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Poverty Among Romanians in Albania
Albania, a country located east of the heel of Italy and bordering a chunk of the Adriatic Sea, receives millions of Euros each year. However, Albania invests next to nothing, if even that, in the ghettos where a majority of the Romani population live. The result is a continuous cycle of poverty among the Romani in Albania.

Estimates determine that Romani people migrated from Northern India to Eastern Europe in the 1400s. Upon arriving, Eastern Europeans discriminated against the Romani people due to their nomadic lifestyles. Romani people lived in tribes and worked as craftsmen. Being further developed when it came to technology, the Eastern Europeans used this to justify why they treated the Romani as “less than” or “untouchables.” In Albania, this treatment is still present today.

A Large Population

Although no one seems to have accurate data of how many Romani people live in Albania, the majority of sources seem to estimate somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000. Of this amount, 80 percent of the Romani in Albania have no job and live in extreme poverty. While this is a vast percentile, the Albanian government is still not fully addressing the issue of poverty among the Romani in Albania. For instance, the country’s social services such as welfare and economic aid make it difficult, sometimes impossible, for the Romani people to access them. Because most Romani people in Albania do not register at their local municipality, the government uses this to justify them as ineligible for the social services. However, the reason Romani in Albania do not register at their local municipality is due to the discrimination they face. This causes them to live on unclaimed land, move frequently and/or bear children at home rather than in a hospital.

Issues of Education

In Albania, 52 percent of the Romani population has no education. Of the other 48 percent who do attend school, 14 percent complete elementary school, three percent complete secondary school and four percent graduate from a college or university. Because of the lack of education, many Romani are not eligible to access employment which further contributes to their poverty.

Romani children tend to not attend school for the following reasons:

  1. They have to work to help their family survive because the average monthly income of Romani households is 68 Euros. The Romani people make less than half the monthly income of non-Romani households living in the same neighborhoods.
  2. Some schools refuse to register Romani children because they do not have birth certificates. This is despite the fact that it is the law in Albania to accept all Romani students into public schools whether they have a birth certificate or not.
  3. Romani parents choose to keep their kids home from school due to their claim that the teachers discriminate against their children because of their ethnicity.

Temporary Work

Because many Romani people in Albania are unable to find a stable source of income, they often resort to small, temporary jobs in different trades such as construction and agriculture, and most of these are low pay. While the government does provide economic aid to the unemployed, very few Romani benefit from this aid, and if they do, they do not receive it for as long as they need it. On top of all of this, Romani people are continuously denied their rights to adequate housing and lack of access to clean drinking water, and often experience ill-treatment from local police for no reason other than being of Romani descent.

The ERRC

In 1996, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) emerged out of recognition of the discrimination Romani people face in multiple countries including Albania. It uses two methods to establish equal rights and opportunities for all Romani people:

  1. Strategic Litigation: In order to eliminate the discrimination against Romani people that prevents them from moving out of poverty, the ERRC fights whoever is implementing these discriminatory acts in court. It is able to do so in both domestic and international courts.
  2. Advocacy and Research: The ERRC believes that one of the best things anyone can do in order to help prevent poverty among Romanians in Albania as well as in other countries is to get the word out. One requires awareness and education of the issue in order for change to be possible.

An ERRC Victory

The ERRC completed its latest project in Albania on December 12, 2018. Due to discrimination, Romani citizens of Fushe Kruje, a city in Albania that has been home to a Romanian community since 1990, were suffering from lack of clean drinking water. While numerous Romani organizations took action to prevent this for the past 20 years, next to nothing has changed. The ERRC stepped in and went to court to fight the local municipality in Fushe Kruje for refusing to address the community’s limited access to clean water. The ERRC won the case, and the court declared that the local municipality would have to fix this issue within 30 days or receive a fine.

The ERRC envisions a world in which Romani people and non-Romani people in Albania are able to work together to challenge the racism that exists. By doing so, poverty among the Romani in Albania will end, thus, allowing them to receive access to proper education, steady employment, and ultimately, better healthier lives.

Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr

 

 

EdTech in India
Education Technology, also known as EdTech, is a current driving force for major improvements to education in India. The information and communication technology placed in school systems throughout the country helps bring outside knowledge to classrooms that would have been previously inaccessible. Edtech has recently dropped in pricing, making the equipment and technology easily accessible in less developed areas and easier to implement in impoverished schools.

Four Key Facts About India’s Educational System

  1. India has one of the largest populations of school-age children, with an estimated 270 million children between the ages of 5 to 17.
  2. The country has four main levels for education: pre-primary from ages 3 to 6, primary from ages 6 to 10, secondary from ages 11 to 17 and tertiary from ages 18 to 22.
  3. Children must attend school from ages 6 to 13.
  4. School systems have seen a major increase in student enrollment in recent years, with a 15.37 percent increase of total gross enrollment in secondary education between 2009 and 2016.

