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Greek Roma
In Greece, tensions remain high between citizens of Greek descent and the Greek Roma. The Romani people, a historically disadvantaged and impoverished community, are spread throughout Europe and the world. Originating from India, the Roma migrated to Europe around the ninth century C.E. They have since built homes and lives for generations in countries such as Greece, but nevertheless continue to face ostracism and persecution.

History of Problems

In Greece specifically, tensions have risen between the Romani and non-Romani Greeks since the economic crisis in 2009. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Taso Lagos, professor at the University of Washington School of International Studies and researcher of the conditions of the Roma in Greece, said that for non-Romani Greeks, the unemployment rate at the time was “as high as 30%,” but for the Roma, “went up to 60%.”

Ten years after the crisis, the Romani people in Greece still face extreme poverty. A recent staggering report showed that while approximately 20% of the general Greek population is at risk for poverty, the same is true for nearly 100% of the Greek Roma.

According to Professor Lagos, there are 351 Roma settlements throughout Greece. In these settlements, many Roma “live in tents where [they] have no running water, no central heating,” and “no indoor plumbing.” Some also live in permanent housing such as caravans, but conditions there are also frequently bleak.

In the early 2000s, the Greek government set out with a plan to improve conditions for the Roma, but many say that these efforts were unsuccessful and that most communities are in the same conditions as before.

Causes of Poverty

There is an ongoing debate over what causes this vicious cycle of poverty affecting the Roma. Many people attribute it to a problem of wide-spread lack of education. More than 90% of Roma children in Greece do not attend pre-school or kindergarten. Slightly less than 50% of Roma children will never receive any formal schooling.

In the case of Romani girls, especially, education is a primary concern. Many are married as teenagers and are expected to run households. Therefore they are unable to finish high school. Others exit the school system early due to perceived dangers and stereotypes Romani people hold about the general Greek community. Professor Lagos explained that many Roma girls do not finish high school because “their parents regard Greek schools as denizens of vice and licentiousness.”

Further, the Romani children who do attend school are frequently the victims of bullying. Sometimes the early recipients of prejudice, these children endure stereotypes that they are dirty, drug-users, or thieves. These perceptions and stereotypes run deep in both communities. They continue to add to the problems affecting the wellbeing of all Greeks.

In one instance, a young girl was taken from her family when her caretakers were accused of kidnapping her. This proved to be false through DNA evidence. But many Roma continued to receive backlash and criticism from the general population following the event.

Signs of Progress

Years later, there remains ongoing misunderstanding and lack of communication between the two groups. However, some believe that there is hope for improving relations between non-Roma and Roma. This will improve other conditions for the Romani people.

Recent subjects inspiring calls to action for the Greek Roma include:

  • Health and COVID-19: As the virus continues to spread throughout Greece, the Roma are at a greater risk for infection, often lacking access to clean water and sanitation practices. Many cite the pandemic as being a primary example of the need for better healthcare and living conditions for the Roma.
  • Education: Teacher training programs that are focused on the education of Roma students with respect and understanding of their unique struggles and adversity have grown in popularity in Greece. These programs encourage the safety and wellbeing of children while in school and destigmatize Roma students.
  • Integration: The EU funded a program to last from 2014-2020 in which part of the proceeds (totaling approximately .8 billion Euros) would be designated to helping integrate the Roma community into greater Greek society, combatting social exclusion. As around half of Greek Romani people live in the margins of Greek society, this is especially important to influence all other aspects of improvement.

Another group that is affecting positive change for the Greek Roma is the Panhellenic Association of Greek Roma. This organization, which began in 2007, has afforded over 50 Roma people grants. These grants help them establish businesses, connect community members with social and emotional support and provide legal support to those struggling with housing.

Professor Lagos spoke on the importance of communication between the Roma and non-Roma of Greece. He argued that it is critical “to institutionalize community dialogue between regular people”. This, he said, “would have a huge impact.”

