. For everyone else, dropping out is a likely alternative. In India, 99 percent of kids are enrolled in primary schools, however, only 37 percent continue on to college.

To help change the status quo, the American School of Bombay (ASB) provides an alternative to traditional education in India. ASB believes that students learn and perform better when guided by internal motivation.

This international school located in Mumbai strives to be forward-thinking in terms of its less traditional teaching methods and strong ties to technology. The school believes that “teachers are most effective when they facilitate collaborative student learning through a wide variety of media-rich, interactive, and authentic learning experiences.”

In most schools across India, teachers provide lectures that do not deviate from a set curriculum. However at ASB, teachers are willing to let students take the lead on getting involved in projects that suit their personal interests and skills. One example of such a project is Plugged In, where tech-savvy students decided that they wanted to impart their knowledge to other children in Mumbai who did not have the same access to technology.

The ASB students did not know until arriving that the less fortunate school where they volunteered had no access to a computer, and they were forced to work around this obstacle.

At the end of the program, the volunteers were able to donate a computer to one student who had excelled, only to discover that his family could not afford electricity. This discovery, however, led the ASB students to embark on a new project of developing a power source that can be fueled by burning trash.

Receiving an education is an important hallmark of ascension out of poverty to the middle class. Project-based learning offers an alternative to students who drop out of school if they do not perform well on board exams.

Furthermore, many projects that students engage in offer new and inventive methods of reducing poverty. Project-based learning gives hands-on practice for improving the quality of life for people living in poverty.

It allows students to take a role of leadership and find what works for them to make use of their natural drive. When it comes to her students, one ASB teacher felt that it is important to “be their partner in learning and mentor them to a place where they can take off.”

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Pixabay

A child’s right to education is threatened most during times of crisis — whether by natural disasters or war. Here are six facts explaining how crises affect education globally:

  1. According to UNICEF, one in four children ages 3 to 18-years-old are living in 35 countries affected by crises.
  2. The organization reports that there are 75 million children around the world who are seriously in need of academic support. However, less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid goes to education.
  3. During emergencies, schools are often repurposed to serve as shelters. As such, many children are displaced and as a result lose access to books, school supplies and school itself.
  4. Children that do not attend school are more susceptible to childhood marriage, army recruitment, abuse and exploitation. In addition to protecting children from these dangers, school gives children routine, stability, friends and support from teachers.
  5. According to UNICEF, over 6,000 schools in Syria are currently closed due to attacks, military occupations or because they are being used as shelters. In the Central African Republic, a quarter of primary schools, about 500, are not in session.
  6. In the most poverty stricken communities, when a child does not attend school for more than one year, it is unlikely that the child will return. In addition, it is 2.5 times more likely for girls to permanently leave school than boys, according to UNICEF.

The Education Cannot Wait Fund and #EmergencyLessons education campaigns are leading the way to make education a priority, during and after crises. UNICEF launched Education Cannot Wait at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016. The fund is dedicated to supporting global education during emergencies.

Education Cannot Wait aims to close the $8.5 million funding gap and reach the 75 million children who are out of school by 2030.

In addition to The Education Cannot Wait Fund, the #EmergencyLessons education campaign was launched by UNICEF and the European Union on May 16, 2016, to stress the importance of childhood education during emergencies.

The campaign shares the personal stories and experiences of adolescents living in emergencies through social media. #EmergencyLessons targets young Europeans with the goal of inspiring awareness and support for the children whose education has been interrupted.

“Our message today is not that children need education even in emergencies, it’s that children need education especially in emergencies,” stated Queen Rania of Jordan at an Education Cannot Wait event.

Education Cannot Wait and #EmergencyLessons are working to make education a focus alongside food, water and shelter during and post periods of instability. Through these education campaigns, countries have the opportunity to empower young girls, promote economic growth and build more resilient communities.

Erica Rawles

Photo: Flickr