While enrollment has increased, education in India is still behind with teaching methods and test scores. Many students test poorly in math and reading skills and teaching quality decreases in rural areas. In 2015, the mean achievement scores for math at a national level for rural areas was 247, while the urban score was 256. Urban areas also scored 19 points higher in English, with a mean score of 263. With less access to teachers and educational materials, the rural school systems face more deficits than urban areas.

Education technology is a relatively new concept for foreign countries, but the benefits to technology-infused classrooms are well known. Below are three benefits of increasing EdTech usage in Indian school systems.

Three Benefits of Increasing EdTech Usage in Indian Schools

  1. EdTech Bridges the Gap Between Rural and Urban Education: EdTech incorporates text, audio and video to teach and elaborate on classroom subjects. This technology fills in knowledge gaps when teachers are absent or less educated with certain materials. The language in these materials is also more streamlined, making topics easier to understand for a multitude of students. Video lessons make classes more consistent in all schools, eliminating the variation of teaching materials around the country. These programs also make student data more accessible to teachers, with some methods collecting and compiling data on student progress for teachers to be able to track progress and note areas that need improvement.
  2. EdTech Programs Emphasize Specialized and Individual Learning Plans: Education in India has previously been less effective at aiding students individually; through the implementation of EdTech, schools are better able to cater to students’ needs and adapt specific programs to better suit individual learning styles. Mindspark, an Indian based company that delves into education through videos, games and questions, is working to pique students’ interest in non-traditional ways. The software takes the basic values of comprehension for each student and adapts lesson plans to better fit their needs. The company recently worked with over 600 students in Delhi, citing increases in understanding of math and Hindi.
  3. EdTech Forms a Collaborative Space for Education: As more teachers begin to incorporate the newer technologies into the classroom, lesson plans will become more consistent in each region. Teachers will also be able to share effective teaching strategies using newer technology to benefit classrooms with less access to EdTech. This technology also makes information about students’ success more accessible to parents. Automated messaging to parents regarding progress can increase test scores for students overall.

While Edtech is benefitting education in India, foreign investments heavily fund the current ventures. Further development into education technology would require extensive partnership with the government, but some are taking steps to bring more technology into Indian classrooms. Prices for tablets and computers have decreased in recent years, making these educational programs more accessible to the multitudes. Many state-run schools have some access to these newer programs, and India is making more strides towards providing EdTech for students in all regions.

– Kristen Bastin
Photo: Flickr

scholarships
Lack of educational opportunity is one of the principal reasons why people may get stuck in the cycle of poverty. In many places, people are at least required to have a high-school level of education to get a minimum wage job. Most high-paying positions, however, expect people to have a college degree education, something that for many low-income Peruvians, is very hard to obtain.

In the year 2015, Peru ranked 64 out of 70 on the International Programme for Student Assessments: A standardized test that measures student’s performance on academics. The problems don’t lie within the lack of teachers or a good infrastructure; it lies within the fact that most Peruvians don’t have access to a decent education. Most of the most competitive schools and colleges are in major cities, and with usually high tuition costs.

This difference is prevalent in the countryside where some children have to walk for hours to go to school. In the Peruvian Andes, children are less likely to go beyond high-school education and much less pursue a college degree. As of the year 2017, only 16 percent of young adults were pursuing a college degree, principally because of the inability to pay the high tuition. Fortunately, a governmental program called Beca 18 (Scholarship 18) may soon change that.

The Story of Beca 18

Beca 18 is not the first program that has given scholarships to well-deserved students. The National Institute of Scholarships and Educational Loans, was founded in 1972 and lasted until 2007. While they did offer necessary scholarships and loan payments, they only centered in Lima. After 2007, the new Office of Scholarships and Educational Loan opened, with a more polished selection of students and with a clear focus on trying to reach scholars located on problematic areas of the country, but by all merit have achieved academic excellence.

The Office of Scholarships and Educational Loan worked until 2012, the year on which the former president Ollanta Humala “upgraded” it, becoming the National Program of Scholarships and Educational Loans, also known as Beca 18. The program works as an administrative unit of the Peruvian Ministry of Education with 24 regional offices, giving around 52 236 scholarships around 25 regions from 2012 to 2016. Most of the students that benefited were living in extreme poverty.

How the Program Works

The first thing that applicants have to know is if they meet all the appropriate requirements. For Beca 18, a student’s living conditions have to be below the poverty line, attending the last year of high school or have recently graduated and been on the honor roll. The Scholarship has other ramifications that cater to different students, like Beca Albergue, that centers around students that lived in foster care.