Aradia Webb
Photo: Flickr

7 Education Reforms Happening in EgyptEgypt has the largest school system in the Middle East with more than 18 million students. Additionally, the school system’s gender attendance rate is nearly equal due to Egypt’s open access to primary schools. However, as Egypt’s population rapidly grows, the quality of its education system decreases. The World Bank created the term “Learning Poverty” to describe children who lack basic reading comprehension skills by the age of 10. Egypt has had a significant problem with learning poverty. As a result, the Egyptian government has created the “Education 2.0” system to tackle this issue.

The Egyptian Ministry of Education has worked closely with the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) to create seven education reforms in Egypt. This is a $500 million reform investment and its reforms stretch from kindergarten to secondary school.

7 Education Reforms in Egypt

  1. Expanding Access to Early Childhood Learning: The Education 2.0 program works to build schools that include an early education program in students’ villages. The aim is for students to have an adequate grasp on the essential skills of reading, comprehension, writing, math and English by the third grade. These skills are especially critical for children to learn in their early childhood.
  2. Remedial Reading Programs: Egypt’s education reform stretches beyond incoming students by seeking out students in grades 4-9 who have fallen behind on the essential skills mentioned above. These programs intend to bring these students up to the same educational standard as the rest of their grade level.
  3. Implementing Learning Villages: Egypt has adopted the innovative approach of intergenerational education reform in vulnerable rural areas by teaching primary-aged children how to read as well as their mothers. This allows children to be able to be engaged in literacy work at school and at home.
  4. Improving General Assessment Skills: Previously, students were asked to directly memorize exam answers and the exams were often leaked beforehand. This severely limited long-term comprehension. The reformed education program endeavors to test students on understanding as opposed to memorization capacity.
  5. Revamping Teacher Training Programs: Teachers will be re-trained and re-licensed because it is crucial that their methodology changes to match education reform programming. Teachers must help convince students and parents that it is imperative for the education system to have a goal beyond passing exams. They also need adequate resources to focus their attention on students who are falling behind.
  6. Linking Education and Technology: While the Education 2.0 program was initially stagnant, the COVID-19 crisis has actually accelerated technological advances due to social distancing guidelines. Two companies, Promethean and the Egyptian Knowledge Bank, have also aided in digitizing education resources by respectively creating free online spaces to get educational content and providing educational technology to 26,000 classrooms.
  7. Educating Refugees: Of the 200,000 refugees who have sought asylum in Egypt, 40% of them are children who become reliant on the Egyptian education system. The Egyptian government is using the model created by the U.N.’s Refugee Resilience Response Plan to help these vulnerable children. The government plans to give refugees a combined formal and informal, community-based education system that can bring stability to their lives.

Education 2.0 focuses on bringing children out of learning poverty by focusing on vulnerable communities, re-training teachers and giving students greater access to education through technology. Education reform is essential to the long-term growth and success of a country, so programs like Egypt’s Education 2.0 is incredibly important.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

Greek teachers are making a differenceIn Greece, the debt crisis and political breakdown have triggered inequalities throughout the education system. While education is free, public schools have suffered from budget cuts due to bailout agreements. The result has been a decline in the quality of education. The aftermath of the social crisis in Europe has also led to educational poverty and students failing to achieve minimum education standards. Many students with only basic education often face poverty or unemployment. This is exemplary of the strong correlation between educational attainment and social outcomes. Greek teachers are making a difference in the way their country approaches education to combat this issue.

The Current Situation in Greece

Currently, the level of teaching in Greek schools is being criticized due to the lack of teacher evaluation standards and teaching structures. As a result, more Greeks fear obtaining adequate education in public schools to prepare for higher education. The Panhellenic exams required for university admission in Greece have caused an increase in Greeks pursuing more expensive private education classes. However, with the rise in unemployment rates and a decrease in salaries, poor and middle-class families are unable to pursue private education. In 2015, according to the World Economic Forum Inclusive Growth Development Report, Greece was ranked last of 30 economies due to the relationship between student performance and parent income.

The Varkey Foundation

Greek educators are identifying ways to leverage education through creative curriculum approaches. The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Award recognizes Greek teachers making a difference through their work across the globe. These teachers work with students to promote inclusivity and integration of migrants in the classroom. Additionally, these educators advocate for child rights and focus on the well-being of the student.

