Reasons to Invest in Education for Women
According to the Huffington Post, literacy for women means “less domestic violence, sexual assault [and] sexually transmitted disease.” Investing in education for women also has the benefit of lifting entire families and communities out of poverty. Here are 10 reasons to invest in education for women:

10 Reasons to Invest in Education for Women

  1. Women who are literate can earn up to 95 percent more than women who are illiterate.
  2. An educated woman is able to earn a 25 percent higher wage after attending one year of secondary education and is more likely to reinvest 90 percent of her earnings into her family.
  3. If all girls in South and West Asia, as well as girls in sub-Saharan Africa, attended secondary education, the number of child marriages would fall by nearly 65 percent.
  4. While education for women reduces the number of child marriages, it is also able to reduce the fertility rate of women by up to 10 percent. Educated women overall have fewer children or have children later in life, and those children are more likely to survive and also become educated.
  5. Women who are educated are less likely to contract HIV /AIDS, which leads to fewer children born with HIV and Aids as well.
  6. According to the Girls Global Education Fund, a child born to a woman in Africa with no educated has a one in five chance of dying before the age of five.
  7. Investing in women’s education is shown to carry onto the next generation, with a child being born to an educated woman attending an extra 0.32 years. The results are even greater for young girls born to educated women.
  8. Educated women have a large effect on national economic growth; when education for women is raised by one percentage point, the gross domestic product is increased by approximately 0.3 percentage points.
  9. Education for women consistently delivers more stable and far-reaching economic benefits for families and communities.
  10. An increase in educated women means an increase in female leaders at the local and global levesls.

These are just ten of the many reasons to invest in education for women. As an African proverb says, “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.”

Amanda Panella

Photo: Pixabay

Africa_Digital_Education World Economic Forum

Digital education is a hot button topic in the United States, and last week, an international panel convened in Kigali, Rwanda, to discuss the efficacy of digitalizing African education systems. Held at the World Economic Forum on Africa, the friendly debate included education and governmental officials and digital education technology experts from around the world. Together, the panel discussed the two great hardships of African education—access to education and quality of education—in the context of a digital education revolution.

When some imagine the future of digital education, they see holograms and tablets, but the Digital Education panel put that idea to rest. “An educational overhaul isn’t feasible or realistic,” said Rapeland Rabana, founder of Rekindle Learning. “[We need to] look where we can build on what we already have,” she added.

In this way, struggling African governments will not be overwhelmed by new technological demands. Besides, according to TIME Magazine, only around 20 percent of Africans have access to the internet, and 40 percent don’t even have access to regular electricity. The argument can be seen that a hologram-touting educational reform system would do little in this environment.

One of the most important ideas discussed by the panel was that of privatized messaging platforms, like Messenger, WhatsApp or WeChat, as the digital basis for educational apps. Although attempting to privatize education could pose challenges of its own, Minister of Youth Jean Philbert Nsengimana pointed out that most African governments could not complete an educational transformation on their own. Instead, he said, “[We should] move away from the either-or debate and look at how the system can work together.”

Globally 57 million school-age children, many of whom are young girls, do not have the opportunity to attend school. Although the panel’s focus was digital education in Africa, the members did not forget that education is an issue outside of the continent.

Nsengimana brought this up and made it clear that he sees digital education as a means of inclusion for these educationless students, especially the young girls. Despite the logistical difficulties and the long implementation project, the Digital Education Panel at the World Economic Forum on Africa came to an encouragingly simple conclusion: by using the technologies that are already in place and focusing on accessibility in addition to advanced development, digital education tools will without a doubt be the future of education in Africa.

Sage Smiley

Photo: Flickr


UNESCO’s Santiago regional office is working with the Ecuador Education Ministry, UNICEF, Plan International and Save the Children to find temporary solutions to improve Ecuador’s education sector in the months following its worst natural disaster in decades.

The earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 26 left parts of the country in ruins, killed more than 650 people and left many more injured, according to The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Their report states that some 73,000 displaced people live in organized shelters and camps, either with host families or in random sites around the country.

The goal is to establish temporary educational spaces that allow the continuation of classes and educational activities in secure spaces so that the primary and secondary education of children is not further disrupted following the earthquake.

“Education is a lifeline for children going through the trauma of chaos and destruction,” said Grant Leaity, UNICEF Representative in Ecuador. “It helps give them a daily routine and a sense of purpose and puts them on track for psychological recovery.” Education is key for these children, both short term and long term.

According to UNICEF, over 280 schools were damaged by the earthquake. This left approximately 120,000 children out of education.

UNICEF is currently working with the Ecuadorian government to help children return to their regular routines by providing 50 temporary learning spaces for 20,000 children. The organization also aims to distribute basic school supplies to 60,000 children and teenagers in 700 different schools.

Michelle Simon

Photo: Flickr

EducationIn the Arabic language, the word ‘hidaya‘ means “to lead and to guide.” This is a central theme of the Hidaya foundation as it seeks to perpetually guide orphans and disadvantaged individuals to an educated life.

Since its official launch in 1999, the Hidaya Foundation has participated in solutions to a wide range of global issues: making potable water accessible, planting trees, helping individuals create small businesses and more. The foundation also addresses public health issues through a dissemination of healthcare programs and medical camps to regions where treatments are difficult to obtain or simply not to be found.

Though it participates in many facets of humanitarian work, the principal aim of the Hidaya Foundation is to create educational opportunities in remote and impoverished areas. However, Hidaya’s founder, Waseem Baloch has pointed out that the promotion of education by itself in impoverished regions can be futile without other methods of support. “We realized that when people don’t even have one proper meal, how can they worry about education? Hence we support social welfare and health care as well.” Baloch said.

The Hidaya Foundation achieves its objectives by providing subsidies for orphans, operating and maintaining schools, funding education for impoverished individuals and even providing education courses to adults. In addition, the organization diverts at least half of its resources towards projects that center around agriculture, farming, science and technology.

The “No Orphan Without Education” project provides food, medicine, water and other commodities to ensure that the orphan has to worry about only his or her schooling. The foundation removes all obstacles that could impede the educational progress of involved orphans, and simply requires that the orphan is continuously attending school. All these services are provided based on need with a cost to the foundation of $10 per month for each orphan.

Impoverished students, from primary education to university levels, are able to receive support from the foundation to continue their education. The foundation is currently offering support to over 11,000 individuals. Support comes in the form of tuition fees, school supplies, housing costs etc. The foundation is able to support these students with anything from $5 to $50 a month depending on individual circumstances.

Through funds that are largely received from individual donors, hundreds of thousands of dollars are provided monthly to the Hidaya Foundation’s various humanitarian programs across Africa, Asia, and North America.

Financial support for the foundation has grown exponentially since 1999. In that year the organization fell just short of $112,000 in donations. Six years later, the foundation had raised over $4 million in support of its cause. This rapid growth has given the foundation the ability to begin hiring employees overseas and to develop teams that can respond efficiently to natural disasters when they strike.

Aamir Malik, the foundation’s IT and Advertising Director, and a long-time volunteer for the organization, commented on the rapid success of the foundation, “Donations have increased because Hidaya Foundation has been able to make an impact as it is quick to respond to calamities. Hidaya Foundation always backs up its work by updating the public about what it’s doing.”

The associates of the Hidaya Foundation are very optimistic about the future of the organization. They have confidence that the growth they have experienced will continue, and that they will be able to replicate their efforts in many more locations throughout the world.

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr

 Education in Rural IndiaHippocampus Learning Centres (HLCs) are attempting to close the gap in education and literacy within rural India. These centres are private institutions designed to supplement public schools at an affordable cost to the families in these areas.

The most recent census published by the Indian government in 2011 reported 73 percent of India’s total population as literate. This is an increase from the 2001 census, which stated a 65 percent literacy rate.

At first glance these numbers seem may relatively low for a rapidly growing country with a huge presence in the global market. However, a gap in literacy rates based on location and gender becomes evident when looking more closely at the data.

Rural literacy is estimated to be 68 percent while the urban literacy rate is 84 percent. This disparity grows worse when looking at the difference in these rates among men and women in rural areas: 77 percent of men and only 58 percent of women can read and write.

One of the most commonly cited reasons for lower female literacy is the general attitude towards girls within Indian society. The Indian government has even acknowledged the country’s female infanticide problem.

Girls are seen as a burden due to the still prevalent dowry system in rural, traditional areas. Many families struggle to afford the price of marriage.

These statistics make it evident that India has a strong need for the Hippocampus Learning Centres.

Poverty is another major reason for the gap in education across the board in rural India. Poverty usually correlates with lower quality education as well as less access to schooling.

Many families within these communities rely on agriculture to survive. Consequently, it is common for children to spend their time working on their family’s land to help provide income and food. When these children are able to attend school, the quality of education they receive is sometimes unsatisfactory. In a Times of India article, the author recalls, “most classrooms weren’t being led by teachers, because there simply weren’t enough teachers to take each and every class.”

The Indian government implemented Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SAA) in 2001, “to provide for a variety of interventions for universal access and retention, bridging of gender and social category gaps in elementary education and improving the quality of learning.”

SAA has led to numerous schools being built as well as trained teachers and free school supplies. This act was designed to universalize and improve upon elementary education within India.

The program has helped to increase literacy, however reports of underpaid teachers and crumbling rural schools still remain. In addition to structural issues, problems such as the recent water crisis in Kanpur have strained the ability for children in these areas to attend school.

While these schools have a long way to go, Hippocampus Learning Centres are showing promise within rural areas. These centres are designed to fill the gaps within The Right to Education Act passed by the Indian government.

HLC views the current curriculum within rural Indian schools to be inadequate. These private supplemental learning institutions attempt to provide more education for the poor at a low cost, with the help of third party investors.

While Hippocampus Learning Centres show great promise within rural India, there is always room for progress. The continued investment into public schools within rural areas as well as supplemental learning centers could further close the education gap.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: Flickr

CyberSmart Africa

90 million children in Africa go to schools that lack electricity. CyberSmart Africa harnesses technology in Sub-Saharan African classrooms in order to educate the world’s poor.

CyberSmart Africa, founded by Jim Teicher in 2007, is a social enterprise that provides educational technology specifically designed to meet the needs of schools in developing nations. In 2016, 12,500 students will have access to this technology.

In 2006 Jim Teicher visited Senegal, a country on Africa’s West Coast, and was concerned by the unequal distribution of technology across communities. There was a discrepancy between accessibility of technology in cities and youth in schools.

This observation led to the creation of CyberSmart Africa in 2007. The technology works exclusively in classrooms that have poor physical infrastructure, including those with little or no electricity. In addition to addressing the U.N. Sustainable Development goals, this digital learning platform reaches 250 students in Africa per day. It operates on less than $1.00/student/month.

Most schools in developing nations lack electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, three out of four primary schools do not have electricity. According to the World Bank, educational technology is expensive and it is difficult to train teachers in highly technical equipment.

The CyberSmart device uses solar technology, an energy-efficient projector, an interactive whiteboard, speakers, cooling fans and a dust filtration system. Teachers can easily adapt to the simplified technology with the help of directions received through SMS mobile text as well as through video tutorials.

Michael Trucano, a World Bank Senior Education and Technology Specialist, wrote a blog post commenting on CyberSmart Africa’s initiatives. Noting that there are not enough computers for the amount of students in schools, Trucano commends this technology as it allows for an entire classroom to access information at one time, increasing student engagement.

Senegalese schools have had great successes with this technology. CyberSmart Africa has allowed for students to create videos, with the support of parents and the community and post them on the Internet. These videos are meant to bring traditional storytelling of everyday Senegalese life into a digital realm.

Some of CyberSmart Africa’s partners include USAID, Senegalese Ministry of Education, Earth Institute at Columbia University and the United Nations Development Programme.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

Let_Girls_Learn_InitiativeMichelle Obama is making strides with her Let Girls Learn initiative.

Let Girls Learn was launched by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in March of 2015. Its goal is to unite existing agencies with programs to further global education for girls and to bring focus to the issue.

Organizations involved include the U.S. Department of State, USAID and the Peace Corps.

On March 16, Mrs. Obama published a letter about the importance of girls’ education to her, personally. The letter was published with Lenny Letter. Lenny Letter is a “feminist arts newsletter” founded by Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO TV series “Girls,” and her writing partner, Jenni Conner.

Mrs. Obama’s letter is the latest in a series of feminist contributions from well-known personalities such as Jennifer Lawrence.

In her letter, Mrs. Obama describes how her world travels as First Lady of the United States have put a personal face on the issue of education for girls. Obama’s conversations with young women around the world showed her that, despite the many roadblocks they faced (such as being required to help their parents and siblings or to marry and start families of their own at very young ages) they were hopeful about the possibilities education could provide them.

Obama says she feels a kinship with these young women.

“I see myself in these girls—in their ambition and their determination to rise above their circumstances,” said Mrs. Obama.

Also on March 16, Mrs. Obama gave a keynote address at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, TX. She spoke of her work with Let Girls Learn and also presented a song written for the initiative. Artists like Missy Elliot, Kelly Clarkson and Janelle Monae, among others, came together to perform the song, written by Diane Warren.

According to CNN, the proceeds from iTunes sales of the song, “This is for My Girls,” will go to the Peace Corps for the work they do for the Let Girls Learn initiative.

Ms. Obama also kicked off a pledge drive for people to show their support for educating girls around the globe.

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Flickr

The Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 by Kellogg Company CEO Will Keith Kellogg, focuses on issues relating to child development, primarily in Haiti, Mexico, the U.S., Brazil and southern Africa. Within the U.S., the foundation concentrates on Michigan, New Orleans, New Mexico and Mississippi.

“Concentrating our resources on early childhood (prenatal to age 8), within the context of families and communities, offers the best opportunity to dramatically reduce the vulnerability caused by poverty and racial inequity over time,” states the foundation’s website.

To achieve this, the Kellogg Foundation focuses on the following three strategic goals:

Educated Kids: Increasing the number of children who are proficient in reading and math by third grade.

Healthy Kids: Increasing the number of children born at healthy birth weight and who receive the care and healthy food they need for optimal development.

Secure Families: Increasing the number of children and families living at least 200 percent above the poverty level.

Embedded in these goals are a commitment to civic and community engagement and racial equity. The foundation considers these elements to be essential if communities are to create conditions under which all children can thrive.

Under the rubric of Educated Kids, the Kellogg Foundation seeks to increase the support and training that educators receive in a bid to enhance their leadership skills and professional development and ultimately improve the quality of both teaching and learning.

In the category of Healthy Kids, the foundation focuses its grants on efforts to improve the health of mothers and families, increase breastfeeding rates, provide community-based oral health care and transform food systems.

And to ensure Secure Families, the Kellogg Foundation assists families with their financial and employment prospects, helping them to increase their economic and social mobility. “We help make connections to financial resources and job skills training, so that families can be debt-free, pay their bills and feel empowered to help their children succeed,” says the foundation’s website.

The foundation also stands for racial equity and social justice, seeking to stamp out structural racism: “Far too many children of color live in racially isolated neighborhoods in metropolitan areas, and in segregated rural and tribal communities across the United States,” the foundation says.

NonProfit Quarterly notes that efforts to change structural racism can be difficult for foundations to achieve: “It is easier to find and fund the mentoring and leadership development programs which, in many cases, are hardly new, than to pinpoint how to effectuate changes in institutional and public policies that sustain these structural inequities.”

In spite of these challenges, the Kellogg Foundation continues to work on improving the health and development of children around the world and in the U.S. as well as enhancing communities and striving for racial equity.

Mayra Vega

Sources: WKKF, Nonprofit Quarterly
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Angola
Despite its economic success in the booming oil industry, poverty in Angola is a serious concern. The fact that a majority of Angolans live in extreme poverty contrasts greatly with the country’s booming economy. Angola is one of Africa’s most resource-rich countries. It is the second-largest oil producer in Africa and the fourth-largest producer of diamonds. In addition, the country is rich in such resources as minerals, lumber and fish. Although the oil industry in Angola brings in a majority of the state’s revenue, two-thirds of the population live on less than $2 a day and do not see the benefits of the industry.

The government claims that poverty rates have dropped in recent years, yet corruption is still a major factor. The question remains: “Where is this money?” Government elites and employees reap the benefits of the oil industry, while many Angolans live in arduous conditions. Additionally, the country possesses high infant mortality rates, poor access to clean water and sanitation and high illiteracy rates.

The civil war from 1975 to 2002 left Angola devastated, with countless deaths and millions of internally displaced persons. Angola can now boast a revived economic situation and an up-and-coming international profile. However, the country still has a great deal of work to do in its commitment to alleviate poverty in Angola.

The 2016 Human Development Index ranks Angola 149 out of 186 on the poverty scale, as poverty permeates the entire nation. Poverty in Angola is greater in rural areas, which contains 38.5 percent of the population. In fact, 94 percent of rural households are categorized as poor.

There is a very low electrification rate in rural areas of Angola, with only 6% of rural households having access to electricity. A considerable amount of the population (38 percent) does not have access to safe water sources. Consequently, the mortality rate for children under five is around 17 percent. In addition, many children do not have access to education, making future employment difficult. In fact, 34.6 percent of people have unequal access to education. As a result, 28.9 percent of the population have an unequal income.

The capital city of Luanda, one of the largest cities in Angola, drastically contrasts its outskirts. Just outside the city limits, hundreds of thousands of people live in extreme poverty.With no running water or proper infrastructure for sanitation, disease runs rampant. Diarrheal diseases, cholera, measles and diphtheria are just a few such illnesses.

According to the World Health Organization, there were over 2,000 cholera outbreaks in 2009. Yet, there was only 1 doctor available for every 10,000 people. As a result, countless families lack access to vaccines or clinics to treat these diseases.

In recent years, there have been successful reconstruction programs, including roads, airports, bridges, hospitals and schools. Although the Angolan government is beginning to make progress towards rebuilding, the answer for widespread poverty alleviation lies within the ruling party and channeling the revenue from the oil industry into the hands of Angolan’s themselves.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

Syrian Refugee Children
As millions of Syrian refugee families settle into new countries, global leaders are thinking about how to educate refugee children who are growing up under less than normal circumstances. Recently, more than 100 people gathered at Stanford University to do just that.

This “Innovation Forum” was the first in a series to be organized by the U.S. Department of State. The event united NGOs, U.N. agencies, app developers and technology corporations, who shared ideas about providing quality education to refugee children.

One innovative idea involved creating an app for shared rides to help refugee children overcome transportation barriers that prevented them from reaching school.

Another idea involved a virtual teacher-training program centered around inclusive, trauma-sensitive learning environments.

However, providing refugee children with access to quality education is not an easy task. Integrating them into existing national education systems is easier said than done. Additionally, due to their traumatic pasts and unfamiliarity with the local environment, refugee children require special care.

Sarah Dryden-Peterson, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, delivered a speech at the “Innovation Forum.” Drawing on her own research, she highlighted four key dimensions of support that refugees require for learning:

  • Refugees cannot learn if they lack physical and emotional safety.
  • Refugee children require intensive language support to effectively learn.
  • Refugee children need quality, certified education to be prepared for the future.
  • Teaching refugee children that they belong must be part of their educational curriculum.

Reflecting on the event in a later article, Dryden-Peterson also noted four, broad ideas that should guide the technology industry’s efforts in refugee education:

  1. Avoid repetition among well-intentioned individuals and organizations distant from the crisis.
  2. Recognize the existing efforts of refugee communities.
  3. Focus on acquiring long-term funding from multiple sources rather than short-term fixes.
  4. Understand the daily experiences of refugee children and their teachers to tailor solutions to different problems.

In Syria, about 25 percent of schools have been damaged, destroyed, or used as collective shelters or for other non-educational purposes. Approximately 5.4 million Syrian children are in need of educational support and 2.1 million of them are out of school.

Of the 1.4 million Syrian children living in neighboring countries, only half are in school. However, they are not necessarily receiving a quality education. Recently, Lebanese television showed footage of Syrian children being physically abused in Beirut schools.

Hopefully, as more educators, innovators, and policy makers come together to discuss the education of Syrian refugee children, they will brainstorm even more new and effective solutions. Research has proven that access to high-quality education can change the life of not only a child, but also an entire family.

When it comes to educating this generation of Syrian refugee children, it is possible that whether or not they have access to quality education could shape the future of an entire country.

Clara Wang

Sources: Brookings 1, Brookings 2, ReliefWeb
Photo: Flickr