After meeting the requirements, the next step is applying to the National Exam, which can be done by just accessing the scholarships webpage during the call-up time, that happens around December each year. Each student needs to present their essential legal documentation; however, depending on what portion of Beca 18 the student is interested in they may submit additional paperwork. After taking the exam, hosted by many public and private schools around the country, each student receives guidance to get into their desired college. Once accepted, the process of applying for the Scholarship can begin, only students with satisfactory grades on both the National Exam and their college entrance exam, are granted the scholarships.

What Costs Are Covered

Depending on each of the holder’s family and economic situations, the scholarships cover the costs of the admissions exam, full tuition and other work materials, such as a laptop. If needed, the awards include accommodations, transportation, and pocket money. A private tutor is also an option but only for public universities, as privates often offer that service to its students. These, of course, help students that either came from the Andean of Rainforest Regions of the country or lived in an extreme poverty situation.

Famous Recipients

As mentioned before, Beca 18 is an excellent opportunity for many people that couldn’t afford higher education but had exceptional academic abilities. Like Omar Quispe, a recipient that now is a developer for ElectroPeru. He is currently working on a project that could bring good quality electricity to his native Huaylas, a district surrounded by extreme poverty. Another famous case is of Abel Rojas Pozo, that upon graduation started to help local guinea pig farmers spend their business. These efforts were to make his hometown one of the centers of guinea pig exports.

With an educated population, the chances of escaping poverty are higher. And like the recipients of Beca 18, they can use their new-found knowledge to help their families and their communities.

Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Wapa

Disabilities in LiberiaLiberia is a West African country comprised of 4.98 million people. Exact statistics about disability in Liberia are out of date but according to a UNICEF study from 1997, 16 percent of the population has a disability. Of that 16 percent, 61 percent struggle with mobility, 24 percent are visually impaired, seven percent are deaf and eight percent have an intellectual or psychosocial disability. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), estimated in 2014 that due to the devastating civil war that ended in 2003 and the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the population of people with disabilities in Liberia is likely closer to 20 percent.

Background

People with disabilities tend to be marginalized, stigmatized and excluded from education, skills training and income-generating opportunities. Because they have a limited voice in politics and society, their issues are not included in national policies, especially in poverty reduction initiatives causing their living conditions to continue to deteriorate in a “vicious cycle”. According to SIDA, 99 percent of people with disabilities in Liberia live in extreme poverty.

Liberia is taking steps to improve the lives of those living with disabilities. In 2012, the nation signed and ratified the U.N. Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as other treaties that reference the rights of people with disabilities like the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It also formed a national commission on disability and is reviewing its constitution to address the rights of people with disabilities. While the country is working to improve their rights and conditions, there is still much to be done. The lives and health of people with disabilities in Liberia can be improved in three key-ways: education, mental health and job opportunities.

Education

One important tool for lifting people out of poverty is education. The Liberian government has free and compulsory education for children but students with disabilities are often left behind. In 2009, even though an estimated 92,000 of 600,000 school-age children have disabilities, only four percent was allocated for children with disabilities. While there are schools for the visually impaired and the hearing impaired, they mostly reach a small urban population. Rural areas are lacking in resources for their students with disabilities.

There are, however, organizations working to improve access to education. AIFO-Liberia, for example, is working to ensure that people affected by leprosy can receive their educations, largely through a Community Based Rehabilitation strategy.

Mental Health

The Liberian people have been through much in the past 50 years. Approximately 40 percent of its citizens suffer from post-traumatic disorder from the civil war and there is only one practicing psychiatrist in the country. While not all people with disabilities have a mental illness, mental illness itself can become a disability. Those who have mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression are often stigmatized as witches.

The Carter Foundation is working to train 450 mental health professionals and create an anti-stigma campaign to improve understanding of mental illnesses. Meanwhile, AIFO-Liberia implemented a program that provides psychosocial support for those affected by the Ebola virus in addition to a destigmatizing campaign to improve mental health.

Job Opportunities

People with disabilities in Liberia are often excluded from job skills training, work, and income-generating opportunities. While the Liberian government and activists are working to put accommodation and anti-discrimination laws on the books, disability is often seen as divine retribution for a person’s misdeeds. Organizations like AIFO-Liberia have implemented a startup project that will increase job opportunities and improve social inclusiveness. Ending the social stigma, working to improve health care access and workplace accommodations, will help lift people with disabilities in Liberia out of poverty.