One recipient, Andria Zafirakou, received the Varkey Foundation 1M Global Teacher Prize in 2018. Her commitment to education has led to new initiatives to encourage creativity in schools. Born to Greek-Cypriot parents, Zafirakou has dedicated her entire teaching career to educating students from ethnically diverse communities. She has a passion for education advocacy and changing the lives of young people from underprivileged communities through creativity and art. Following that creative drive has led to her great success as the best teacher in the world.

Artists in Residence

In an amazing act of charity, Andria Zafirakou used her 2018 prize winnings to found Artists in Residence (AIR). She recognized the decline in the number of students demonstrating an interest in art and students pursuing careers in art. As such, the charity focuses on individual student well-being and outcomes in school by providing a curriculum encompassing art education.

AIR strives to increase student aspirations, provide inspirational life opportunities, and prepare students for jobs in creative industries. The program develops a rounded curriculum that supports social and cognitive learning through engagement in art activities. Firstly, it establishes partnerships with schools in developing academic and holistic educational programs. Then, artists and professionals in the creative sector provide their expertise to students by inspiring learning in art.

This collaborative approach exposes students to new skills and opportunities in art, which are truly key to a well-rounded education. Moreover, AIR has been effective in enhancing public awareness and engagement in developing programs to support art education.

Lack of proper education in Greece has proven to be hazardous to societal functions. Nevertheless, through collaborative efforts in educational reform and the people of Greece’s commitment to education, Greece’s educational system is expected to see improvements. However, teachers are indispensable in addressing these issues. Greek teachers make a crucial difference by discovering innovative ways to implement change within the education system one school at a time.

Brandi Hale
Photo: Flickr

Despite legislative changes, education in Sudan continues to face challenges, especially in the midst of conflict and instability. The major obstacles faced in terms of education derive from poverty, refugee status and gender inequality. Keep reading to learn the top seven facts about education in Sudan.

Top 7 Facts about Education in Sudan

  1. Sudan currently has one of the biggest numbers of out-of-school children in the Middle East and North Africa region. UNICEF estimates that more than 3 million children between the ages of 5 and 13 are not attending school. In addition, though primary school enrollment stands at 76 percent, secondary school enrollment is only 28 percent. Nearly 3 million 5 to 13-year-old children are not enrolled in school.
  2. Sudan has a large number of unqualified teachers working in schools across the country. The Ministry of Education reports that 3,692 out of 7,315 of teachers in South and East Darfur are not properly trained nor sufficiently supervised.
  3. The illiteracy rate in Sudan stood at 50 percent for women and 30 percent for men in 2016. However, overall illiteracy has since dropped to 24 percent.
  4. Women and girls face major barriers to education. An estimated 49 percent of girls in Sudan do not attend school. Women are not protected against discrimination in classrooms, which subjects them to fewer opportunities and maltreatment. Sudanese society also adheres to gender norms that women only belong in the house to care for children and undertake domestic responsibilities. These stereotypes have affected women’s access to higher education because they are typically culturally bound to domestic and maternal duties.
  5. Sudan has worked toward major education reform in the past. Education in Sudan is free by law, however, many schools and universities charge extortionate fees throughout the school year, making schools too costly for children below the poverty line. Furthermore, the quality of education suffers due to the lack of government funding. In 2017, less than 1 percent of public spending went toward education in Sudan.
  6. Many children in Sudan who need education are refugees from other countries. Sudan hosts large numbers of refugees from Eritrea, Syria, Yemen, Chad and South Sudan. As of February 2019, more than 1 million refugees and asylum seekers were displaced in Sudan. An estimated 24 percent of them were of primary school age (6-13) and 9 percent were of secondary school age (14-17). The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and Educate a Child have teamed up to provide quality primary education to Sudanese refugees. Programs offered by the organizations include teacher training, provision of learning materials and construction/rehabilitation of classrooms. In 2016, 17,371 students were supplied with stationery kits, 763 students were enrolled in accelerated learning programs and 12 student committees were developed.
  7. Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is another nonprofit working in Sudan to strengthen the education system. The GPE aims to improve access to textbooks, quality of the academic environment and overall strengthen the institutional capacity of the education system. The GPE has allocated more than $76 million toward building 2,000 classrooms across the country, providing grants to 750 schools, distributing over 6 million textbooks and establishing teacher monitoring.

