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Private Education in PakistanAs in many other nations, private education in Pakistan is filling the gaps created by a struggling public-school system. Public education is a dismal scene; despite being a nation with a school-aged population of 47.8 million, a full 64 percent of public schools are deemed to be in unsatisfactory conditions. This is a relatively unsurprising number considering the newest public schools built in urban areas are anywhere from 40 to 60 years old. Furthermore, many students are unable to enroll in public schools simply due to their scarcity, evidenced by the 10 percent decrease in the number of public primary schools from 2011 to 2016.

With all this in mind, it is of no surprise that 37 percent of the nation’s educational institutions are private. Even more significant is the fact that this private 37 percent is somehow serving 42 percent of the nation’s total population of enrolled students and employing 48 percent of all teachers. Even so, the obvious reality is that private education is often expensive, thus making it out of reach for the most vulnerable and impoverished children. Consequently, a new subset of private education has further entered the scene: low-cost private schools.

Such is where Nasra Public Schools comes in. Despite its misleading name, it is indeed a low-cost private educational institution, and was founded in 1949 in a bungalow living room. Today, it has expanded into a system of private schools that boasts five campuses and serves 11,000 students. By 2020, it is projected to expand to 14 campuses, and will potentially expand further to 70 campuses across the nation.

Nasra is committed to low-cost, high quality private education. It does so through a contained monthly fee, meaning that fees have a maximum limit in the effort to maintain financial accessibility for low-income families. This works extremely well, as an astounding 79 percent of Nasra students are from homes that make less than four dollars a day. Additionally, Nasra rents campus locations rather than purchasing land- diluting infrastructural costs, which is ultimately what allows them to continually expand.

The system employs a staff of roughly 1,000, and teaches in English, a huge draw for the school. Further, it partners with various well-established institutions, such as the British Council and Pakistan’s COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, to provide the necessary technological resources and to create the most modern curricula it can. It also provides various extracurricular activities, such as student council, arts programs, cricket and table tennis, the latter two being supported through a partnership with the British Council’s International Inspirational Program.

Yet, it is still necessary to note that Nasra schools are not currently located throughout the nation, although such is the intention for the future. There is still a myriad of students who cannot afford to enroll in even low-cost institutions, an issue largely due to transportation fees. In many cases, urban and rural alike, students’ transportation fees would exceed that of school fees themselves, effectively making even low-cost private schooling inaccessible as well. Thus, the work of Nasra and its potential for expansion is even more essential; more Nasra schools spread throughout the nation would mean more educational opportunities for those that most desperately need them.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

All Children“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world,” Malala Yousafzai stated at the U.N. Youth Assembly, where she launched her international campaign to fight for the equality of all children.

Education is the art of unfolding and absorbing hidden knowledge. As a student matures, the pupil gains the ability to think for themselves, as well as the ability to differentiate fact from fiction. Absorbing the world like a sponge in order to gain knowledge not only enlightens the student, but molds them to better all of mankind.

In 2014, the Nobel Peace Prize focused on empowerment through education. Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai shared this international honor “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

Malala and Kailash dedicated their lives to the betterment of those around them, believing education is the means to lasting peace. Education can be obtained or earned, but cannot be stripped from the person.

Both Nobel Peace Prize recipients defied all odds in order to utilize their experience to touch millions of lives and fight for all children.

Malala was born in Pakistan during a time of chaos and violence. In 2012, she was shot by the Taliban, causing severe injuries and a long recovery. Throughout Pakistan, the Taliban often attacked young girls at school in order to discourage females from receiving an education.

This traumatic incident did not deter Malala from continuing her education, but instead encouraged her to pursue an international campaign from London. Threats from the Taliban poured into her mailbox and inbox as she pursued her recovery as well as her campaign for the universal right to education.

Her platform includes her published book, multiple speeches to the UN, meeting heads of state and traveling to various universities. She has quickly become the face of female empowerment through education and the fight for the education of all children.

In India, Kailash worked as a teacher until 1980, when he became inspired to do more for those most vulnerable. He founded the organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which frees thousands of children from exploitation each year. In order to protect their newfound freedom, all children go to school and get an education, the ultimate key to lasting freedom.

