Children are out of school: The original Millnenium Development Goals, set in 2000, aimed for every primary school-aged child in the world to be in school by 2015. At the time, 100 million children ages 6 to 11 were out of school. By 2012, significant progress had been made, but 58 million children were still out of school. However, as of 2015, that progress has been reversed, and the number of children who are not currently attending school has risen to 59 million. Looking at a wider age range, the discouraging trend still holds true. In 2011, 122 million children ages 6 to 15 were out of school, but by 2013, the number had increased to 124 million.

2015 marks the end of the MDG’s timeline, and 9 percent of primary school-aged children worldwide are still denied the right to education. 41 percent of these children have never set foot in a classroom and most likely never will, 20 percent had attended school in the past but were unable to continue for a variety of reasons and 38 percent will likely start late. The issue is worse in certain countries, with at least one million children denied the right to education in India, Indonesia, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Tanzania.

Children are barred from receiving an education for various reasons. Child laborers often struggle to balance work with school and have a high risk of dropping out: this is the reality for 168 million children ages 5 to 17 worldwide. Between 93 and 150 children live with a disability, and may lack accessible school buildings, properly trained teachers and appropriate materials. Furthermore, in some areas there is a social stigma against children with disabilities attending school. Language barriers also present a challenge for the 40 percent of students worldwide who lack access to education in their mother tongue, an issue which primarily affects children from marginalized or isolated ethnic groups. The gender gap in education is also concerning: over half of out-of-school children are girls, and poor girls from rural areas with uneducated mothers are the ones most likely to not go to school. Contributing factors to girls’ lower attendance rates include rigid gender roles, gender-based violence and menstruation.

Currently, one of the largest barriers to educational access is conflict. 36 percent of out-of-school children live in countries affected by violent conflict. This can stem from political changes and war or organized crime and gang warfare, and poses multiple threats to education. Lives are lost and schools can be destructed or repurposed. Entire communities can be displaced and families dispersed. Students may stop attending school out of fear for their own safety. Families affected by conflict often find themselves worse off financially than before, making it even more unlikely that their children will complete their education.

Several solutions have been proposed to keep more children in school. Many are advocating for more humanitarian aid dedicated to education. Funds are not typically set aside in anticipation of emergency situations that interfere with education: recent examples include the war in Syria and the earthquake in Nepal. Currently, less than 2 percent of aid goes directly to education, and the global education community is now pushing for an increase to 4 percent. However, UNICEF is aiming for even more, with the goal of allotting 10 percent of aid to education specifically for children affected by conflict and natural disaster.

In September 2015, the UN will be implementing a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on universal access to primary and secondary education. This goal is ambitious, but not impossible, and governments must continue to invest money and effort into education until every child is in a classroom.

Jane Harkness

Sources: All in School 1, All in School 2, All in School 3, All in School 4, TES, UNESCO
Photo: Time and Date


Ripped apart by rivers, drenched by monsoons and floating just above the sea, Bangladesh is like the toe that the Himalayas are using to test the waters of the Indian Ocean. All of this exposure to water leads to yearly flooding, an immense challenge for the developing nation of 156 million. From crop loss to infrastructure damage, the costs of flooding are massive hurdles to poverty reduction; the floods in 2004 costed the country seven billion dollars. Perhaps the most insidious impacts of the floods is their disruptive effects on education in Bangladesh.

Founded in 1998, the Bangladesh nonprofit Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, recognized how the floods prohibited students from making it to school and decided to bring the school to them. They achieve this by bringing boats up the flooded waterways, which serve as both school buses and schools.

A fleet of 22 boats sail up the swollen rivers stopping to pick up children before they dock and class begins. Each boat takes around 30 children and has a small library and access to the world’s largest library through computers hooked up to the Internet and powered by solar panels.

With primary school attendance around 80%, increasing access to education is high on the agenda. The boat schools provide classes to an estimated 1,810 children. Although many more remain in need, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha reaches some of the most vulnerable.

What’s more, the boat schools provide critically-needed adult education that focuses on sustainable agriculture, healthcare and climate change adaptation. These programs holistically target the restraints that keep them in poverty.