Despite the challenges presented by these facts about education in Sudan, various organizations have already begun to work toward developing a better and more effective education system in Sudan. As Sudan undergoes slow recovery from decades of conflict and instability, education becomes a priority and a necessity to recuperate. In the coming years, Sudan may see more progress toward a more inclusive education system if stability grows and increased opportunities arise for minorities such as girls and refugees.

Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Flickr

education in Pakistan
Pakistan has struggled for many years with the gender inequality of women achieving an education within their country. Pakistan is the sixth most populated country in the world, but with more than 40 percent of women never receiving an education, the nation has one of the lowest literacy rates on the continent.

While women do have the right to access education in Pakistan, there are several barriers that prevent them from doing so. In a patriarchal society, women find it difficult to access education and other opportunities because of the role a male-dominated culture plays in all of their lives.

Lack of Accessibility

One barrier that many women face in Pakistan is lack of accessibility. Many women living in the rural areas of the country are unable to attend school because they cannot afford the cost of transportation — for themselves or their children.

Although women and girls struggle to access the education in Pakistan that they so desperately need, there are many organizations working tirelessly to change these unfortunate circumstances.

The Citizen’s Foundation

One non-profit, The Citizens Foundation (TCF), has fought since 1995 to bring about positive changes in empowering women and making education more accessible to this population. The Citizens Foundation is now one of the most influential organizations in Pakistan when it comes to providing opportunities to the less fortunate.

The organization works to remove barriers that would otherwise prevent women from accessing education. TCF provides schools in rural environments which eliminates the need for transportation to more urban areas where more schools are located.

The Kashf Foundation

Working alongside The Citizens Foundation, The Kashf Foundation’s goal is the same. Established in 1999, the Kashf Foundation was created to help women from low-income areas build their entrepreneurship skills and complete their education.

The goal of this foundation is to help eliminate poverty by empowering women, which in turn provides better opportunities for their families.

The Central Asia Institute

The Central Asia Institute (CAI) is yet another non-profit working with the underprivileged women and children of Pakistan. Over the past twenty years, this organization has changed hundreds of lives by supporting women’s literacy.

With a wide variety of services — such as vocational centers, scholarships and even health centers — CAI is changing the educational system in the most impoverished areas of the country. The group provides services to both boys and girls but recognizes where the biggest change needs to happen — women’s education.

Progress for Education in Pakistan

In the past, achieving an education in Pakistan has been extremely difficult for women. But, like many countries, Pakistan wants to be able to provide its women with the same educational opportunities as its men. Unfortunately, that goal isn’t how situations always work out.

Pakistan has shown admirable effort in support of the education movement — many organizations have come together to redefine the way women receive schooling. Many people are starting to recognize that when women are educated, everyone benefits.

Women become empowered, and in turn, are able to lead happy and more successful lives. Pakistan has made many crucial changes in regard to gender equality and education, and is better as a nation because of it.

– Allisa Rumreich
Photo: Flickr

media misrepresents Haiti
In recent years, the typical media portrayal of Haiti has consistently conjured up a static image of a beleaguered nation where visible indicators of natural disaster, political instability and extreme poverty abound. Though this representation is not entirely false, it is incomplete. Haiti is well-deserving of a more fitting image that conveys its dynamism and development.

Withstanding trial and tribulation, Haiti is among the most resilient nations in the world. Like any other developing country today, Haiti is continuing to make progress despite setbacks along its way. The media misrepresents Haiti to be a place that is completely devoid of progress, forever stifled by unfortunate issues of circumstance. To the contrary, Haiti enjoys a stunningly beautiful landscape and is inhabited by hardworking, happy people with the resolve to pursue better lives for themselves and a better legacy for their country.

Education Reforms

Ensuring that children have access to quality education is an important investment in the development of any nation. Elizabeth King, former Director of Education for the World Bank, said it best: “The human mind makes possible all development achievements from health advances and agricultural innovations to efficient public administration and private sector growth. For countries to reap these benefits fully, they need to unleash the potential of the human mind. And there is no better tool for doing so than education.”