Throughout the United States and Europe, education can seem like a chore for some families. To those living in poverty around the world, putting on the school uniform is the embodiment of dignity and pride. Entering the classroom is the first step in breaking the cycle of poverty and domestic abuse, as well as providing hope to dreams.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

NIFTY Cup
Millions of newborn babies in developing countries face death due to the inability to feed properly. These infants may be born prematurely, have facial abnormalities or other special needs that impacts their ability to effectively suckle and nurse.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), newborn deaths account for 45% of all deaths among children under five, the majority in developing countries. It is estimated that two-thirds of newborn deaths can be prevented, if effective measures are implemented within the first week of life. One such effective measure to prevent neonatal deaths is to ensure that babies receive adequate nourishment.

Michael Cunningham, who leads craniofacial  medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, experienced firsthand children dying from the inability to receive nutrition within their first few days of life. He came up with the idea for the NIFTY cup to solve this issue, and partnered with PATH, a nonprofit organization specializing in global health technologies, to design it.

The NIFTY part of this nifty solution stands for Neonatal Intuitive Feeding Technology. This cup is a simple, yet brilliant device that can have major impacts on children worldwide.

The cup is designed to replace the act of breastfeeding while allowing infants to receive adequate nutrition. It is a soft, plastic cup that has a unique reservoir for holding milk. Mothers collect their breastmilk in the 40- milliliter cup and then feed it to their baby. The cup allows the baby to eat at its own pace, with minimal spilling.

“We just knew that there had to be a simple intervention that could be life-changing for this population,”Cunningham said.

The NIFTY cup would not be truly impactful if it was expensive and unavailable. The NIFTY cup resolves this, too. The cup only costs one dollar. They have been used successfully in India, and are becoming accessible in many African birthing institutions.

This creation has the potential to save millions of babies from the effects of malnutrition at birth. It may even save their lives.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Organizations Are Helping Women and Children in KasaiOver the past year, the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has experienced extreme violence since the rise of the rebel Kamwina Nsapu fighters. This conflict is disproportionately affecting women and children, as forces recruit child soldiers and women face gender-based violence. Fortunately, humanitarian organizations are helping women and children in Kasai both recover and remain safe.

Since this conflict began last year, over 1.4 million have been displaced from their homes, 850,000 of which are children. The death toll of this tragedy is still being debated, with the Catholic Church claiming at least 3,300 individuals have been killed, while the UN estimates the number is around 400. Both acknowledge, however, that there are many deaths still unaccounted for, as mass graves continue to be discovered.

In addition to the mass displacement of 1.4 million people, civilians are also subject to horrible human rights abuses. These abuses range from mutilations and abductions to sexual violence including rape. The victims of these attacks are most often women and children, as they are most vulnerable to age- and gender-based violence. These abuses are amplified by the lack of access to nutrition, especially for children. UNICEF estimates 400,000 children are at risk for severe acute malnutrition.

Besides the direct assaults on women and children, the militias have also destroyed more than 200 healthcare centers as well as a multitude of schools and villages. The destruction of these centers makes it even harder for victims to find aid. Fortunately, humanitarian organizations are working to reach those in need.

Working to aid in recovery, UNICEF has played a significant role in humanitarian relief for Kasai. So far, UNICEF has reached over 150,000 people with essential nutrition, health, education, water and sanitation goods and services. A program has also been implemented by UNICEF to provide $100 cash grants to displaced families for bare necessities, and so far 11,225 families have benefitted from this. The humanitarian community has also launched an appeal for $64.5 million U.S. for an emergency response plan.

Although humanitarian organizations are helping women and children in Kasai as best they can, the severity and abruptness of this crisis make it difficult to always provide the amount of aid needed. UNICEF recently released a statement acknowledging, “unless this violence stops, our best work will never be enough.”

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Flickr

Children With Disabilities in GhanaAround the world, children with disabilities are faced with many challenges that can hinder their success and well-being. In Ghana, children with mild to moderate disabilities are often denied access to education simply because of basic impairments. This creates a sense of isolation and lack of motivation among these children, and diminishes their quality of life. Fortunately, in recent years several programs led by a variety of humanitarian organizations (such as UNICEF) have begun improving education access for children with disabilities in Ghana.

With one in three children who are not in school being withheld simply because of a disability, this problem is affecting Ghana’s children significantly. Children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy are often hidden in their communities, unable to or not allowed to go to school. Parents of children with these mild to moderate disabilities often recognize their child’s intelligence, but lack local schools with the support required to care for their needs.

This is changing, however, with the help of initiatives from UNICEF and the Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CLED).

UNICEF, in partnership with USAID, has led this mission by creating and supporting inclusive schools where children with disabilities are welcomed and can get assistance. The goal of creating inclusive schools was pursued by a community outreach program where parents were encouraged to hear about how all children, regardless of ability, were entitled to an education.

From UNICEF’s initiative, more than 450 teachers have been trained in inclusive education, and children with mild to moderate disabilities have access to over 83 basic schools that provide an inclusive learning environment.

CLED has also improved education access for children with disabilities in Ghana. CLED is a non-profit organization that helps communities by equipping teachers and parents with the tools needed to best support children with disabilities, as well as by providing specialized tutoring for children with disabilities. CLED has also acted as an advocate for this issue in Ghana by leading monthly radio talk shows on inclusive education. So far, CLED has donated 2850 school supplies, provides tutoring programs in 30 schools, and has trained 2292 teachers.

While many children with disabilities still lack access to proper education, the solution to this problem will require better understanding and support from communities. However, through these initiatives led by UNICEF and CLED, more and more disabled children are able to learn and express themselves in inclusive schools.

Kelly Hayes

Mental HealthIn sub-Saharan Africa, a poverty-dense region, there is a relative lack of mental health services. This is partly because most healthcare resources in sub-Saharan African countries are allocated to infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Ninety percent of malaria deaths, 70 percent of people with HIV/AIDS and 26 percent of tuberculosis cases are concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. Against this background, mental health problems do not always raise concern. Mental illness accounts for 10 percent of the disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa.

The most common mental disorders in the region are depression and anxiety. The prevalence rates of depression and major depressive disorder in sub-Saharan African countries range from 40 to 55 percent. Among the child and adolescent populations of Sub-Saharan Africa, mental health issues are common. Fourteen percent have mental health problems and nearly 10 percent have diagnosable psychiatric disorders.

Poverty, warfare and disease have all been identified as vulnerabilities and risk factors to child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa. In one study conducted in southern Sudan, researchers found that 75 percent of children there suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. There is a lack of evidence-based research on child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa. However, a review of the literature indicates that psychological distress and mood, conduct and anxiety disorders are common among children who have experienced armed conflict.

In 2011 it was estimated that 90 percent of children infected with or directly affected by AIDS reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Rates of anxiety and depression are significantly higher in children who have been orphaned by AIDS than in other children. One study found that 12 percent of children orphaned by AIDS in rural Uganda had suicidal thoughts.

There are several challenges to providing quality mental health services in low- and middle-income countries. Two of these include cost and lack of research and needs-based assessments. Of all medical conditions, mental disorders are some of the most expensive to treat. In most sub-Saharan African countries, treatment facilities are limited in number and often inaccessible to much of the population. But without needs assessments and research demonstrating the value of providing effective treatments and services in the region, improving mental health care and its availability to those who need it remains a relatively low priority.

In recent years, mental health has been getting increased attention in sub-Saharan Africa and new efforts have been developed to improve mental health research and care in the region. In 2011, an association of research institutions and health ministries in Uganda, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and South Africa partnered with Britain and the World Health Organization to research the effect of community-based mental health treatment in low- and middle-income nations and to develop facilities and services in these areas.

Another effort is the Africa Focus on Intervention Research for Mental Health, which is working with several sub-Saharan nations on infrastructure development and has conducted a number of randomized controlled experiments to test affordable, accessible intervention methods for severe mental disorders.

This is only a small sample of the development efforts addressing mental health treatment and services in sub-Saharan Africa. Recognition of mental disorders’ significance in national health and more research on intervention will go a long way toward bettering child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Google

Success of School Meals
In a world where food is more than abundant, 795 million people continue to suffer from starvation. The World Food Programme has pledged alongside the United Nations to end world hunger by 2030. Many of the WFP’s strategies are bringing the U.N. closer to achieving this goal. In 2015, the World Food Programme reached 17.4 million children in 62 countries with school meals. Below are some examples of the success of school meals.

  1. Social Protection
    According to evidence from the World Food Programme, school meals are the most common social safety net in the world. One major success of school meals is that they support children’s education while protecting their food security. Flexible in their design, each meal plan can be targeted towards a specific child’s needs. This helps many of the children receiving school meals that suffer from illness or disabilities.
  2. Access to Education
    School meals endorse education. By adding nourishment to the classroom, walls built to keep children from accessing a learning environment are broken down. One school meal a day allows children to focus on their studies, increases registration and creates rises within children’s attendance. A reported 45 studies of school meals programs around the world revealed that children receiving one school meal each day for a year attend school four to seven days more than children who do not receive any school meals.
  3. Nourishment
    The World Food Programme prides itself on nutrition-sensitive planning. Fresh foods are incorporated to provide as much nutritional value as possible. For most of the children attending school in poor countries, one school meal is all the child will consume for that entire day. Because of this reason, it is essential that meals are tailored to fit the needs of each individual child. In a meta-analysis cited by WFP, 45 studies revealed that when children receive a standard meal 200 days per year, they gain about 0.37 kilograms more per year than those who are not part of any meal plan.
  4. Locally Grown Food
    Homegrown school meals are now underway in more than 37 countries. Local farmers partner with schools to provide meals, which boosts the local economy. Once farmers have a trusted outlet for their product, stable income, higher investments and productivity occur. Connecting farmers to schools and providing children with healthy meals varies according to location. For best results, each homegrown program is designed to meet the diverse needs of the people residing in that target area.

Despite the growth in the world population, 216 million people are not as hungry as they once were. The success of school meals has provided 368 million children with a meal at school every day. If trends last and the World Food Programme continues to feed millions of children, the pledge towards no hunger by 2030 seems more than attainable.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

Effects of Poverty in Children
Recent research and behavioral studies focusing on children that grow up in conditions of poverty have indicated that the stress associated with that environment can have lasting negative effects. It has been long accepted in the field that spending one’s formative years in the tough circumstances associated with poverty can lead to learning and behavioral problems. However, these recent studies indicate something different: the long-term effects of poverty in children are not only potentially psychologically detrimental but also physiologically damaging.

Researchers and experts in the field have coined the term “toxic stress” to describe the prolonged activation of the stress response system when a child experiences strong, frequent or prolonged adversity. Children brought up in the harsh conditions of poverty are highly likely to be continually exposed to this type of toxic stress. The absence of protective relationships, physical and emotional abuse, chronic neglect, exposure to substance abuse and violence and the accumulation of family economic hardships all lead to the prolonged activation of the stress response system. This toxic stress, especially in the early formative years of a child’s development, can have highly detrimental effects on the individual’s health which follows them for the rest of their lives.

The most recent research suggests that toxic stress can lead to some of the major causes of the deadliest diseases in adulthood, such as diabetes and heart attacks. As Dr. Tina Hahn, a pediatrician, recently claimed, “The damage that happens to kids from the infectious diseases of toxic stress is as severe as the damage from meningitis or polio.”

Undergoing toxic stress can also lead to higher risks of internal inflammation; a 2015 study at Brown University found that the saliva of children who had experienced abuse or other hardships had elevated levels of inflammation markers. The effects of poverty in children can also potentially be deadly: one of the direst findings, from a 2009 study, found that adults with six or more adverse childhood experiences died 20 years earlier than those with none.

The findings of the adverse long-term effects of poverty in children have begun to lead to a change in approach on behalf of psychologists, pediatricians and educators. The American Academy of Pediatricians in 2016, for example, passed a policy urging pediatricians to routinely screen families for poverty and help them find food, homeless shelters and other necessary resources. Some schools have also begun to screen children for signs of toxic stress, in order to curb these harmful effects before they manifest themselves. This practice, unfortunately, is far from universal. However, as awareness about these findings grow and more studies reach similar conclusions, the professional — and public — attitude toward the issue of poverty is beginning to change, it is beginning to no longer be seen only as a socio-economic issue but as a fundamental humanitarian and health one.

Alan Garcia-Ramos
Photo: Flickr

Education in Cabo Verde
Unknown to many people around the world, there is a small country made up of 10 islands and five islets off the west coast of Africa called Cabo Verde. The country has faced and continues to face many obstacles such as a lack of natural resources, drought and poor land for farming. Despite these challenges, the country remains prosperous and continues to see improvements in its education system. Here are some things to know about education in Cabo Verde.

Four Educational Groups
Education in Cabo Verde is broken up into four sectors: pre-primary, for children ages three to five; primary, from ages six to 11; secondary, for students 12 to 17 and tertiary, the country’s version of college. Only education from the age of 6 to 15 is mandatory.

Large-Scale Changes in 1975
In 1975, Cabo Verde gained its independence. Before its separation from Portugal, the literacy rate in Cabo Verde was only at 40%. As of 2015, the literacy rate in the country has doubled to an impressive 80%.

Improved School Attendance
In 2007, about 5,000 children were not attending school in Cabo Verde. As of 2015, that number has gone down to less than 1,000 students out of school. While there are still efforts to be made to ensure that every child attends school, this tremendous improvement in less than ten years is impressive.

Investments in Education
As of 2013, about 15% of the government’s yearly expenditure was going towards education. This percentage is higher than in many countries around the world such as the U.S., which spends about six percent of public spending annually on education.

Providing Necessary Tools
The school system in Cabo Verde does its best to provide all students with what they need to succeed in school. Textbooks are now available to 90% of students in the country. Additionally, 83% of teachers have attended in-service teacher training.

While education in Cabo Verde is not perfect, the country has made impressive advances since its independence in 1975. Almost all children in the country attend school and can read. Additionally, the government works toward improving its education system by providing all that they can. Cabo Verde may be a tiny and unknown nation, but their educational successes make them a great example for countries like them around the world.

Olivia Hayes

Photo: Flickr

HP World on Wheels
In November of 2016, tech company Hewlett-Packard announced its plan to deploy 48 digital inclusion and learning labs across rural India. The program, HP World on Wheels, intends to enhance digital literacy, education programming and entrepreneurship training.

At the 2017 Global Citizen Festival in Hamburg, Germany, HP furthered its commitment to underserved communities by committing $20 million in technology to enhance the learning of more than 100 million people by 2025.

“In our technology-enabled world, none of us should accept that 330 million children are not learning basic skills,” HP chief supply chain officer Stuart Pann told the festival crowd. “To break the cycle of poverty, we must not only provide access to quality education but also enable better learning outcomes.”

Each HP World on Wheels lab is supplied with computing and printing technology, software suites and e-learning tools as well as IT literacy classes. They are powered by 10 solar panels and produce the least possible greenhouse gases, making them fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly.

HP has set four targets that will help it build strong communities through education:

  1. Expand HP World on Wheels to other less fortunate communities.
  2. Bring HP Learning Studios to refugees in the Middle East in collaboration with Digital Promise Global, the Global Business Coalition for Education, Microsoft and Intel.
  3. Enroll another 100 million entrepreneurs in HP Life, a free e-learning program, by 2025.
  4. Use the HP National Education Technology Assessment (NETA) to guarantee that the education matches what employers require.

As of 2016, there has been seven World on Wheels “Future Classrooms” utilized in rural India. The initiative to improve digital learning everywhere is in collaboration with the United Nations and other nonprofit organizations that will provide business and tech insight in the United States, Myanmar, Tunisia and many other countries needing help in these areas.

“As we work to create technology that makes life better for everyone, everywhere, we recognize that a big gap remains between those who have access, and those who don’t,” HP chief sustainability and social impact officer Nate Hurst said. “We’re thrilled to take another step forward in helping bridge the divide with HP World on Wheels, bringing quality education, entrepreneurship training, and access to essential services to people right where they are.”

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Google