For example, the climate change workshops help farmers develop production methods, such as floating vegetable gardens and raising fish and ducks, that can endure longer flooding periods and raising sea levels, both of which are effects of a changing climate. The lessons on sustainable agriculture help farmers to reduce erosion and pollution, and increase yields. These programs work together to clean the environment, increase access to food and boost incomes. Healthcare, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha’s other focus, brings medicines and doctors to rural parts of the country that have no access to clinics, keeping the populations healthy throughout the year.

What is even more important is that the success of the floating school model appears to be scalable. Many other parts of the world face similar issues that climate change will exacerbate. Cambodia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Vietnam and Zambia are all testing this innovative development strategy. The humanitarian arm of the United Nations that focuses on children and mothers, UNICEF, praises this method as “having a transformative impact upon education and communities in flood-prone regions.”

– John Wachter

Sources: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, World Bank BBC, UNICEF 1 UNICEF 2
Photo: Tenders On Time

UN Reinventing the Approach to European Roma Poverty-TBP
The Roma people are a large ethnic minority living in Europe whose population totals to 10 to 12 million people. Despite the existence of laws aimed at protecting this group of people from discrimination, the Romas experience harsh prejudices. The lack of opportunities to available to them often keeps them below the poverty line. They have low literacy rates, little access to healthcare centers and high rates of hunger.

The countries with the highest percentage of Roma communities are Macedonia, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, Hungary and Bulgaria. They make up between 7 and 10 percent of the populations of these countries.

Roma people suffer from many health issues, but their access to health insurance is limited. Their cause is further hurt by the high price of healthcare. More than half of Roma households cannot afford prescriptions and about 20 percent say that they have had overnight stays in health centers. (Non-Roma people ranked at 1/3 and about 12 percent, respectively.) Vaccination rates are also low among the Roma, while births outside the hospital are high.

Education is another area where there is a significant lack of support and progress. Because of child marriages, many young girls are taken out of school before they are able to finish. In most of Central and Eastern Europe, about 50 percent of the Roma have, at the very least, a lower secondary education than their non-Roma counterparts. Schools are often ethnically segregated.

The United Nations had a mission to help lower Roma poverty and improve their living conditions. In 2007, the UN opened centers to help the Roma people receive affordable and accessible healthcare and proper education. However, the programs were highly inefficient and slow moving and accomplished little. That is why the UN is out to reinvent the Roma outreach.

After experimenting with three prospective methods in Macedonia to engage the Roma people and to improve their situation, the UN settled on the Roma Centre of the Future.

Using Roma and non-Roma peoples, the centers work to help the Roma people access education, healthcare and other public services. This time, the centers have the skills, knowledge, tools and technology needed to run such an idea efficiently and effectively, with the goal being to reach as many Roma people as possible. The workers help people through complicated paperwork, direct them to opportunities like job trainings and provide useful community programs. There is also a special focus on the elderly, a concentration that did not exist in the earlier programs.

The program is already seeing success. Within the first five months the center reached 820 people, which was more than the old centers used to help in a year! This new, dedicated focus on reaching the needs of the people appears to be working, as the Roma people are seeing the positive effects the centers have on the community and are thus going to these centers for help.

Katherine Hewitt

Sources: EC Europa, UNDP 1, UNDP 2, New Int
Photo: UNDP

Education in Pakistan
The status of education in Pakistan is a bleak one. Officially, the overall literacy rate is 46%, with 26% of girls being literate. However, third party organizations reduce the overall rate to 26% by excluding people who cannot do more than sign their names. It has the second-highest rate of uneducated children worldwide, with 5.1 million kids out of school in 2010. Two-thirds of the children out of school are girls, giving a ratio of 8 educated girls for every 10 educated boys.

There are merely 40,000 schools in the country that serve girls. Moreover, these schools are concentrated in more heavily populated areas, with more remote girls receiving little access to education. In these regions, half of the girls have never attended school. Furthermore, in many of these rural provinces female education is restricted due to religious reasons. In the provinces of Baluchistan and North-West Frontier, female literacy stands at approximately five percent.

Girls in these areas oftentimes enter the workforce early to support their families and many become domestic workers. Khanzadi, a 10-year-old girl from a rural province who works in a wealthy district in Karachi is “lucky she’s with [a rich household] because [they] can spare some food and help her grow,” her mistress says. However, seeing urban girls her age attend school every day makes Khanzadi feel less than fortunate.

Militant groups, including the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and foreign groups, have been based in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas for more than a decade and launch attacks both into Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. Since June 2014, more than one million displaced children have been unable to attend school. Hazrat Zaman, a father of 17 who brought his family across the border to Afghanistan to search for schools before returning to Pakistan, said, “We are completely in the dark about our children’s future.”

Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have stepped in to improve education access for girls in rural provinces. One organization, Alkhidmat, has set up more than 100 informal schools for girls and women to receive a basic education. The organization operates on the belief that women who are educated will help build a stronger, more developed nation.

Needless to say, there are many long-term impacts on a heavily uneducated population. One in three young Pakistani people, or about 12 million people from the ages of 15 to 24, lack the basic skills necessary to be hired. Men earn, on average, 60% more than women. This income gap is widest among illiterate workers. However, education still makes a huge impact on women’s earnings: educated women earn 95% more money than their uneducated counterparts.

– Jenny Wheeler

Sources: IRIN News, UNESCO 1, UNESCO 2,
Photo: Pakistan Today

Education Numbers Surge, but Global Education Gaps RemainThe number of children across the globe attending primary school at the beginning of the 1800s: 2.3 million. This number has surged to 700 million today. But despite this gigantic increase, primary school children across the developing world still face one major problem: a global education gap between developed and developing countries.

A new Brookings Institution report details just what this problem is: a 100-year gap in the quality of education between developed and developing regions of the world. This means that the average level of education in many poor countries today is the same as the levels of education in places like Europe and North America were in 1900.

Not only is there a 100-year gap between global education in the developed world and the developing world, but the developing world also lags 85 years behind when it comes to educational attainment. It will take average-scoring students in the developing world six generations to catch up to the same scoring students in the developed world today.

Ninety percent of primary school-aged children are enrolled in school around the world – that success should not go unnoticed or without applause. At the end of World War II, only 1 million children attended primary school. In 65 years, this has increased to 7 million. This “going to scale” of education across the world is incredible. The next step, however, is catching the developing world up to the education levels the developed world enjoys today.

How did it get behind in the first place? The idea of mass schooling is available to all young people and not only those with the resources to access it became a mainstream idea in the middle of the 1800s in areas like North America and Europe. Only in 1948, almost 100 years later, with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did this become a concept applied to children across the whole world.

Even with the large enrollment number victory, if the data is broken down in specific regions, the picture is not as pretty. In Sub-Saharan Africa, less than 80 percent of school-aged children attend school.

Another way to examine the gap is by looking at the average number of years of schooling adults have. In 1870, adults in the developed world completed an average of 2.8 years of schooling, while adults in the developing world completed under half that time – 0.5 years.

The average lagged behind, usually with adults in the developing world completing under half the years of education that their counterparts in the developing world did until 2010. For every 12 years that adults in the developed world completed on average, adults in the developing world complete an average of 6.5 years – just over half.

It is imperative that this gap is reduced and eventually banished for good. Besides the idea that morally all children deserve the opportunity to develop in order to thrive in the modern age, there are a couple of other reasons why action should be taken immediately. First, ending the 100-year gap holds the possibility for reform and improved global education. New ways of thinking about education in the developing world have the potential to be helpful to education systems in the developed world and benefit all young people.

Second, there is a skills deficit that has already started – between 2010 and 2030, 360 million people over the age of 55 will retire. At the same time, a 60 percent increase in the global labor force will come from places like Africa, India and other South Asian countries, all places in the developing world. These young people should not be affected by the global education gap, so they can seize their place in the world economy left by the well-educated retirees that came before them. If nothing is done, the 100-year gap will continue into eternity. Changes must be made to ensure this does not happen, for the sake of the world’s children and perhaps the world’s economy as well.

– Greg Baker

Sources: Brookings, BBC MG Africa
Photo: Africa Business Conference

sierra_leone_banIn 2010, Sierra Leone banned visibly pregnant girls from attending school. Schools were shut down for nine months during the Ebola outbreak, but reopened again on April 14, 2015, with the ban still in place.

The ban is in effect because visibly pregnant girls supposedly set a bad example for their classmates. Sierra Leone’s minister of education, Minkailu Bah, argued that “innocent girls” could be influenced by those who are pregnant and pregnancy rates could increase.

Bah’s statement is far from the truth. Having pregnant classmates would most likely cause a drop in pregnancy rates. NPR explains that teen pregnancies in the United States dropped almost 6 percent from watching the MTV show, 16 and Pregnant. Girls who see their classmates pregnant would be less likely to become pregnant themselves.

Sierra Leone is one of the most dangerous places for expectant mothers, with high rates of maternal and child mortality. One-third of pregnant women in Sierra Leone are teenagers. The teenage pregnancy rates and incidences of maternal and child mortality were decreasing before Ebola, but have increased once again. Incidences of sexual violence rose during the Ebola epidemic, and girls, especially those who had lost a relative to Ebola, traded sex for supplies to help them survive.

The ban on educating pregnant girls is also detrimental because many girls see pregnancy as a turning point and are encouraged to work even harder to get an education because they know that they will have to support themselves as well as their children. The fact that girls who are inspired to get an education are not allowed to access it is extremely worrisome. If Sierra Leone lifts its ban, it will give these girls an opportunity to support themselves.

The ban also fails to acknowledge girls who are pregnant as a result of rape. Seventeen-year-old Isatu Gbanky was a student in Sierra Leone but was not allowed to return to school after it reopened because she was pregnant. Isatu said, “I was raped by a fellow student. He forced me to have sex while I was fetching water for my family. I hope the government makes an exception for girls like me.”

Isatu’s story is unfortunately not unique, but the government has yet to lift the ban on pregnancy for either rape victims or those who became pregnant through consensual sex. However, there is hope that the ban will end soon. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Irish Aid and the Department for International Development are working with Sierra Leone, and may be able to come to an agreement over a temporary solution which would involve pregnant girls getting a formal education outside the classroom. Since teenage pregnancy rates in Sierra Leone are so high, if this agreement is reached, it will be extremely significant for education levels throughout the country.

Pregnant girls attending school does not cause higher pregnancy rates. If Sierra Leone wants to lower its rate of teenage pregnancies, it needs to focus on making school cheaper and more accessible, rather than banning pregnant girls who want to attend. Girls who know that they can gain an education and have a future are less likely to get pregnant and more likely to focus on their schooling.

Ashrita Rau

Sources: The Guardian, NPR, VOA, NY Times
Photo: The Huffington Post


If you have paid attention to any type of news recently, you likely know that women’s rights and equality have been a hot topic in the United States. These issues that women face—violence, employment issues, malnutrition and more—only multiple in developing and impoverished areas around the globe.

Among the tribulations women face are violence, malnutrition, lack of education, unemployment, less access to healthcare and family stress. All of these come in different forms, but with more than 3 billion people in the world living in poverty and 60 percent of those being women according to The Hunger Project, these factors influence billions of women and children every day.

Like in most poverty-based situations, there are positive aspects occurring as well as unpleasant and disturbing news.

The Ugly: Violence.

Domestic abuse, sex trafficking, childhood marriage and sexual exploitation all fall into the category of violence but are not limited to those forms of violence. Violence is one of the ugliest problems women around the world face, especially impoverished women.

UN Women reported that female children who are poor are “2.5 times more likely to marry in childhood than those living the wealthiest quintile.” If married as a child, girls’ likelihood to experience some form of sexual exploitation increases due to sexual encounters too early in life that are often forced relations.

On top of early marriage, sex trafficking is a widespread problem around the entire world. Sex trafficking occurs in places from the Mid-West of the United States to Central Europe, to highly impoverished areas of Africa.

This disheartening yet growing epidemic targets impoverished women and children specifically. UN Women classified them as being much more vulnerable to become victims of sex trafficking.

For these women and families living in poverty, changing their abusive reality is rarely an option. “Due to their lack of resources and income,” abusive households can provide some forms of security.

The Bad: Though just as ugly, there are numerous additonal troubles that women face while in poverty.

Malnutrition and a lack of healthcare are two of the largest and most threatening problems that women face. The Hunger Project found that “50 percent of pregnant women in developing countries lack proper maternal care,” which results in at least 240,000 deaths annually from pregnancies and childbirth.

The Hunger Project also reported that “1 out of 6 infants are born with a low birth weight in developing countries,” which is due to malnutrition and uncared for health issues in women.

In developing and impoverished areas, healthcare is scarce enough at it is. When healthcare is provided, males are often treated first because of their presumed ability to work more and hold more worth.

This often leaves women and children sickly and untreated. In most situations, men perform agricultural work to sell while women grow food for the family and tend to the children. If unwell, providing for and taking care of the family can become near impossible for these women.

Being uncared for and underfeed trickles down through the families. Nearly 45 percent of deaths in children the age of 5 are due to poor nutrition. With more than 3 million child deaths each year, an average of 8,500 children are dying each day due to malnutrition and a lack of healthcare. Most of these children, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, are under the age of 5.

The difficulties of finding work and education as a women, can be added stressors. Again, work and education are luxuries in most developing countries, which when provided, often go to male prospects before women.

With such a disadvantage at hand, women face more obstacles in becoming educated and able to find a superior job that will allow them to take better care of their families.

The Good: Finally, there is good news for women in developing and impoverished areas.

More and more people around the globe are becoming informed about poverty and its difficulties especially for women and children. Poverty for any gender is a constant struggle, but the added stress for women is becoming increasingly apparent.

Through news outlets and by word of mouth, talk about poverty and ways to end it is spreading. Because of the work of organizations like The Hunger Project, UN Women, The Borgen Project and countless more, support and assistance is being sent to the most impoverished corners of the world.

A UN Women-supported project has begun to train families and women on how to become entrepreneurs of their own businesses and the economic ins and outs of it. The program has provided training for “more than 5,000 families in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan” so far and is equipping them with needed resources.

This is one example of the many organizations and projects that are working to improve the livelihood of people around the world and for women in poverty. Continuing to raise awareness regarding the overwhelming and frightening facts of our world is the first step to ending poverty for all genders and all ages.

– Katherine Wyant

Sources: UN Women, FAO, The Hunger Project
Photo: Grameen Foundation

Education empowers individuals and gives them a chance to escape poverty. This idea is so accepted and powerful that one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls to “Achieve Universal Primary Education.”

However, what is next for those who have achieved primary education? If a person has a primary or even secondary education, are there resources to allow that individual to obtain a higher education?

Often, a young adult may desire a higher education but find that their financial situation will keep them from achieving a traditional higher education without substantial scholarships. Possibly, they are too geographically far from a traditional university or need to work to contribute to the household income.

Fortunately, a global revolution in higher education is taking shape through the work of the University of the People. They have created a business plan that provides free higher education for the world online. So far, they only have four programs, but they are all accredited: Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. The sequence of courses is comparable to any brick-and-mortar education, and are overseen by an advisory board of professionals from several large universities.

Anyone over the age of 18 with a secondary diploma and proficiency in English can apply to the University of the People. Tuition is completely free and course materials are all accessible on the Internet and available to download. There is a small application fee, and each course does require a $100 end-of-course examination. However, the fees have the possibility of being covered through scholarships.

How is all this achievable? Well, the University has partnered with several large names in this endeavor, such as Yale University for research, New York University for applications and Hewlett-Packard for internships. Furthermore, well-qualified instructors and professionals volunteer as course instructors and course developers. People dedicated to the cause of giving everyone access to higher education make this business plan succeed.

Even with such great strides in access to education, those in poverty are still at a disadvantage. A large group of potential students is left out of this revolution because they lack Internet access, working computers or English proficiency.

However, those areas are being addressed. For example, the University of the People pledged to accept 250 qualified Haitians into the program. The University hopes this group of students will help the rebuilding of Haiti by becoming leaders through this educational opportunity. To aid the students, the University of the People pledged to “locate places for students to go to study, furnish these places with computers, ensure electricity and back-up generators and provide satellite Internet.”

The United States can also help with the technological disadvantages that Africa faces through the Electrify Africa Act. This act would establish partnerships and devote financial help to Sub-Saharan Africa, where electricity is wildly inconsistent. By creating reliable electricity sources in Africa, the economy will likely improve, and people will have the ability to escape poverty. If Sub-Saharan Africa had reliable electricity and, in turn, access to the Internet, a large group of potential students would have the opportunity to achieve higher education through the University of the People.

Students lacking English proficiency are also being addressed. The United Nations is working to bring primary education to every child around the globe with the aforementioned MDGs. Once a child is literate in their own language and has passed primary education, educators can start to focus on teaching a foreign language with proficiency in secondary school, thus opening doors for higher education.

The University of the People has rolled out a solid business plan that is already showing results. So many people around the globe that thought they would never be able to achieve a higher education due to finances or distance now have an opportunity to succeed and move out of poverty.

– Megan Ivy

Sources:, University of the People, UN Millennium Goals
Photo: The Positive Approach