While the country has made great legislative strides in signing on to international commitments and in creating legislation, it still has a long way to go in improving the state of people with disabilities in Liberia. The stigma around these conditions prevents people with disabilities from having a voice and escaping extreme poverty. With the help of activists, NGO’s, and the Liberian government, the lives of people with disabilities can be improved.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

Coding in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, with more than 80 percent of its citizens living in rural areas. More than 108.4 million people call Ethiopia home, making it Africa’s second-largest nation in terms of population. However, other production areas have become major players in Ethiopia’s economy. As of 2017, Ethiopia had an estimated gross domestic product of $200.6 billion with the main product coming from other sources than agriculture.

Today, 1.2 million Ethiopians have access to fixed telephone lines, while 62.6 million own cell phones. The country broadcasts six public TV stations and 10 public radio shows nationally. 2016 data showed that over 15 million Ethiopians have internet access. While 15 percent of the population may not seem significant, it is a sharp increase in comparison to the mere one percent of the population with Internet access just two years prior.

Coding in Ethiopia: One Girl’s Success Story

Despite its technologically-limited environment, young tech-savvy Ethiopians are beginning to forge their own destiny and pave the way for further technological improvements. One such pioneer is teenager Betelhem Dessie. At only 19, Dessie has spent the last three years traveling Ethiopia and teaching more than 20,000 young people how to code and patenting a few new software programs along the way.

On her website, Dessie recounts some of the major milestones she’s achieved as it relates to coding in Ethiopia:

  • 2006 – she got her first computer
  • 2011- she presented her projects to government officials at age 11
  • 2013-she co-founded a company, EBAGD, whose goals were to modernize Ethiopia’s education sector by converting Ethiopian textbooks into audio and visual materials for the students.
  • 2014-Dessie started the “codeacademy” of Bahir Dar University and taught in the STEM center at the university.

United States Collaboration

Her impressive accomplishments continue today. More recently, Dessie has teamed up with the “Girls Can Code” initiative—a U.S. Embassy implemented a project that focuses on encouraging girls to study STEM. According to Dessie, “Girls Can Code” will “empower and inspire young girls to increase their performance and pursue STEM education.”

In 2016, Dessie helped train 40 girls from public and governmental schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to code over the course of nine months. During those nine months, Dessie helped her students develop a number of programs and projects. One major project was a website where students can, according to Dessie, “practice the previous National examinations like SAT prep sites would do.” This allows students to take practice tests “anywhere, anytime.” In 2018, UNESCO expanded a similar project by the same name to include all 10 regions in Ghana, helping to make technology accessible to more Africans than ever before.

With the continuation of programs like “Girls Can Code” and the ambition of young coders everywhere, access to technology will give girls opportunities to participate in STEM, thereby closing the technology gender gap in developing countries. Increased STEM participation will only serve to aid struggling nations in becoming globally competitive by boosting their education systems and helping them become more connected to the world in the 21st century.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Vanuatu
Vanuatu is a small nation located in Oceania, a region near the South Pacific Ocean. It is an archipelago nation made up of approximately 80 islands and is best known for its touristy capital, Port Vila. Much like many developing nations, issues are living conditions are not black and white. Instead, they are rife with complexity and nuance. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Vanuatu

  1. First on the list of top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu is that it is comprised of more than 80 islands, many being volcanic islands, covering more than 1,300 kilometers.  Vanuatu’s population is estimated to be 299,882 people. Most of the islands are not close in proximity, and dangerous waters and unpredictable weather make travel between the islands difficult. This creates problems with securing access to vital places, such as hospitals, especially for people who do not live in Port Vila. Vanuatu’s vast geography also hinders government delivery services because access to the smaller islands is limited. Remote villages are the primary standard of living as citizens have discovered the best habitable locations and resources in this volcanic nation.
  2. Homes on the islands of Vanuatu are primarily made of branches, grass and leaves woven together to provide good protection from frequent heavy rains, but they can be unstable in more severe weather conditions.  Certain natural disasters, such as tornadoes, can cause these homes to be stripped away completely. This especially became clear after Cyclone Pam hit the Vanuatu islands in 2015. 90 percent of Vanuatu’s buildings were destroyed, including many homes.  Many people were left homeless after this natural disaster hit. Many of the islands are still in the process of rebuilding after the effects of Cyclone Pam.
  3. The economy is agriculture-based.  Therefore, most citizens of Vanuatu earn their living through means such as small scale farming. Agriculture is Vanuatu’s biggest industry, and 75 percent of its population depends on it for a living.  The domestic sales of agricultural products are not as strong as exportation sales. When Cyclone Pam hit the region in 2015, approximately 64.1 percent of Vanuatu’s GDP was heavily impacted since most of its crops were damaged or destroyed from the cyclone.
  4. The beef industry is one of the most popular and profitable industries in Vanuatu.   In fact, Vanuatu is the only Pacific country capable of exporting beef. The GDP percentage of animals is only six percent.  While beef is not the main meat consumption product in Vanuatu; pork is, it is the most well-known and lucrative agricultural item exported from the small country.
  5. Since rainwater and freshwater sources are the basis of survival on these islands, the nation makes maintaining reliable and clean water a priority. However, clean water is not always easy to access. For example, Tanna is one of the most inhabited islands of Vanuatu, but it has trouble getting and sustaining clean water. Recently, a pilot project was developed that converts sunlight, air and rainwater into freshwater that is drinkable. ADB and Zero Mass Water created and implemented the solution by installing 20 solar panels with safe drinking-water technology.  Each solar panel provides three to five liters for a total of approximately 100 liters of clean water each day. Vanuatu citizens with no direct access to a clean water supply system are being aided by the implementation of this project.
  6. In March 2015, Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu hard. Eleven people were killed, and the cyclone caused major damage to homes and facilities such as hospitals, schools, etc. The damage caused by this cyclone showed Vanuatu’s fragility when it comes to natural disasters. Multiple aid agencies, especially from New Zealand and Australia, were quick to donate money to Vanuatu in order to help them recover from the destruction. Since then, Vanuatu has continued to receive disaster aid funds.
  7. Australia is a major economic partner of Vanuatu and has recently donated around $66.2 million for developmental assistance. With Australia as it’s biggest financial partner, Vanuatu has become more financially stable. Australia also provides plenty of tourism (which is one of Vanuatu’s biggest markets). In addition, in 2016, Australia committed to a support program to help the residents of Vanuatu handle issues associated with climate change. Australia pledged 300 million dollars over four years to the Pacific region to respond to and prepare for natural disasters and climate change.
  8. The Ministry of Climate Change and Natural Disaster has recently launched an initiative that aims to give Vanuatu 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. This plan is known as the Nationally Determined Contribution. Vanuatu is hoping that this initiative will be the first step in mitigating climate change within its own land.
  9. Education faces limitations in Vanuatu because schooling is not mandatory.  Only 60 percent of children graduate to secondary school. School is taught in either English or French. The literacy rate is only 64 percent, but most of the literate citizens are under age 35. In remote island locales, schools can be temporary structures built from wood and leaves and are affected by storms and weather conditions. Since education has not experienced major improvements, organizations such as the Vanuatu Education Support Program was created in 2012 to better the education system. It aims to provide support for the Ministry of Education and Training’s corporate plan and the Vanuatu Education Sector Strategy. One of the solutions includes “improving literacy and numeracy from kindergarten to year 3.”
  10. The health care system in the Vanuatu islands suffers from a lack of facilities and qualified staff.  There are five public hospitals and one private hospital for the 80 plus islands. Two are on the modernized islands of Port Vila and Luganville. The doctor to patient ratio is 8/10,000. If someone is in dire condition, they often are flown to other countries such as Australia or New Zealand which can make an emergency situation more complicated and dangerous.  All pharmaceuticals are imported from other countries.

This concludes the top 10 facts about living conditions in Vanuatu. This archipelagic nation is very independent and allows its citizens to choose how they want to live, but, due to the structure of a nation of small islands, this way of life comes with setbacks.  The citizens of Vanuatu have seen some small improvements in their way of life, and with the positive aspects of this country, improvements can continue with the right steps.

Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr

 

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Antigua and BarbudaWith people inhabiting the islands as early as 2400 B.C., Antigua and Barbuda have a rich history. First conquered by Spanish and French settlements in the late 15th century, the islands were later established as an English colony in the 1600s and didn’t gain their independence within the British Commonwealth of Nations until 1981. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Antigua and Barbuda.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Antigua and Barbuda

  1. The government spends an estimated 2.5 percent of its GDP on education, with 91 percent of students enrolled completing the primary seven years of mandated education. Males are estimated to spend an average of 12 years in school, and females 13. Interestingly, the ratio of females to males continuing their education past secondary school is two to one.
  2. While the islands are technically independent, they still operate under a constitutional monarchy, meaning that British Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Rodney Williams, is still their head of state. However, there is also a Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, and two legislative houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, which is permitted by the constitution.
  3. Antigua and Barbuda are both destination and transportation countries for human trafficking, both sex trafficking and forced labor. Reports of sex trafficking in the form of prostitution have been described as occurring in bars and brothels, while forced labor is not as easy to spot, often seen in domestic and retail sectors. While the islands are not known for making valiant efforts to eliminate human trafficking, improvements in cases being taken seriously have been made in recent years.
  4. Tourism is a huge source of the islands’ GDP, as is common in the Caribbean region. Making up 60 percent of the roughly $2.4 billion GDP, it should come as no surprise that 80 percent of the labor force is in the service industry.
  5. While colonized by the British, sugarcane became a massive export of Antigua’s. Slavery was used as a means to speed up the exportation process. After the emancipation of these slaves in the nineteenth century, many Antiguan inhabitants developed a desire for self-governance, while others wished to form likenesses with other Caribbean nations.
  6. Driving is the most common form of transportation in Antigua and Barbuda, with taxis used extensively, and many drivers even taking tourists on sightseeing excursions. Bus systems are in place but rarely used. Additionally, local boats and ferries run often, and there are flights between Antigua and Barbuda.
  7. Those native to the islands tend to be relatively healthy, with life expectancies for men at around 75 years, and females 79 years. 5.5 percent of the country’s GDP is spent on health, ensuring that about 91 percent of the population had access to proper sanitation centers as of 2011.
  8. While the unemployment rate across Antigua and Barbuda is 11 percent, those who have stable incomes have become accustomed to modern technology, and are relatively well established. In 2008, it was reported that 97 percent of households had televisions sets, and in 2013, for every 1,000 people, there were 1,271 mobile phone subscriptions.
  9. Aside from tourism, the main labor categories on the island are industry and agriculture. The main agricultural products include cotton, fruits and vegetables, sugarcane and livestock. The main industries include the obvious tourism, construction and light manufacturing of items such as clothing and alcohol.
  10. Antigua and Barbuda have no major international disputes and maintain fairly peaceful. They have a variety of export partners, including Poland, Cameroon, the U.S. and the U.K. They import mainly from the U.S. and Spain.

Bearing these top 10 facts about Antigua and Barbuda in mind, it’s easy to see why so many people are drawn to these Caribbean islands. With such a rich history to delve into, locals are eager to show off the culture and beauty the country has to offer. Without the romanticization of many tourist websites, these top 10 facts about Antigua and Barbuda give a brief overview of different aspects of the islands.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Google Images

Role of STEM in Developing CountriesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are important for building and maintaining the development of any successful country. From the medical scientists, who develop treatments for diseases, to the civil engineers, who design and build a nation’s infrastructure, every aspect of human life is based on the discoveries and developments of scientists and engineers. The importance of STEM today should not be underestimated as its role is becoming increasingly significant in the future. The technology produced today is altering people’s lives at a rate faster than ever before. Consequently, it is vital for countries seeking to reduce their poverty levels to adopt new scientific research and technology. In doing so, these countries can improve their economy, health care system and infrastructure. As this impacts all aspects of society, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance.

STEM and Economic Progress

STEM education fosters a skill set that stresses critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of skill set encourages innovation among those who possess it. Similarly, a country’s economic development and stability are dependent on its ability to invent and develop new products. Technological innovation in the modern age is only obtainable through the expertise of specialists with knowledge of recent STEM research. Therefore, the role of STEM in developing countries is important because a country’s economy is completely dependent on new developments from technology and science.

Overall, the economic performance of metropolises with higher STEM-oriented economies is superior to those with lower STEM-oriented economies. Within these metropolises, there is lower unemployment, higher incomes, higher patents per worker (a sign of innovation), and higher imports and exports of gross domestic products. According to many experts, this holds true at a national level as well. The world’s most successful countries tend to efficiently utilize the most recent scientific developments and technologies.

In recent years, there is a major increase in the number of science and engineering degrees earned in India. India now has the largest number of STEM graduates in the world, putting the country on the right track for economic development. This has led to widespread innovation in India and a consistent increase in its gross domestic product. The role of STEM in developing countries can thus improve its economy. As of early 2019, India has seen an increase of 7.7 percent in its total GDP.

STEM and Health Care

Over the past 50 years, the Western world has made remarkable progress in medical science. With new breakthroughs developed through vaccinations and treatment, many serious diseases in developing countries are now curable. Common causes of death for children in developing countries are diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. These diseases cause a large death toll in developing countries, but they have been largely eradicated from developed countries through proper vaccinations. As a result, these diseases take a large toll on the children of developing countries. In developing countries, a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age. As such, it is important to prevent diseases that affect children under 15.

Lately, Brazil has seen an epidemic level of yellow fever which has resulted in numerous deaths. Brazil has addressed this by implementing a mass immunization campaign. In particular, this program will deliver vaccines to around 23.8 million Brazilian citizens in 69 different municipalities. The role of STEM in developing countries with preventable diseases will be vital to improving health and life expectancy rates.

Engineering and Infrastructure

Engineers build, create and design machines and public works to address needs and improve quality of life. Engineers construct and maintain a nation’s infrastructure, such as its fundamental facilities and systems. This includes roads, waterways, electrical grids, bridges, tunnels and sewers. Infrastructure is vital to a country, as it enables, maintains and enhances societal living conditions.

Subsequently, poor infrastructure can seriously hinder a nation’s economic development. This is the case in many African countries. Africa controls only 1 percent of the global manufacturing market despite accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total population. Ultimately, poor infrastructure, such as transportation, communications and energy, stunts a country’s ability to control a larger share of the national market.

Afghanistan has improved its energy infrastructure, using a large portion of the assistance received from the U.S. Through this effort, they have been able to reduce electricity loss from 60 percent to 35 percent. Consequently, they have improved long term sustainability and created a reliable energy system for their citizens. The role of STEM in developing countries is important on a large scale, improving infrastructure to impact their citizens’ daily lives.

STEM and the Future of the World

Societies seeking new scientific knowledge and encouraging creative and technological innovations will be able to properly utilize new technologies, increase productivity, and experience long term sustained economic growth. The developing societies that succeed will be able to improve the living standards of its population. As our world becomes more interconnected, countries prioritizing STEM education and research will make significant advances in alleviating poverty and sustaining economic, cultural and societal growth. Undoubtedly, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance, just as it is in our modern world.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Education in North Korea

Formal education in Korea began during the Three Kingdoms period, influenced by the Chinese educational system. In 1882, King Kojong issued an edict upholding education as a “pillar” of Korea. Thus formal education in Korea opened its doors to both men and women of all classes.

In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, commonly referred to as North Korea, education is entirely government-controlled. Education is required of all citizens for 11 years until the secondary level. Moreover, the education system in North Korea is based around socialistic ideals. Classes focus on the Korean language, mathematics, literature and government. These are the top 10 facts about education in North Korea.

Top 10 Facts About Education in North Korea

  1. Both primary and secondary schooling are required and free in North Korea. First, children go through one year of kindergarten. Then, they attend primary school, known as the “People’s Schools,” from the ages of six to nine. Afterward, they attend a secondary school which depends on their specialties. Secondary schooling continues from the ages of 10 to 16.
  2. North Korea is one of the most literate countries in the world. According to UNESCO, North Korea’s literacy rate is 98-100 percent. However, a self-reported number like this is questionable, considering the amped statistics coming out of North Korea.
  3. The literature read by North Korean students is carefully censored. Most writers remain obscure and their biographical details are concealed. Stories usually revolve around upholding socialism and the care the Kims have given the literary world. For example, “The Fifth Photograph,” by Lim Hwa-won, is told from the perspective of a woman who visits post-Soviet Russia in the early 1990s, only to witness a country failed by western influence.
  4. Women’s education is one of the more progressive aspects of North Korean schools. Secondary education and beyond is equally accessible to both men and women. In the late 1950s, the government initiated the “Chollima” campaign, which worked to more efficiently mobilize the population. As such, women were taught that emancipation came through labor, socialized childrearing and helping to build a socialist North Korea through productive work. Women make up over 80 percent of elementary teachers and 15 percent of college professors. There is no available information regarding the wage scale between men and women. However, one source from a Michigan State study states the wage is usually fixed making men earn more. Women also tend to quit their jobs after marriage.
  5. The curriculum in North Korean schools focuses on the Kims. A study by the Korea Institute for Curriculum Evaluation finds students spend 684 hours learning about the current leader Kim Jong-Un, his father Kim Jong-il, his grandfather Kim Il-sung and his grandmother Kim Jong-suk. North Korea states its education system is for “students to acquire the concept of revolution and endless loyalty toward the party and the supreme leader.”
  6. Many students who go into higher education come from royal family backgrounds. Higher education in North Korea is divided into colleges, universities and vocational schools. One of the most prestigious schools in North Korea, Kim Il-Sung University, is extremely hard to get into. Only students who are related to higher government officials and have good grades can sit for entrance exams. If a student is gifted in science or mathematics, they often go to the University of National Defense.
  7. Military service is required for both North Korean men and women at the age of 17. Before 2017, military service was optional for women. Now they must serve until age 23, and men must serve 10 years. However, exceptionally gifted students from special schools may be exempt from service altogether.
  8. A lot of the education in North Korea is propaganda meant to indoctrinate students into the system as early as kindergarten. For example, when children learn about time, they learn it is based on Kim Il-sung’s birth year, 1912, also known as Year 1 in North Korea. Every classroom in North Korea must have a picture of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-Il. Children learn about “revolutionary history,” involving music, storybooks, novels and artwork related to the Kims. A report published by the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry states North Korea’s education program has two goals: to instill the utmost loyalty and commitment toward the supreme leader and to instill hostility and deep hatred toward the United States, Japan and South Korea.
  9. The education system violates international law by restricting freedom of thought and expression in its people. The December 2018 U.N. report concludes North Korea is committing “systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights.” Their findings cite torture, “inhuman conditions of detention,” rape, public executions, the death penalty for political and religious reasons, and political prison camps. In addition, it cites pervasive restrictions on freedom of thought, religion, expression, assembly and movement. Consequently, North Korea “totally rejects” the U.N. resolution.
  10. North Korean “reeducation camps” are where prisoners go to perform hard labor. The Ministry of People’s Security runs the reeducation camps. Most of these crimes are political, from border-crossings to slight disturbances in order. Prisoners are often forced into hunger and severe circumstances. Most prisoners do not make it out of their sentence alive. Recently, in January 2019, a North Korean denuclearization diplomat was sent to a reeducation camp. This was likely due to being labeled a spy due to his job, serving as the United States’ contact point with North Korea.

These top 10 facts about education in North Korea show the most important role of education is upholding socialistic conformity. Overall, the country doesn’t seem to be raising unique individuals who are given true freedom of expression. Instead, education, like many other aspects of life in North Korea, is political.

Isadora Savage
Photo: Pixabay

opportunity in African slums
Kenya is known as a contrasting country where there is a large gap between the economic and social classes. About half of the 44 million people who live in the African country live well below the poverty line. This makes necessities like clean water and health care seem like luxuries.

With limited opportunity in African slums, many fall ill from lack of sanitation and clean water, as well as food shortages. Others are unable to attend school and are either pushed into violence or become victims of it.

Kennedy Odede – A Ray of Hope

Kennedy Odede was born in Kibera, Kenya, one of the largest slums in Africa. Here, Odede and many of his friends and neighbors were subjected to violence, severe gender inequality and a constant feeling of hopelessness stemming from a lack of opportunity. Despite his extreme impoverished conditions, Odede remained hopeful for not only a better future for himself and his birthplace of Kibera but for all the slums of Africa.

As he continued his education and eventually migrated to the U.S., Odede became inspired by visionaries of change, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Like these influential men, Odede wanted to better the world for the vulnerable population.

In Kenya in 2004, Odede bought a soccer ball for 20 cents and taught people in his area the sport. Upon bringing people together to play, the Kenyan native was able to create open discussions about the pressing issues within the community of Kibera. Those included issues such as food security and gender-based violence. They started discussing ways to create opportunity in African slums.

Shining Hope for Communities

After meeting his wife, Jessica Posner, Odede’s initiatives branched out into a grassroots organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO).  It was founded in 2009. This nonprofit organization devised a plan to integrate programs for girls’ education and community forums to raise awareness about gender-based violence. SHOFCO’s mission statement pays homage to the mindset of Odede’s visionary inspirations. It reads “Empower communities to transform urban poverty to urban promise.”

SHOFCO set up an aerial network of pipes that brought access to clean water. It was an effort to help decrease Kenya’s alarming child mortality rate. SHOFCO has also set up several health clinics, including 6 in Odede’s home neighborhood of Kibera, where over 165,000 patients were served in 2017. Clinical services were desperately needed in Kibera with HIV and other diseases being endemically prominent.

According to SHOFCO’s annual report, in 2017 the organization helped provide free education and health services to nearly 220,000 people across Kenyan slums. Thus, along with health reform in Africa, the organization continues its initiatives to better education and transform the lives of people.

Educational Programs to Create Better Opportunity in African Slums

The Los Angeles based couple’s organization continued to transform urban poverty and create better opportunity in African slums through their educational programs. SHOFCO’s School-2-School program partners with schools across the United States to support efforts and raise awareness for SHOFCO’s free schooling for girls in Kenya.

This partnership has helped 45 percent of Kenyan girls enrolled in the free schooling program achieve A’s in Kenya’s primary education certification exam. Schools enrolled in the program received a B+ average on the same exam. Both Odede and his wife believe that providing young girls with education is important to fighting poverty as it creates female leaders and speaks for the need to fight for women’s rights.

SHOFCO now runs two schools, one in Kibera the other in Mathare. The schools teach 519 girls from pre-kindergarten up to eighth grade. Aside from traditional academic subjects, students focus on leadership skills and learn about Kenya’s government. This was Odede’s idea to make people realize the need to create more opportunities in African slums.

SHOFCO’s annual budget of $7 million is currently made up of donations and grants from both the U.S. and Kenya. Odede and his wife hope this budget will go well beyond $10 million by 2021. That would allow the organization to create more schools and also continue its efforts in addressing Kenya’s health and water security issues. SHOFCO’s model for lifting urban slums like Kibera out of poverty serves as a guide to how industrialized countries can help create opportunity in African slums.

– Haley Newlin
Photo: Flickr