To this end, Haiti has made quality education a top policy priority over the last decade. The Global Partnership for Education granted $24.1 million in funding to improve primary education access, school performance and enrollment in Haiti.

In the last four years, Haiti has enrolled more than 73,000 students in primary education, built six additional classrooms, developed and employed more than 3,500 qualified teachers at the primary level and implemented a learning assessment system for primary education. Furthermore, the grant has helped increase student attendance to 83.5 percent in disadvantaged areas and made nutrition and health programs accessible to more than 100,000 children.

Agriculture

Suggesting that there is a dearth of economic stimulus is a particularly damaging way that the media misrepresents Haiti. It is true that many Haitians live on less than $2 a day, but economic opportunity continues to develop in the country to counteract extreme poverty.

With a climate that supports the cultivation of important cash crops like cacao and mango, as well as several staple crops, Haiti has a promising agricultural sector. USAID has worked with the country to develop sustainable agricultural techniques that increase production, improve food security and strengthen agricultural markets, ultimately increasing agricultural incomes and helping to develop and support small and medium enterprises to spur investment opportunity in the country.

Tech

Much of the media misrepresents Haiti by failing to cover recent tech advancements at work within the country. Surtab, Haiti’s answer to Apple and Samsung, has become a shining example of successful tech innovation in the country. Surtab develops and delivers a range of electronic mobile devices throughout the Caribbean and the African continent. The company employs a highly-skilled workforce, many of whom are women, and is helping to drive private sector development.

In June, Haiti will host its second annual Haiti Tech Summit, which will be attended by local and international industry leaders, digital marketers and innovators. Keynote speakers include lead developers from Facebook and Google as well as several notable figures from around the world. Aggregating some of the best tech thinkers and creators in the industry, the Haiti Tech Summit aims to accelerate local entrepreneurship and to bring global attention to Haiti’s emerging markets.

Tourism

The media misrepresents Haiti by suggesting that the country is too poor and too battered by earthquakes and hurricanes to be beautiful. The Dominican Republic and Haiti are co-located on the island of Hispaniola. They both boast beautiful beaches with glittering turquoise waters, rolling mountains and temperate, tropical weather, but only the Dominican Republic is celebrated as a place that’s worth visiting.

Despite unfair media portrayals, Haiti has been gaining traction over the last five years as a tourist destination. Haiti offers potential travelers breathtaking landscapes, complicated history and rich culture. Resort towns like Jacmel and Cap Haitien boast scenic coastal views, opulent dining and luxe accommodations that rival those of top beach communities around the world.

According to MSN, expatriate designer Victor Glemaud recently returned to Haiti after having left more than a decade ago. The country he came back to shattered his expectations: “What I was expecting from the media, and all the perceptions around the world about Haiti, were nonexistent. I saw the same vibrancy, the same resilience I remember from growing up. . . I was expecting devastation, and I didn’t see that.” Contrary to popular portrayals of the Caribbean nation, Haiti is a beautiful, thriving country.

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Flickr


Students coming out of Taiwan have routinely placed high on international test scores. However, a common concern about this region of the world is that there is too much emphasis on memorization and examination, stifling students’ creativity to create graduates who can test well but lack the critical thinking necessary for many of the world’s jobs.

The Ministry of Education in Taiwan has tackled this concern with a variety of reforms. Here are 10 reforms that have been implemented in the past decade to improve education in Taiwan:

