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Efforts to Improve Girls Education in Djibouti
Educating young people is one of the first steps to decreasing extreme poverty in many underdeveloped countries of the world. In Djibouti, this fact has been recognized and progress is being made to educate children. The special attention is on educating young girls in the country.

Statistics of Education in Djibouti

In four short years, between 2002 and 2006, net school enrollment in Djibouti rose from 43 percent to 66 percent. This was viewed as amazing progress at the time, but it was still unsatisfactory. In order to meet the standards of the Millenium Development Goals, Djibouti needed to lessen the statistic that showed that one of three children is not attending school. The final goal of the government is to get all its boys and girls into school.

Within the statistic mentioned above, the majority of the children not attending school were girls. To fix this, the focus was on bettering girls’ education in the country. Two organizations that have done an amazing job on girls education in Djibouti are UNICEF and Global Partnership for Education Efforts.

UNICEF Efforts

UNICEF discovered, without any surprise, that the main reasons why girls are not enrolled in schools were directly correlated with poverty and social problems. These reasons included the fact that most of the girls out of school were orphans, homeless and neglected. Other factors that affected this statistic were health problems and disabilities.

UNICEF implemented the Basic Education and Gender Equality Program which was composed of three components: equal access to educational facilities, quality of primary education and non-formal education. Each component had subtopics within them.

The most important and impactful ones were social mobilization efforts, creating mass media educational systems, promoting child-friendly school systems, increasing teacher training, increasing women involvement in teaching, better access for children from rural areas and the development of alternative teaching methods.

Global Partnership for Education Efforts

The Global Partnership for Education Efforts partnered with the Djibouti government for the first time in 2006. Their education sector plan for the country is a nine-year program, planned from 2010 to 2019.

This organization has very similar goals as UNICEF, which makes sense since these are partner programs. However, it is still important that yet another organization pushes hard for equal education rights in the country.

The program has six main objectives. The first is developing a pre-school system that connects rural, urban, private and public sectors so that everyone receives the same education across the board. For primary education, their second goal is to have 100 percent of eligible children enrolled by 2019. They have settled for 79 percent for secondary education, understanding the need to work in some situations.

The third goal is to eliminate the gender disparity. The organization understands the importance of bridging the gap between genders so that girls can become future leaders, teachers and lawmakers who will continue to fight for equal rights for all citizens in Djibouti. This goal is the most important one from the standpoint of improving the girls’ education in Djibouti. The remaining goals all have to do with reform on every level that interacts with the education system in Djibouti. Global Partnership for Education has many strategies that they are using to reach these goals.

The government of Djibouti has been aware of the need to increase school enrollment of girls since the early 21st century. Since then, they have been working with organizations like UNICEF and Global Partnership to fix disparities.

Being aware and making moves to fix things are some of the most important steps to fixing a problem, especially one concerning poverty and education rights. The fight for increasing girls’ education in Djibouti is not over yet.

Global Partnership still regularly updates their progress on the matter, with their most recent article being from October 2018. Keeping hope alive and working together matters most in these harsh times.

Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in BurundiAt then end of June this year, the Ministry of Education in Burundi decided to ban pregnant girls and teenage fathers from attending school. Girls have always been treated unfairly in comparison to boys when it comes to education, and this new ban is just another example. Although the ban feigns equality by giving teenage fathers the boot: the solution is faulty.

Teenage Pregnancy in Burundi

To begin with, all children deserve the right to education and should not be denied it on the premise of pregnancy. Secondly, there is no access to a reliable method to establish a teenage boy’s paternity. The ban is inherently biased against girls because they cannot hide their pregnancy. Since teenage pregnancy is an issue, girls’ education in Burundi will be affected by this restriction because fewer girls will be able to attend school.

The impact of this new law has the potential to be irreparably damaging, as 11 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in Burundi are sexually active. Additionally, 40 percent of victims of sexual or physical violence in Burundi are teenage girls. There is simply no way for the Ministry of Education to police sexual violence in order for it to entirely stop affecting girls of school-age. The ban does nothing but punish girls for a situation they have no control over.

Other countries such as Morocco and Sudan have also taken measures in an attempt to prevent premarital sex. The laws they have in place allow young girls to face criminal charges for adultery and extramarital sex. They can also be expelled from school. Officials have stated the laws are necessary to punish girls for “moral failures.”

Poverty and Girls’ Education in Burundi

Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world, with 65 percent of its population living below the poverty line. Living in a low-income region already is detrimental to girls’ education in Burundi. Girls’ families often cannot afford school supplies and the quality of education is not good either.

The last thing girls need are more roadblocks to getting their education. The new ban on attending school while pregnant perpetuates stigmas and isolate young girls socially. These girls are often already financially disadvantaged and ostracizing them from the school system puts them in a much less supported and dangerous place.

Some countries have policies that allow girls to re-enter school after being expelled. However, it is common for these systems to have many deterrents for girls to actually re-enter. Medical exams and an extended maternity leave are just a few examples.

After a young girl has been ostracized and humiliated, it is unlikely she will want to return to pick up from where she left off. The re-entry programs make the system seem a little more humane. But when thought about realistically, they probably will not provide girls with more opportunity.

Girls’ education in Burundi has a long way to go after the passing of this law. Surpassing financial obstacles in an impoverished country to get an education is hard enough on its own. Girls should not have to live in the fear of losing their shot at getting an education because of a situation that they are not responsible for.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in Costa RicaCosta Rica is a country known for its dedication to its diverse environment. But less known is its dedication to educating its youth, predominantly girls. The range of resources offered throughout the country, whether institutional or grassroots oriented, are just as diverse as its environment. The following are ten facts that help illuminate the successes and improvements of girls’ education in Costa Rica.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Costa Rica

  1. As of 2018, four percent of the country’s total GNP, one-fourth of the national government budget, was given to education. More money is spent on education in Costa Rica than any other Latin American country.
  2. In 1869, the country made education free and compulsory for all citizens. After this mandate, the number of schools in the educational system have risen to more than 4,000. The World Bank reports as of 2016 that girls’ educational participation at the primary school level is 96.6 percent, with secondary school enrollment at 84.5 percent.
  3. Girls’ enrollment at the tertiary level of education in Costa Rica is 60.9 percent, which is much higher than the male enrollment at the same level who have a participation of 46.6 percent. This participation in higher education is substantial. The world’s average percentage of girls enrolled at the tertiary level of education is only 38.9 percent.
  4. UNICEF reports as of 2012 that girls ages 15 to 24 years old have a literacy rate of 98.7 percent in Costa Rica. This rate exceeds the literacy rate for males, which is 97.9 percent.
  5. There are several programs for girls’ education in Costa Rica that include sustainable development. Sulá Batsú is a local organization that targets young women, specifically in low-income communities, and provides education on technology. By integrating the arts and cultural practices into the process, girls learn more than just technical skills. They also learn how to incorporate their unique identities into the work they produce. The organization has seen the success of 250 students in their technology camps in 2018 alone.
  6. February 15, 2017, marked the inaugural event of the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science in the country. Along with the U.N., this celebration aimed to encourage girls’ education in Costa Rica in science-related fields. Positions in these fields have been traditionally held by men; only 28 percent of researchers are women. Science is viewed not only as the main component of creating a sustainable society aimed at protecting the planet but is also seen as a path to eradicating poverty.
  7. Young girls engaged in STEM are reaching unprecedented rates in Costa Rica. In 2014, at the Twenty-sixth Math Olympiad, 66 medals were given to 132 high school students who had achieved success in the final events of the academic competition. Of these 132 students, a high number of finalists were girl students. This trend was also seen at the Fifth Robotics Olympiad in Costa Rica, where many of the teams had girl participants and some groups being formed solely of females.
  8. The World Bank estimates that of the 4.85 million people living in the country, 1.1 million live in poverty. The Women’s Empowerment Coalition in the country is aimed at helping impoverished girls and women to ensure that they reach a higher standard of living through education. The Coalition works by educating socially vulnerable girls, ensuring they achieve a high school education and job placement assistance. The organization’s model is “collaborative, reciprocal and relational.” The classes are self-paced and mentoring, educational materials and resources are provided to students to assist them in achieving U.S. high school diploma equivalencies. The Coalition has reached over 4,000 women and girls thus far.
  9. Mujeres en Tecnología en Acción (Women in Technology in Action) was launched in January of 2015 and is an organization aimed at promoting the participation of girls in science and technology-related fields in Costa Rica. The group identifies girls aged 15 to 19 living in communities at social risk and invites them to take part in the program. Participating girls learn skills that will better serve them in technology-based careers, such as leadership, entrepreneurship and female empowerment.
  10. UNESCO has worked with the government to identify a list of goals to be reached by 2030. Several of the goals center on educational standards, which will be implemented throughout the country. UNESCO identifies girls as being vulnerable to poverty if not properly educated at an early age. As of 2016, less than 6,000 girls had dropped out of school, a significant decrease from the 2011 record of 10,000. This progress illustrates the dedication to girls’ education in Costa Rica as a means of eradicating poverty country-wide.

Costa Rica has taken strides to ensure that its population consists of well-educated, globally-minded citizens. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Costa Rica exemplify how an already progressive state will continue to work hard to maintain this standard well into the future.

 – Taylor Jennings
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Girls' Education in UgandaGirls’ education in Uganda varies from region to region. The gender gap has become smaller; however, there are serious issues holding back the progress of the development of girls’ education. Below are 10 facts about girls’ education in Uganda that highlight the obstacles as well as the benefits proven to be derived from the continuation of a girls’ education.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Uganda

  1. The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) reported that more than 700,000 girls in Uganda between the ages of six to 12 have never attended school. In fact, around half of girls between the ages of 15 to 24 are illiterate and four in five girls do not attend high school.
  2. A large contributor to low female literacy rates and school attendance rates is that up to 40 percent of girls in Uganda are married before the age of 18. Around 10 percent of these girls are married before the age of 15. Around 35 percent of girls drop out due to marriage and 23 percent drop out due to pregnancy. In contrast, allowing girls to continue through secondary education significantly reduces the chances of early marriage and childbearing.
  3. In Uganda, teenage pregnancy rates are some of the highest in the world. The national average is 24 percent; however, statistics change from region to region. The poorest regions have the highest percentage of teenage pregnancy.
  4. Poverty is the largest contributor to low standards in girls’ education in Uganda. Though education is free, school supplies and uniforms are not. Because of this, when faced with either sending a son or a daughter to school, a son’s education will usually be prioritized.
  5. Because of the high poverty rates, girls are usually expected to work as a way to increase the family’s income. The Global Partnership for Education reported that especially in rural areas, local traditions dictate that girls can be married in exchange for a dowry, a sum of money given to the daughter’s family as payment.
  6. Uneducated girls are highly susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases as well as other health complications. Health issues put girls at a risk of not continuing their education. In 2015, around 567 young people between the ages of 15 to 24 contracted HIV/AIDS on a weekly basis. A staggering 363 of these young adults were female.
  7. Girls are less likely to attend school during their menstrual cycle which creates gaps in a girl’s education. This is caused by inadequate infrastructure and resources for good hygiene in schools, especially for girls. Furthermore, girls often feel ashamed and embarrassed about their cycle because women’s health education is not a priority.
  8. Statistics show that educated mothers are more than twice as likely to ensure the education of their children. They are also more likely to earn higher wages than an uneducated person. A World Bank report shows that there would be a 14 percent rise in a girl’s wage if she would continue her education rather than get married.
  9. Educating girls would see a reduction in child marriage and births. This is closely linked to lower mortality rates as well. It would also greatly improve the standard of living across Uganda and reduce poverty rates.
  10. Educated women are more likely to invest back into their families. Roughly 90 percent of an income will usually go back to the family.

While the Ugandan education system has progressed and policies have been adopted, the lack of enforcement is the real issue. There must be further investment in the future of girls and their education; as these facts about girls’ education in Uganda illustrate, investing in girls would benefit the country in immeasurable ways.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in ThailandOver the last several years, Thailand has made impressive progress in reducing poverty. It has gone down from 67 percent in 1986 to only 7.2 percent in 2015. While there has been considerable progress made, poverty is still a major problem in Thailand, especially among children. The following are 10 important facts about child poverty in Thailand.

10 Facts About Child Poverty in Thailand

  1. It is estimated that about one million children in Thailand are living in vulnerable conditions. Child poverty in Thailand is a serious issue. These vulnerable individuals include children that live in poverty, have lost their parents, have a disability or have been forced to live on the streets.
  2. Child labor has long been a problem. It is estimated that more than eight percent of children between ages five and 14 are involved in the workforce. Impoverished children have no option but to enter into factory work, fishery work, construction or agriculture. Young children are also often forced into the commercial sex industry. Riley Winter, a student who recently traveled to Thailand, told The Borgen Project she witnessed children were giving tourists foot massages for just a small amount of money.
  3. Around 380,000 children have been left as orphans by the AIDS epidemic. This greatly affects child poverty in Thailand; many of these children are forced to live on the streets or enter the workforce because they have no one to care for them. It is also estimated that 200 to 300 children will be born HIV-positive each year.
  4. Poor children in Thailand do not have full access to medical care. Out of the 20,000 children are affected by HIV/AIDS, only 1,000 of them have access to medical care.
  5. Children are being exploited. Thailand has become wealthier and, consequently, trafficking networks have been expanding to poorer and isolated children in the country. Child poverty in Thailand has led these children to enter commercial sexual exploitation.
  6. Child poverty in Thailand makes it difficult for poorer children to remain in school. They do not have access to the necessary tools to succeed and remain in school so they are often forced to drop out. The wealthiest group has 81.6 percent of children of primary school age enter grade one while only 65.3 percent of the poorest group enter grade one.
  7. Arranged marriages are very prevalent in Thailand today. A man from a wealthy family is often chosen because the dowry system is still utilized in Thailand. The wealthy man will give the bride’s parents money in exchange for her hand in marriage. This happens in poor communities in Thailand very often, taking away the possibility for the impoverished girl to receive future education, among other things.
  8. Children are being forced to live on the streets due to things like violence, abuse and poverty. These children often beg or sell small goods for just a bit of money each day. They are at risk of poor health and lack of nutrition.
  9. Children are being left in rural communities. Thailand’s economy has been moving away from the agricultural sector and more money can be made in urban areas. Parents are forced to go to work in bigger cities like Bangkok, and children are often left in the care of someone else in rural villages.Parents send money back to their family but children often only get to see their parents one to two times a year. Although the parents are making more money, leaving their children comes with a risk. Children left in these rural communities are at risk of malnutrition and developmental and behavioral issues.
  10. Since the 1990s, child poverty in Thailand has been rapidly improving. The number of child deaths has decreased, literacy rates have dramatically increased, fewer children are malnourished and there are more children in school and less in the workforce.

There have been countless efforts made in Thailand to address child poverty but there is still a lot of work to be done. The nation has set long-term economic goals to be reached by 2036. These goals address economic stability, human capital and equal economic opportunities. These goals will be crucial going forward to help fight child poverty in Thailand.

– Ronni Winter
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of EducationAccess to education is an ongoing civil rights struggle. Education is not only the accumulation of knowledge but also a chance for students to go beyond their current limitations. The following is a list of 10 of the most important benefits of education.

10 Major Benefits of Education

  1. Improved Health: In developing countries, students are forced to miss school for about 500 million days per year because of sickness. Furthermore, one of the benefits of education for mothers is increasing the survival of her child; a child is 50 percent more likely to live past five years old, 50 percent more likely to be immunized and twice as likely to attend school than children of uneducated mothers.
  1. Individual Economic Growth: With education comes opportunities to advance in life. One extra year spent at school increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10 percent. There is a positive correlation between literacy rates and high per capita income; education can give someone the chance to increase personal wealth. These benefits of education give people the skillset and knowledge to improve their lives.
  1. National Economic Growth: Educated civilians would also contribute to the economic growth of their entire country. For example, each additional year of schooling raising the average annual GDP growth by 0.37 percent. Also, providing education for children has a greater benefit than initial cost. The cost of 250 million children not attending school and not learning the basics of education is equivalent to a loss of $129 billion per year. Therefore, education not only advances the country’s economy but also saves the country from major losses.
  1. Reduction of Poverty: Poverty is a major reason why people in rural communities are unable to attend school. However, education is extremely important in reducing poverty. For instance, if adults had two more years of schooling, a total of 60 million adults would be able to take advantage of more opportunities and escape poverty. Also, if more children were given secondary education, about 20 million people would be lifted out of poverty. This would mean that the number of impoverished people worldwide would reduce by at least 50 percent.
  1. Gender Equality: Sending daughters to school can be quite expensive for impoverished families, so many choose not to. This leads to women being paid less for their work which prevents them from being able to sustain themselves independently. However, one additional year spent at school can increase a woman’s earnings by 10 to 20 percent.
  1. Reduction of Child Marriage: In rural communities, the value of a male child can be greater than that of a female child. As a result, if a family has to choose between financing the education of their son or their daughter, the son often gets priority while daughters are left to focus on domestic life. This leads to an increase of child marriage. Over 60 percent of uneducated girls marry before the age of 18.
  1. Reduction of Child Mortality: One of the benefits of education is having educated parents as it reduces the probability of child mortality. For example, UNICEF found that babies born to young mothers under 18 years old have a 60 percent increased risk of infant mortality than other babies. In 2008, an estimated 1.8 million children’s lives could have been saved in sub-Saharan Africa if their mothers had secondary education or more.
  1. Self-Dependency: Through education, girls all over the globe are able to build self-reliance and independence through education. Receiving an education allows girls to become empowered women who can fight against poverty. Furthermore, education provides individuals with a promising and secure future for better opportunities and lives. In rural areas, education allows people to overcome poverty by expanding their knowledge and using them to lead better and healthier lives.
  1. Better Community: An educated individual has a greater chance of contributing to the community. Literate people are more likely to participate in the democratic process and exercise their civil rights while uneducated people may turn to crime and violence to sustain themselves. This can lead to an increase of conflict in the community because impoverished people do not see any other way to survive. Thus, an important benefit of education is educated people working together toward a better and safer community.

Places with fewer resources and fewer guarantees of survival are often stuck in an endless cycle of poverty throughout generations. Restricting education can lead to stunted economic growth and unstable social and political conditions. By ensuring that access to education is uncontested to all communities, society can benefit from an educated population.

– Jenny S Park
Photo: Flickr

Preschool Education Reduces PovertyEducation has always been a catalyst to development and growth in nations. Policymakers have focused on improving primary and secondary education to foster growth in all aspects of developing countries. Foreign superpowers have focused their aid efforts on helping to build the infrastructure for these schools to varying success. An aspect of the education system that is often overlooked by these domestic and international efforts is preschool or preprimary education.

How Preschool Education Reduces Poverty

A common stereotype has created a disparity of funding and attention between preprimary education and the levels above it. Firstly, many believe that preschool does not have an impact on future student outcomes. It is true that poverty has little effect on the cognitive abilities of a baby, but once children enter primary education, there are noticeable inequalities between wealthier students and poorer students such as trouble focusing in the classroom and behavioral issues. This inequality extends to foundational skills such as reading and writing.

Around the world, 130 million children in developing nations are enrolled in primary education but are illiterate. Providing access to preschool education in these developing nations will produce plentiful benefits for these children and continually increase literacy in students entering primary school. Preschool education reduces poverty by giving students the opportunity to develop rudimentary skills at younger ages, which allows these students to tackle more challenging concepts earlier than they would without a preschool background.

Aglaia Zafeirakou, a senior education specialist at the World Bank, found compelling evidence that students with preschool experience achieved more in each stage of their educational career. She observed that students who attended preschool, on average, scored higher on literacy, vocabulary and mathematics than non-attenders.

An additional 2009 PISA survey showed that in 58 of 65 countries, 15-year-old students who had attended at least a year of preprimary school outperformed students who had not, even after accounting for socioeconomic background. The impact of affordable preprimary education also extended into the primary schools themselves. Primary schools saw significant cost savings and increased efficiency in areas where an affordable preprimary school was available to families.

Improvements in Preschool Education in Developing Nations

The overwhelming evidence that shows that preschool education reduces poverty has empowered families of all socioeconomic backgrounds to demand preprimary opportunities for their children. NGOs and developing nations have valiantly responded to these demands and have improved the educational careers of millions of children.

Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania have all adopted policies that include preprimary education in the basic education cycle along with primary education. They have coupled this with significant investment and expansion in access to preprimary institutions.

Ghana, in particular, abolished preprimary school fees, which has drastically increased enrollment and attainment in its preschools. The efforts of these countries have inspired systematic change throughout the whole of Africa. The continent has seen an 84 percent increase in preschool enrollment between 1999 and 2015.

While this huge increase in enrollment will improve the educational careers of millions of students, there is still more work to be done. The impressive 84 percent increase was mainly due to significant institutional changes in seven African countries. Still, only two percent of children attend preschool in Mali, Burkina Faso, Somalia and many of the poorest nations in Africa.

Bettering the Lives of Children Through Education

Some of the most impoverished developing nations are still struggling to provide the necessary access to preprimary education that others have. Fortunately, NGOs have contributed significant efforts to help supplement nationwide projects to increase access to preprimary education in developing countries.

For example, local NGOs in Bangladesh have helped build over 1,800 preschools across the nation. Bangladesh remains one of the poorest nations in the world, but with the help of NGOs, it can ensure better educational outcomes for its young children.

Preschool helps children develop the foundational skills to take on more challenging concepts in primary school. This effect reverberates at each stage of the educational journey, which makes students more successful in their careers as well. It is clear that preschool education reduces poverty, but the effects are best maximized by improving affordability and accessibility in developing countries.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Flickr

Girls' education in ThailandThailand, a country located in Southeast Asia, has made great strides toward educating its population. From 1985 to 2005, the country had exceptional growth in its real income per capita and it is no secret that socioeconomic factors play a role in gender equality.

Because of economic growth and modernization, Thailand has continued to work toward a more equal society from its traditional male dominated society. Although the great advances in girls’ education must not go unnoticed, it is also worth noting there are still challenges in girls’ education. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Thailand that everyone should know.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Thailand

  1. Thailand’s Ministry of Education grants all children a twelve-year education, and under the 1999 Education Act, “all children, without discrimination” have a right “to a quality education.”
  2. Thailand has been one of four countries in Asia to successfully promote the right to girls’ education.
  3. Between the years 2005 to 2010, the primary school completion rate for girls in school was 89 percent while the completion rate for boys was 97 percent.
  4. Analyst Liza Romanow mentioned in the Global Majority E-journal that “educational opportunities for women in Thailand are improving. While there are still fewer girls than boys attending primary school, the gender gap has decreased considerably from slightly more than eight percent in 1971 to slightly less than two percent in 2009.”
  5. Challenges that continue to hinder girls’ education in Thailand include discrimination amongst marginalized groups, poverty, language and transportation to school.
  6. A further challenge is that some material taught in public schools perpetuates a cycle of gender inequality in all aspects of society. An example presented by the World Bank is a study that randomly selected 538 textbooks in schools and found that women represented in the textbooks were limited to playing small roles in society like marital duties rather than men who were represented as having superior positions in society.
  7. In 1977, Thailand’s agricultural sector improved, opening an increasing number of jobs for men. At the same time, cities began gaining more wealth. Because of the country’s economic growth and increasing amount of job opportunities in urban areas, women were able to actually have more opportunity in higher education than men and many were able to enter different industries in the city.
  8. Although women have more opportunities than men in higher education, there is still a disparity in earnings. While there has been significant progress since 1985 (when the average male was making 34 percent more than his female counterpart), in 2005, men still received nine percent more than women in the workplace.
  9. Thailand’s Ministry of Education has begun working with the U.N. to become the first country to adopt a U.N. policy toolkit to promote STEM education among Thai girls. Although 53 percent of science students in higher education are female, less than 24 percent of women study engineering, manufacturing and construction studies.
  10. In 1998, the Child-Friendly School (CFS) initiative was launched in order to promote education for all, and many of CFS’s activities are ongoing in Thailand today.

Every girl deserves the right to education. Thailand’s government has done tremendous work to promote girls’ education in the country but recognizes that it still has work to do. With combined efforts between the Thai government and international organizations, Thailand can continue to support and improve the well-being of girls’ education.

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in Sierra LeoneAs is true in many countries around the globe, female education in Sierra Leone has lacked greatly throughout the nation’s history. Remnants of severe educational inequality still persist with males leading their female counterparts in literacy rates at all levels of education. While the country as a whole faces extreme poverty, it is females who suffer the most. In times of desperation, many young women are forced to leave school in order to work at home or find a husband. As a result, the current state of girls’ education in Sierra Leone is underemphasized and unjust, however, we may be embarking on a new era in female empowerment.

A Turning Point for Sierra Leone

The last decade has proved to be a turning point for the nation and its female population. Beginning in 2007, Sierra Leone became a member of the Global Partnership for Education. Through its commitment to the organization and the reciprocal aid received in the process, Sierra Leone was able to redesign its Education Sector Plan and offer new resources to females across the country.

This new plan not only focused on increased access to free pre-primary education (ages three to five) but also enhanced its commitment on the backend, strengthening equitable access to senior education by providing more scholarships to female students. As the country enters into more formal relationships with international groups, such as the U.K. Department for International Development, girls’ education in Sierra Leone is undergoing a remarkable transition.

Improving Girls’ education in Sierra Leone

In addition to government-sponsored relief, other organizations have also implemented innovative programs that increase the focus on girls’ education in Sierra Leone and create an atmosphere where such a focus is of utmost concern. UNICEF now annually supports a Girls’ Education Week which is formally run by the Education Ministry. The fact that such a program is now receiving national attention demonstrates the changing public attitude in regard to girls’ education in Sierra Leone.

Girl Child Network, a nonprofit organization that works around the globe, is currently implementing crucial outlets for girls to be protected, be treated as individuals and be able to receive quality educational materials throughout Sierra Leone. The organization offers leadership training programs, which aim to build confidence in young women and girls.

It is also currently implementing Girls Empowerment Villages that offer a place of refuge where abused girls can stay. Now protected, these girls have the ability to pursue education and receive quality information that is disseminated within the villages.

Effects of Girls’ Access to Education

While relief and equal access programs are vital in transforming girls’ education in Sierra Leone, it is important to see the true effectiveness of this recent movement. According to the Global Partnership for Education, the gender gap between primary enrollment and primary completion rate has decreased since 2012. While the male enrollment rate has not changed dramatically, female enrollment has been on a steady increase and completion rates have skyrocketed.

As of now, improvements to girls’ education in Sierra Leone are still underway and the eventual outcome cannot yet be determined. However, the success of recent years and the amount of campaigns and groups that continue to operate on behalf of girls and their education nationwide is promising. National commitment to this movement, combined with international aid, is creating the foundation for a stable future in female education in Sierra Leone.

– Ryan Montbleau
Photo: Flickr

girls' education in ParaguayIn eastern Paraguay, both deforestation and poverty continue to run rampant among inhabitants of the Atlantic Forest. An area wherein a majority of the people are uneducated, girls continue to be largely denied access to an adequate education.

Statistics On Girls’ Education in Paraguay

The literacy rate of girls 15-24 years old in Paraguay has risen to 98.62 percent as of 2015. However, while a majority of girls in the country are literate, the retainment rate of girls in schools is low. From completion of primary school to upper secondary school, the participation of girls drops 25 percent, from 86 to 61 percent. Additionally, as of 2012, 42,486 female children and 29,531 female adolescents remain out of school.

Approximately 70 percent of girls in the area are pregnant by age 16, largely due to poor education and impoverished living conditions for women. One school, the Centro Educativo Mbaracayu, is seeking to alleviate these problems and help girls’ education in Paraguay.

The Centro Educativo Mbaracayu

Founded in 2009, the Centro Educativo Mbaracayu is a boarding school exclusively for girls. The school sits on the Mbaracayu Forest Nature Reserve, which protects the largest portion of the remaining Atlantic Forest. Although the Atlantic Forest contains hundreds of native and endangered species, only about 7 percent of the original forest remains. The Centro Educativo Mbaracayu, started by the NGO Fundación Paraguaya, teaches its students to take care of the forest around them while also educating them in other areas.

The school exclusively caters to rural and indigenous girls, a group severely disadvantaged by the Paraguayan education system. One of the benefits of the forest school is the cost accessibility for its students. Tuition is free for indigenous girls and is 100,000 guaraní (approximately $17.50) for non-indigenous girls. Centro Educativo Mbaracayu is able to keep costs low for its students by operating self-sufficiently.

One of the important aspects of the schools’ curriculum is its focus on reproductive and sexual education. The severe lack of reproductive education in Paraguay is arguably one of the main causes of young pregnancies in the country. By promoting reproductive health and sexual education, instructors at Centro Educativo Mbaracayu hope to help their students achieve their degrees — not only as a tool to achieve better socioeconomic standing, but also to instill confidence and self-worth into the girls.

Beyond sexual education, the school teaches the girls techniques for agribusinesses and IT skills. Students can also study differing applied skills specializing in textiles, tourism and environmental management. All classes are taught alongside and in accordance to national Paraguayan educational standards, in order to broaden girls’ education in Paraguay while still complying with national standards.

Graduating from Centro Educativo Mbaracayu

Upon graduating from Centro Educativo Mbaracayu, students receive high school diplomas in Environmental Sciences as technicians and are highly encouraged to pursue higher education.

Since its founding the school has graduated Paraguay’s first female forest ranger, two primary school teachers in the community and a hopeful future president, just to name a few. More importantly, every girl at the school leaves knowing her worth and having learned many invaluable skills.

While living and learning at the school, a community is formed. A community that highly values its female students and its forest environment. The girls are taught to care for the forest and the animal inhabitants within it while gaining skills in sustainable forestry.

The goal of the school is rehabilitation and growth. Rehabilitation for the shrinking forest and growth for Paraguayan girls who have previously been undereducated. By teaching and taking care of the region’s girls, the school is in turn taking care of its forest and starting a movement for better girls’ education in Paraguay.

– Savannah Hawley
Photo: Flickr