  1. Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, which oversees education in Taiwan, stated that their goal is to replace the right to an education with the right to learn, to place focus on citizens and to make education “learner-centered.”
  2. As a response to the country’s low birth rate, Taiwan’s Ministry of Education announced in 2015 that they would be merging universities to better accommodate students who pursue higher education in the country.
  3. In 2009, Taiwan introduced a new reading program called “Happy Reading 101,” which increased the amount of time allocated for reading in schools, expanded elementary and junior high libraries and encouraged schools to promote reading-friendly activities. After the implementation, Taiwan improved its reading performance on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), jumping from 23rd in 2009 to 4th in 2012.
  4. To place less pressure on students hoping to continue their education, Taiwan’s Ministry of Education began promoting an “exam-free pathway” to high school. This pathway encourages high schools to look at residency status, civic involvement, extracurricular activities and other factors when accepting students, rather than on test scores alone.
  5. Education in Taiwan now focuses on implementing decentralized curricula to better serve students, with many schools developing Curriculum Development Education Committees to make education student-centered.
  6. In 2014, the Ministry of Education added three years of mandatory schooling to be completed after junior high. The implementation of compulsory secondary education ensures that each student is prepared for their next step in life, be it the vocational or academic track.
  7. According to World Education News and Reviews, arts education in Taiwan is now available to all students, with classes such as music and fine arts being added to the curriculum.
  8. Taiwan has made improvements to schools’ vocational education and training (VET) programs, which help prepare students who choose the vocational track in high school for their career goals.
  9. Taiwan’s Ministry of Education supported e-learning and began encouraging schools to prepare students for a technological world in 2014.
  10. In 2015, the Ministry of Education cut the application process for high school in half and began requiring high schools to admit at least 50% of students based on results of the Comprehensive Assessment Program. The Ministry hopes this reform will place less stress on students as they apply to secondary schooling.

Though these reforms are relatively new to the system of education in Taiwan, the country has already seen improvement. More students have become enrolled in higher education institutions and been given more opportunities to continue their education. In fact, the Ministry of Education reports that the college acceptance rate has steadily risen from 20 percent in the 1970s to over 90 percent as of 2012. Also, according to World Education News and Reviews, the literacy rate in Taiwan has steadily increased throughout the years, going from 86 percent in 1998 to 98.5 percent as of 2014.

Taiwan only hopes to improve the country’s education with goals “to re-orient education toward positive social values, to reshape the education system into an effective model, to reset reasonable resources, to reconstruct partnerships and to solidify learning scholarship” between now and 2023.

Jacqueline Artz

Photo: Flickr

Education_Haiti

Although school attendance has increased within the past several years, education in Haiti remains a problem. More than 200,000 Haitian children do not go to school, and half of Haiti’s adult population is illiterate.

Because most schools in Haiti are privately operated without government regulation, the cost of tuition is taxing. In many cases, students are forced to take a year or more off between grades because they can’t afford to continue. Joseph Woaly, an alumni of the Haitian school system, said he completed primary school at age 17 and secondary school at 25.

Other challenges persist. Even some of the newest institutions are not up to code. School buildings lack basic necessities such as clean water and working lavatories. According to education officials, much more funding is needed to continue plans for reforming education in Haiti.

As in most impoverished countries, women receive fewer opportunities than do men in Haiti. The World Bank estimates that a 1 percent increase in the number of women receiving an education can increase a country’s financial growth by 0.3 percent.

In 2007, the World Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank started a tuition waiver program to help reform education in Haiti. The World Bank has allocated $24.1 million toward supporting the program from 2014 to 2017. The grant helps underprivileged families pay for the cost of primary school tuition and supplies.

This tuition supplementation program has enabled more children to enroll in school while simultaneously creating a need for more teachers, thus benefiting the Haitian job market. Unfortunately, most Haitian teachers are somewhat unqualified, having received little or no training.

Another effective initiative started in 2012. The Adolescent Girls Initiative (AGI) set out to reform education in Haiti by teaching young women the skills they need to obtain long-term employment. Technical trades are often geared toward males, but AGI challenged those stereotypes, training women in such trades as plumbing, construction, machinery and IT.

The development of soft skills like professionalism, self-esteem and leadership is also crucial to gaining and retaining a profession. AGI found that women who received training were more self-confident, developing better decision-making abilities and more optimistic outlooks for the future.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also taken a deep interest in reforming education in Haiti. The organization has actively worked with the Ministry of Education in Haiti to maximize donor resources and improve national literacy levels. Over the past five years, USAID has helped Haitian children learn how to read, providing them with 85,000 workbooks, 3,700 teacher guides and curricula meeting international standards. USAID also reformed 19 schools to cater to the needs of disabled children.

Last year the World Bank promoted the idea of transferring some private schools into the public sector, hoping to increase enrollment among children who still cannot afford school fees. No notable progress has been made toward this initiative. The Haitian government maintains that there is no funding available for the project now, nor will there be within the foreseeable future.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr

I Am SyriaI Am Syria is a nonprofit organization that promotes the interests and concerns of Syrians by educating the world about the Syrian conflict.

Many people around the world have developed a negative stereotype of Syrians, particularly due to the recent upsurge of refugees. In 2015, the total number of refugees shot up to 4 million contributing to the most severe humanitarian crisis in modern history.

Terror attacks that have occurred since then are commonly linked to the large numbers of infiltrated refugees and foreigners. However, despite popular belief, evidence shows that 80 percent of domestic acts of terrorism are committed by Americans.

The negative attitude toward Syrians originates from the media, from where Syrians have been labeled terrorists since March of 2011 when some Syrians assembled for a peaceful protest movement for democracy. In hopes of debunking the biased and inaccurate information being fed to people all over the world concerning Syrians, I Am Syria has made it their mission to educate young students with recent news and reliable articles written by Syrians in the movement through lesson plans.

The curriculum is intended to inform students of the facts involving the Islamic state and the refugee crisis, while also encouraging the students to preemptively brainstorm positive ways to generate change. Students are exposed to the suffering of the impoverished innocent Syrians, rather than the alarming work of the extremists. These types of images illicit emotions that, in turn, drive the students to want to do something to help.

The voices of those who need help in Syria are drowned out by the oppressive Syrian regime that manipulates media in its favor and distorts the story. I Am Syria seeks to mend the bond between people can help and those who are in need of help by removing the stereotypes and that accompany the inaccurate allegations made toward Syrians. What’s left is the story of innocent families who have encountered so much violence and anguish, and have fled their homes in search of a better life.

I Am Syria is tackling the issue of stereotyping Syrian refugees one classroom at a time, empowering the world’s youth by making them aware of the tragedies that are occurring in the world, opening the floor for discussion and coming up with solutions to derail the inaccurate images of Syrians and helping refugees reclaim their lives.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

Prioritizing Education in Myanmar Moving Forward
The spring of 2016 has brought exciting changes for the citizens of Myanmar. Although Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally ineligible to run for president, due the fact that her sons are of British nationality, she and her supporters have still found a way to impact the education system in the country.

A close friend and aid of Suu Kyi, Htin Kyaw, was elected into office. President Kyaw has given Suu Kyi a place in the cabinet, and she will oversee foreign affairs, as well as the reformation of education in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s new branch into democracy, breaking away from the debilitating rule of a military regime which abolished the once prominent higher education system, brings hope for proper education back to the people of Myanmar.

Primary education in Myanmar is mandatory and free to the public. However, for decades the education sector has been neglected, and it shows. The rule of a military regime, which lasted nearly half of a century, discouraged education amongst Myanmar’s citizens and invested little money or resources in the education system.

The constant conflict and poverty in Myanmar which ensued disrupted students from being able to attend school. The current students and graduates of Myanmar’s public education system have not been properly prepared.

Deepak Neopane, founder of City College Yangon, comments that the economy in Myanmar has recently rebounded, but the those entering into the workforce are unequipped with basic thinking skills and much of this influx of opportunity is going to waste.

With the National League for Democracy (NLD) at reigns of the government, a plan is in place to mend and improve education in Myanmar within the next five years. Beginning in the 2017/18 academic year, the grade structure will be reconfigured and increased to follow a 13-year format.

The goal for the curriculum moving forward is to expand and enhance problem-solving and critical thinking skills within the pupils. Though the budget is yet to be finalized, it is likely that following the last year’s investments in the education system that more significant increases are to be made.

The Myanmar education sector has been receiving grants from several humanitarian organizations including UNICEF, the British Council and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, to ensure the prosperity of education for the children in Myanmar moving forward.

Undoubtedly, the government’s agenda to revitalize education in Myanmar is promising. However, they do not deny that there will be hurdles to overcome. The Myanmar government has not neglected to see that every facet of the current education system will need updates and revision.

The plan includes re-training teachers to bring them all up to the modern regional level of teaching and reconfiguring existing schools to situate smaller class sizes, which will improve teacher to student ratios. The end-goal is to have education in Myanmar completely modernized and fully up to standard with regional accreditation by 2030.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr