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7 Facts About Poverty in Havana
In 1962, the U.S. imposed a full embargo on Cuba which prohibits all trade between the two countries. Since then, Havana, the capital city of Cuba, has become ridden with poverty and inequality. Here are seven facts about poverty in Havana.

7 Facts About Poverty in Havana

  1. Living Conditions: Under the Castro government, the housing deficit in Havana has grown by 20 percent each year since the 1990s. Out of 2.6 million housing units, 1 million are said to be below standards. Most buildings have not been updated or maintained properly since 1959. There are 696 multi-family buildings in a critical state, leaving some Havana residents in fear of having their roofs collapse. In rural areas, Havana residents sometimes live in self-made huts with dirt flooring. The government is working to improve living conditions, but it could take up to 10 years to meet demands.
  2. Economic Classes: The Cuban government has not recently published poverty data for Havana; however, the average salary for those working a government job is around $20 a month. Doctors and nurses have recently been given a raise which gives specialized doctors $67 a month and entry-level nurses $25 a month. If you assume a typical 40-hour workweek, this means that a doctor makes around 42 cents an hour. Waiters and cashiers in Havana on average earn less than $220 a year, which is four times less than what doctors make.
  3. Hotels and Tourism: Around 26 hotels in Havana are tied to the Cuban military and therefore the money gained from tourism does not benefit the people of Cuba. An alternative option for tourists is Airbnb, as this directly benefits citizens by allowing them to rent out their rooms. Sometimes, the money Cubans earn from Airbnb rentals is more than they would make in an entire month.
  4. Food Rationing: In Havana, the government rations chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other basic goods. Rationing has forced the citizens of Havana to plant their own gardens and farms. Today, over 90 percent of the produce consumed in Havana is grown there. An organization called Proyecto Communitario Conservacion Alimentos (Community Food Preservation Project) helps teach Cubans to grow and preserve their own food. These efforts have helped many people in Havana learn to cook food from goods they produced themselves.
  5. Social Systems: Despite the fact that the average person in Havana lives on less than $1.20 a day, Cuba boasts having one of the highest literacy rates in the world due to their free education from “cradle to grave.” Health care is also free and considered a human right. People in Havana live just as long as U.S. citizens, regardless of their impoverished living conditions.
  6. Currency: Cubans have two currencies, each with different uses. Local Cubans in Havana use the CUP (Cuban Peso Nacional), which converts as 25CUP per $1 U.S. dollar, while tourists use the CUC (Cuban Convertible Currency), which holds the same value as the U.S. dollar. The dual currency system has created large inequalities in Havana because only those working in the tourism industry use CUC. This has created a two-tier class system which benefits only those working in tourism. To remedy this, however, the Cuban government has plans underway to eliminate the dual-currency system.
  7. U.S. Embargo: The embargo between the U.S. and Cuba has been a contributing factor to Havana’s fall from grace. According to NAFSA, resuming American travel and trade will not only boost the Cuban economy but will also empower Cubans to impose change on their government. The NAFSA Cuban Engagement Initiative works on legislation that will end the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

There is a long road ahead to ending Havana’s poverty crisis, but with work being done to change U.S. policies and increase responsible tourism, we could see Cuba’s capital city return to its once elevated state. The most important step is to spread awareness and mobilize to change government policies that will benefit Havana’s citizens.

Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

Eliminating HIV In Kenya

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa affects adolescent girls more than any other group within the population. As a public health response, a new approach for the elimination of HIV in Kenya emerged which addresses the gender and economic inequality that aid in spreading the disease. This new approach is related to female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya with new effective methods.

Health Care System in Kenya

Kenya is home to the world’s third-largest HIV epidemic. Kenya’s diverse population of 39 million encompasses an estimate of 42 ethnic tribes, with most people living in urban areas. Research shows that about 1.5 million, or 7.1 percent of Kenya’s population live with HIV. The first reported cases of the disease in Kenya were reported by the World Health Organization between 1983 to 1985. During that time, many global health organizations increased their efforts to spread awareness about prevention methods for the disease and gave antiretroviral therapy (ART) to those who were already infected with the disease. In the 1990s, the rise of the HIV infected population in Kenya had risen to 100,000 which led to the development of the National AIDS Control Council. The elimination of HIV in Kenya then became a priority for every global health organization.

The health care system in Kenya is a referral system of hospitals, health clinics, and dispensaries that extends from Nairobi to rural areas. There are only about 7,000 physicians in total that work within the public and private sector of Kenya’s health care system. As the population increases and the HIV epidemic intensifies, it creates more strenuous conditions for most of the population in Kenya to get the healthcare they desperately need. It is estimated that more than 53 percent of people living with HIV in Kenya are uninformed of their HIV status.

In addition, HIV disproportionately affects women and young people. After an initiative implemented by UNAIDS in 2013 to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV through increased access to sex education and contraceptives, significantly fewer children are born with HIV. Today, 61 percent of children with HIV are receiving treatment. However, the young women (ages 15-24) in Kenya are still twice as likely to be infected with HIV as men their age. Overall HIV rates are continuing to decrease for other groups within the population, but studies show that 74 percent of new HIV cases in Kenya continue to be adolescent girls.

Female Empowerment Eliminating HIV in Kenya

Women’s empowerment is an overarching theme for the reasons that HIV is heavily impacting the young women in Kenya. A woman’s security in the idea that she is able to dictate personal choices for herself has the ability to hinder or help her well-being.
Female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya uses these four common conditions to eliminate HIV:

  1. Health Information – Many girls in Kenya lack adequate information and services about sexual and reproductive health. Some health services even require an age of consent, which only perpetuates the stigma towards sexual rights. Also, the few health services available are out of reach for poor girls in urban areas.
  2. Education – A lack of secondary education for young women and girls in Kenya often means that they are unaware of modern contraceptives. A girl that does not receive a secondary education is twice as likely to get HIV. To ensure that adolescent girls have access to sexuality education, the 2013 Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa guaranteed that African leaders will commit to these specific needs for young people.
  3. Intimate partner violence –  Countless young women and girls have reported domestic and sexual violence that led to them contracting HIV. Something as simple as trying to negotiate contraceptive use with their partners often prompts a violent response. There has been an increased effort to erase the social acceptability of violence in many Kenyan communities. An organization called, The Raising Voices of SASA! consists of over 25 organizations in sub-Saharan Africa that work to prevent violence against women and HIV.
  4. Societal norms – Some communities in Kenya still practice the tradition of arranged marriages, and often at very young ages for girls. The marriages usually result in early pregnancy and without proper sex education, women and babies are being infected with HIV at a higher rate. In 2014, the African Union Commission accelerated the end to child marriages by setting up a 2-year campaign in 10 African Countries to advocate for Law against child marriages. Research suggests that eliminating child marriages would decrease HIV cases, along with domestic violence, premature pregnancies by over 50 percent.

Young women in Kenya face various obstacles in order to live a healthy life, and poverty acts as a comprehensive factor. Studies show that a lack of limited job opportunities leads to an increase in high-risk behavior. Transactional sex becomes increasingly common for women under these conditions, while they also become more at risk for sexual violence. An estimated 29.3 percent of female sex workers in Kenya live with HIV.

Solution

The most practical solution to tackling the elimination of HIV in Kenya combines HIV prevention with economic empowerment for young girls. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an organization that has worked hard at implementing strategies, and interventions across Africa that highlight women’s access to job opportunities and education. In 10 different countries in Africa (including Kenya), young women can attend interventions in which they learn about small business loans, vocational training and entrepreneurship training. One way that more women in Kenya are able to gain control over their financial resources is by receiving village saving loans. To participate in village saving loans it requires a group of 20-30 to make deposits into a group fund each week. Women within these groups can access small loans, which enables them to increase their financial skills while gaining economic independence. The Global Fund to fight AIDS has cultivated a space for numerous empowerment groups for young women out of school called the RISE Young Women Club. The young women in these clubs often live in poverty and receive HIV testing as well as sexual health education.

Overall, the global health programs that aid in the elimination of HIV in Kenya are continuously improving their strategies by including young women in poverty. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya steadily sees progress thanks to the collective efforts of programs that empower young women.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Social Justice Helps to Fight Social ChallengesAccording to the Pachamama Alliance, social justice is defined as “equal access to wealth, opportunities and privileges within a society.” Social challenges are defined as “an issue that relates to society’s perception of people’s personal lives. Different societies have different perceptions and what may be “normal” behavior in one society may be a significant social issue in another society.”

After defining terms, now the question raised must be addressed: how can social justice helps to fight social challenges? Social justice can help to fight social challenges by providing society with equal opportunities to overcome its problems.

Social justice and education

For instance, poverty is considered a social challenge because it relates to how society views people’s lives. One way to help reduce poverty is to provide greater and more equal education opportunities since many find themselves living in poverty due to a lack of education. From the years of 2002 to 2007, about 40 million more children around the world were able to attend school, due largely in part to the lowering of costs and the increase in investment. Programs like these are examples of social justice and the impact it can have on addressing social problems like global poverty.

Social justice and access to clean water

Another factor that influences poverty rates is a lack of access to clean potable water and nutritious foods. Although having access to these resources is a basic human right, many people around the world do not have access to clean water and food. To be more specific, according to The Water Project one in nine people worldwide do not have access to clean and safe drinking water, as a result, people find themselves without the ability to “grow food, build housing, stay healthy, stay in school, and keep a job.” By implementing programs such as building wells in rural communities and bringing access to potable water within a half-mile of villages across the globe, social justice in the form of providing people with equal access to privileges within a society, the social challenge of global poverty is being addressed.

Social justice and job development

Another important aspect is the economy and how job development can help to eradicate poverty. In China, 700 million people have been raised out of poverty due to several different programs being put in place by the government, one of which is its focus on the creation of jobs and the economic development of rural areas. Additionally, by providing underdeveloped areas with officers to regulate the poverty-alleviation programs, Chinese citizens were able to rise up out of the inhumane living conditions they were surviving in.  Through the government’s efforts in the job and economic development, China’s poor population has been given the same opportunities to achieve wealth and change their situation, which just goes to show that social justice can make a difference in how social challenges are addressed.

In conclusion, in terms of how social justice can help to fight social challenges, one could say that through the implementation of programs that offer the same opportunities to the underprivileged, social justice helps to fight social issues like global poverty.

Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Digital Education in Kenya

Despite Kenya’s large economy and rapid digital and technological growth, the country still suffers a vast digital gap. This gap is especially apparent in Kenya’s primary schools. As of 2015, Kenya spent 95.7 percent of its total education expenditure on primary public institutions. But, there is still only one teacher for every 47 students, the majority of whom do not have access to the internet. Tech-start ups and pilot projects are trying to close this gap by creating innovative programs that are helping students to earn a digital education in Kenya.

Opportunity for Everyone

In 2016, Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology created the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP). The project promised to deliver 1.2 million digital devices to 21,718 primary public schools nationwide. The launch was successful and by 2018 the roll-out provided 19,000 schools with more than 1 million laptops, tablets and mobile devices pre-programmed with interactive, educational materials for students.

According to the ICT Authority of Kenya, 89.2 percent of public primary schools have been supplied with these devices. Since its launch, teachers involved with the DLP have also reported increased student alertness, boosted attendance and reported an overall increase in student admissions. The DLP has also created 11,000 employment opportunities in ICT support centers, local laptop assembly plants and digital education content development.

Despite the DLP’s successful roll-out of devices, experts in the field speculated that teacher-engagement combined with access to materials is the most effective way to ensure students’ success. The Inter-American Development Bank carried out a study in 2012, reporting that 860,000 computers supplied to Peruvian schools made teachers feel disengaged from students and did not improve student test scores. The DLP and projects like it looking to innovate digital education in Kenya took note of this and put more emphasis on teacher training. The DLP alone has trained 91,000 teachers to deliver digital learning content through the project since its launch.

Combating Educational Imbalance

Despite the overwhelming contributions provided by the DLP, obstacles still remain in terms of digital education in Kenya. Students in rural areas rarely have access to traditional libraries and textbooks. Then, there is also the issue of not having enough teachers to cover the multitude of students in each classroom. These same areas also suffer from regular power outages, making it difficult to keep devices charged throughout the school day. This, on top of an overall lack of internet access, creates a significant imbalance in the quality of resources provided to students and a system that can’t ensure equal opportunities for every child to be successful.

BRCK, a tech company based in Nairobi, aims to combat this imbalance with an innovative solution called the Kio Kit. The kit provides 40 tablets per school, that can be charged wirelessly, a wifi hotspot and a small server packed with educational content. The Kio Kit is connected to the cloud, making its server self-updating. The kit’s self-updating capabilities ensure that students and teachers utilizing its platform receive the most diverse and up-to-date information that BRCK’s content providers, like TED Education, Khan Academy and the like have to offer. The kit’s wide-ranging content also enables teachers to identify learning techniques that are unique to each student and apply them in the classroom.

Kenya still faces many challenges in quality education for all students. But, innovative tech projects like the DLP and the Kio Kit are working to combat these issues by ensuring both teachers and students have access to the best tech and resources available and helping to make great strides toward strong, digital education in Kenya.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

 

Education in ArgentinaArgentina was the seventh most prosperous nation in the world just a century ago, according to Agnus Maddison’s historic incomes database. In fact, its per capita income in 1909 was 50 percent higher than Italy and 180 percent higher than Japan. “The gap between 2000 income and predicted economic success, based on 1909 income, is larger for Argentina than for any other country,” according to New York Times’ Economix. In other words, income in Argentina is sharply declining. Much of the nation’s economic trouble can be attributed to shortcomings in their education system. Argentina’s education minister, Esteban Bullrich, says, “We don’t want to accept that we’re doing badly at anything.” While many of Argentina’s student academic goals are statistically high, other aspects of their education system have proved to be weak. Here are 10 facts about education in Argentina.

10 Facts About Education in Argentina

  1. Argentina’s quality of life is among the highest in South America. It is rated number 55 worldwide for quality of life and 40 in entrepreneurship. Due to this, many students have easy access to an education.
  2. Argentina’s literacy rate is 98.1 percent – a five percent increase since the 80s. More Argentinians are reading at a higher level now than ever before. In comparison, that is 12 percent higher than the global average.
  3. Argentina’s school year runs about 200 days. Students are in school from March to December with a two-week break during July and breaks on national holidays such as Easter. In contrast, American school years tend to run only 180 days a year. The Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness found through their study that longer school years can benefit students greater than longer school days. Shortened summers prevent “summer slide-back,” a phenomenon in which students forget learned information during summer breaks.
  4. In 2005, 12.2 million students made up 30 percent of Argentina’s population. In the early 2000s an economic crisis had a severe impact on those enrolled in school. Primary level enrollment fell from 117.8 percent to 112.7 percent. Despite this, school is mandatory in the nation.
  5. School runs for just four hours a day, Monday through Friday, with a student either attending an 8:15- 12:15 session or a 13:00 to 17:15 session. In contrast, American schools average six and a half hours a day and schools in China run from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a two-hour lunch break. A study conducted by the Department of Education in Massachusetts found that longer school days can improve test scores by 4.7-10.8 percentage points
  6. As of 2016, Argentina has a secondary school enrollment rate of 90 percent, according to the World Bank. Secondary education is broken into a basic cycle of 3 years followed by a cycle of two to three years where students can study accounting, computer science, and other various specializations. Technical-vocational programs include 12-15 hours a week in workshops.
  7. Only 27 percent of students in Argentina finish their university studies. This gives the nation a drop-out rate of 73 percent – one of the highest in the world. Esteban Bullrich, the education minister says that only about half of students finish their secondary studies.
  8. The Minister of Education in Argentina refused César Alan Rodríguez, a student with down syndrome, his graduation certificate, arguing he had received an adaptive curriculum. Rodriguez was the only disabled student attending his school at the time. In response, he sued his school for discrimination of basis of disability. Argentina ruled in this case to start taking the education of disabled students seriously, creating the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). CRPD is the first human rights treaty clearly stating all students have an equal right to education regardless of ability.
  9. A teacher’s gross salary in Argentina is $10,747 in American currency. This number is roughly a fifth of what teachers make in the United States. In contrast, Regional IT Managers in Argentina make $134,336 and Software Engineers make $55, 535 on average.
  10. Argentina’s Ministers of Education met at the G20 Summit on September 5th, 2018 to create an action plan. There the ministers pledged to keep up with societal and technological innovations, better equip teachers, “[promote] multiple and flexible pathways into lifelong education and training,” improve policies, and engage students. Furthermore, they discussed how to finance these goals in line with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda.

Like the rest of the world, education in Argentina is not perfect. Drop-out rates run high and school days run short. However, the nation is making a clear effect to improve the situation for students and educators across their country.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in the Dominican RepublicThe Dominican Republic is best known globally as a tropical getaway with Americans making up the majority of the tourism income. Travel and tourism alone made up 17.2 percent GDP and 16.0 percent of employment last year in the Dominican Republic. Despite its beauty, human rights in the Dominican Republic do not match the freedoms that Americans are accustomed to back in their homeland. Here are the top 10 facts about human rights in the Dominican Republic.

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in the Dominican Republic

  1. Police Brutality: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported more than 180 extrajudicial killings by police forces through 2017. Reports from a top-level prosecutor and the National Commission for Human Rights implicate large amounts of corruption in the police force as a cause for the wrongful murders, nearly 15 percent of all homicides committed are done by the police.
  2. Incarceration: Corruption of the police force has contributed to the eroded human rights in the Dominican Republic.  The United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor reported that there were credible allegations that prisoners paid bribes to obtain early release on parole in 2017. In the same report, prisons were said to range from acceptable conditions to awful conditions, with poor sanitation, and poor access to health-care services in severely overcrowded prisons.
  3. Freedom of Speech: While citizens are allowed to criticize the government of the Dominican Republic freely, there have been reports of journalists being intimidated by the government. Journalists are threatened when investigating organized crime or corruption within the government and when researching in more remote or rural locations.
  4. Privacy: Article 44 of the constitution of the Dominican Republic grants “the right to privacy and personal honor.” No one may enter the homes of citizens unless the police are in pursuit of a criminal blatantly committing a crime. Article 44 also grants the right to private correspondence. However, there have been reports of homes being wrongfully raided by police in impoverished areas.
  5. Child Labour: According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of International Affairs, 28 percent of children in the Dominican Republic had to work in the agricultural sector in 2017. The government is making reforms to end the severe abusive child labor such as over-working and sex-trafficking. The government increased the Labor Inspectorate’s budget from $3.3 million to $4.8 million in 2018 and approved the National Action Plan against Human Trafficking and Illicit Smuggling of Migrants and put forth funding for more after-school programs.
  6. Right to Protest: Citizens of the Dominican Republic have a right to assembly, without prior permission, in lawful protest. Successful protests have occurred, such as the protest against extending the presidential term limit in order to keep President Danilo Medina from running for a third term. There was also a protest called Con Mis Hijos Te Metas (Don’t Mess With Our Children) against the Dominican’s Republic Department of Education on teaching school children about gender ideology, the proper roles for men and women in society.
  7. Education: The World Bank has officially approved funding of up to $100 million USD to help implement education reforms. Their main goal is to improve student learning outcomes. When the last Assessment was done 27 percent of third-grade students had reached acceptable levels in math. Through multiple new programs, the students will soon be able to compete internationally and further invest, as education is an important human right in the Dominican Republic.
  8. Public Healthcare: A universal healthcare system is considered among human rights in the Dominican Republic. Services provided by the public hospitals are free, but medications are not. Health insurance is taken by many of the hospitals and the Pan American Health Organization reports that in 2015, 65 percent of the population was enrolled in the Family Health Insurance system. State financing of the Family Health Insurance system aims to achieve universal coverage. 20 years since the launch of the idea of universal has been slow-going.
  9. Clean Water: The World Bank reports that 74 percent of inhabitants of the Dominican Republic have access to clean water. Those living in rural areas suffer without clean water, resulting in horrible illness, for example, diarrhea is causing half the deaths of children under the age of one.
  10. Foreign Aid: The United States has an important relationship with the Dominican Republic, especially in trade and democracy. While there is a declining poverty rate, inequalities among citizens is high. There is not enough room for growth, the U.S. continues to help address the human rights issues in the Dominican Republic.

–  Nicholas Pirhalla

Photo: Pixabay

El Salvador

The youth in El Salvador, one of the world’s most violent countries, face a lot of obstacles when it comes to getting an education. With the poverty rate at 31 percent and teen pregnancy on the rise, going to school and getting an education in El Salvador is not a simple feat. Avoiding gang violence, affording transportation and supplies, finding employment or valuable training after high school are all challenges that the youth in El Salvador face when it comes to receiving an education.

However, there are several companies and organizations aimed at improving the quality of education in El Salvador. These innovative companies develop programs and projects with the purpose of bettering the lives of the young. These programs help students with job training, English-language learning skills, sex education, brain education and education for students with disabilities.

IBREA and Brain Education

IBREA is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008, aimed at spreading knowledge about the relationship between the brain and body. Ilich Lee, the founder of IBREA believes that through holistic education like meditation, artistic expression and group work, people can achieve peace within themselves and eventually within their communities. IBREA has offered educational programs, seminars and carried out several projects in countries around the world including Liberia, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone and El Salvador.

IBREA began working in El Salvador in 2011 and is currently present in one-fourth of the country’s schools. IBREA has made a notable impact on a school in the district of Distrito Italia. This district is one of many deeply affected by gang violence and poverty in El Salvador. Students, teachers and principals alike have said that since the beginning they have noticed significant improvements in their physical health, stress levels, and motivation in IBREA programs. Other improvements include better peer relations, clarity, decision-making and emotion regulation. The IBREA Foundation is continuing to make strides in El Salvador and Ilich Lee has even received the “Jose Simeon Cañas” award from the previous president of El Salvador Salvador Sánchez Cerén for the positive impact IBREA has had on schools in El Salvador.

FULSAMO and Vocational Training

FULSAMO is a nonprofit organization based in El Salvador aimed at improving the lives and creating opportunities for at-risk youth in El Salvador. Through various programs located in Community Centers throughout El Salvador, FULSAMO works to keep the youth of El Salvador away from gang violence by offering training programs that help them find employment. Currently, FULSAMO has four locations in Soyapango, a municipality in El Salvador.

FULSAMO is currently offering training sessions for work in call centers. The course is six months long, and students are offered help finding relevant employment upon its completion. Unemployment for the youth in El Salvador is nearly 12 percent, but only 7 percent for El Salvador’s general population. Since youth are more at risk for joining gangs, programs like FULSAMO are vital for the betterment of the community. Aside from training opportunities, FULSAMO also offers programs centered on arts, music and leadership.

“Comunidades Inclusivas” for Children with Disabilities

“Comunidades Inclusivas” is a project created by an Education Professor at the University of Maryland. The goal of this project is to make education in El Salvador more accessible to people with disabilities. Through small programs and networks, Comunidades Inclusivas works to have people with disabilities more socially involved in their communities so these connections can be used as a means to more access to education.

In developing nations, it is likely that children living in poverty, who can’t afford supplies such as uniforms, will drop out of school. For children with disabilities who may need more or different resources and supplies than students without disabilities, their likelihood of dropping out is increased. According to the Global Citizen, 90 percent of children living with disabilities are not in school, and 80 percent of people with disabilities, live in developing countries. The El Salvadorian government has made an effort to improve the lives of those living with disabilities and has had previous laws protecting their rights to public transportation and employment in place for decades. In 2018 the El Salvadorian government also passed an act that allowed the Basic Solidarity Pension Fund to apply to people with disabilities.

Through a partnership with International Partners, a nonprofit organization, Comunidades Inclusivas developed “Circulos de Amigos.” This is an initiative that connects people in a community who support and aid people with disabilities. Members of Circulos de Amigos support people with disabilities and their families by providing assistance during home visits, building ramps, and other specific needs. By improving the connection between people with disabilities and their community, Comunidades Inclusivas raises awareness and builds support systems for people with disabilities and their families. This ultimately makes education in El Salvador more of a possibility for people with disabilities.

Sex Education in Centro Escolar

Although teen pregnancy is prevalent in El Salvador, some educators aim to teach their students about sex education despite cultural stigmas. Females between 10 and 19 years old account for one-third of all pregnancies in El Salvador. In Panchimalco, a district south of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, educators are taking the risk of teaching sex education, but do it in a way that avoids scrutiny.

Because sex education in El Salvador is sometimes associated with contraceptives and abortion, certain teachers (whose real identities are hidden) in Panchimalco take a different approach when trying to inform students about sex education to avoid ridicule from people in the community. For example, the courses inform students about gender rights and gender equality. This is especially important since the homicide rate for females is 12 for every 100,000 people and over 60 percent of females over the age of 15 have experienced some form of abuse by a male. Sex education courses help students recognize sexual violence, report sexual violence, recognize their rights, and plan for the future.

Although sex education is just in its beginning stages, if it continues, the bravery from teachers will make a difference in student’s lives.

– Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

The landlocked country of Malawi has a life expectancy rate of 60.2 years for males and 64.3 years for females. While this is much lower than the global average of 69.8 years for males and 74.2 years for females, it represents an improvement from previous years. These eight facts about life expectancy in Malawi will help shed light on the reasons for the low rate as well as what the country has done, and can still do, to improve it:

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

  1. HIV/AIDS: As of 2017, an estimated 1 million people in Malawi were living with HIV/AIDS which places the country at 10th in the world in terms of the number of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, there were also 13,000 deaths from the virus in the same year. Still, the government has made major strides to curb the epidemic in the last 10 years. Part of its strategy includes providing free condoms as well as educating young people. As of 2018, 78 percent of all people living with HIV in Malawi are on medication. There was also a decline in the number of new infections from 55,000 in 2010 to 38,000 in 2018.
  2. Maternal Health: In 2015, maternal mortality stood at 634 deaths for every 100,000 live births. This is considerably higher than the global average of 216 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, it represents a significant improvement as the government along with support from USAID has been able to reduce maternal mortality by 53 percent between 1990 and 2013. Today, more expectant mothers in both rural and urban areas are now receiving prenatal care as well as skilled birth assistance.
  3. Child Health: Great improvements have also been made in terms of child health, as most children under 5 in both rural and urban areas are vaccinated. This has helped reduce deaths from communicable childhood diseases such as measles, tetanus and pneumonia. The Ministry of Health has also implemented strategies like deworming and has also distributed vitamin A supplements to deal with other major causes of childhood death.
  4. Fertility Rate: In the 1980s Malawian women had about seven children per woman. Today, that number is at 5.5 children per woman. The high fertility rate affects life expectancy in Malawi as it puts pressure on the government to provide adequate social amenities in order to improve people’s lives.
  5. Population Growth: According to a 2018 census, Malawi’s population is 17.6 million people. By 2020 this is projected to hit 20.2 million, before doubling by 2050. This rapid population growth puts a lot of pressure on the country’s land, water and forest resources and threatens life expectancy as most Malawians derive their income from agriculture. The Third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) sets out a number of policies including promoting family planning and sexual and reproductive health rights as a means to slow population growth, and better managing migration and urbanization.
  6. Infectious Diseases: Malawians are at very high risk of contracting infectious diseases. Food and waterborne diseases include diarrheal diseases and typhoid fever. In order to deal with diarrheal deaths, Malawians are in need of nutritious food as well as an unpolluted environment. Other diseases include malaria, dengue fever and rabies from animal contact. The country has been dealing with malaria by subsidizing mosquito nets. Additionally, Malawi is one of the three African countries taking part in a malaria vaccine pilot. The pilot aims to reach 360,000 children each year across Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
  7. Water and Sanitation: One in three Malawians do not have access to clean water while 9.6 million people do not have a decent toilet. This affects the life expectancy in Malawi as it leads to an increase in diarrheal diseases. With the support of UNICEF and organizations such as Water Aid, the government of Malawi has made significant progress in reducing the number of people who lack access to safe water. Additionally, the rate of open defecation has declined from 29 percent in 1990 to four percent in 2015.
  8. Education: Malawi introduced free primary education in 1994 which put a strain on the education system. This is because the infrastructure, number of teachers and number of teaching and learning materials were inadequate when compared to the number of students who enrolled. It resulted in poor performance by the students, especially in terms of literacy.  The government of Malawi has been making an effort to improve the education sector by allocating more than 20 percent of the national budget to education.  It has also partnered with bodies such as USAID and UNICEF to improve literacy levels as well as student enrollment and completion rates. An educated and skilled population will help increase Malawi’s economic growth. Educational reforms will help reduce the unemployment rate which is currently more than 20 percent.

Malawi is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, and a lot still needs to be done to improve the lives of its people. It is however clear that the government is working with the support of nonprofit organizations around the world to make life better for its people.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Education in Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga is located in the Pacific Ocean and has a population of approximately 109,008. Despite its small size, the country has made continuous improvements to its educational system. Keep reading to learn the top eight facts about education in Tonga.

8 Facts About Education in Tonga

  1. A Colonial Past – The school system that currently exists in Tonga was first established by Wesleyan missionaries in 1826. The primary language of the country is Tongan, a dialect of Polynesian, but English is also spoken as a secondary language and is taught as such in schools.
  2. Compulsory Education – Since 1876, the first eight years of education in Tonga has been compulsory for all Tongan children beginning at age 6. Tonga has divided its education system to include six years at the primary level, three at the junior and three at the senior secondary level.
  3. Free Education – Primary and secondary schools for students from ages 6 to 14 attend government-sponsored schools for free.  In 2004, 3.91 percent of Tonga’s GDP was allotted to spending on education in Tonga. This is a decrease from 5.59 percent in 1998.
  4. High Literacy Rates – The efforts of the Tongan government to create a strong base of literacy within the country has been widely successful. In 1996, the adult literacy rate of Tonga was 98.5 percent. That number has now risen to 99.0 percent in 2018, making Tonga one of the leaders of adult literacy of the nations in the Pacific.
  5. Girls’ Education – In 2015, girls were enrolled at higher rates than boys at all three levels of education. Enrollment in primary school was at 94 percent for girls and 92 percent for boys in 2015. This number dropped roughly 10 percentage points for each gender going into lower secondary schools.
  6. Ministry of Education – The Ministry of Education works to create and maintain a system of strong education in Tonga. The Ministry manages all of the government schools in the country at all education levels and ensures that the private schools within the country adhere to the national standards of education. There are two main exams that the Ministry of Education administers to all students. The first is the Tonga School Certificate. This exam is taken by students at the end of their fifth year while they are in secondary school. The second major state exam is the Pacific Senior Secondary Certificate, which is taken by students at the end of secondary schooling. Both exams serve as a measure of the thoroughness of a student’s education. The exams are administered in English, though they do emphasize knowledge of Tongan culture.
  7. Brain Drain – Following the conclusion of their secondary school education, many young scholars from Tonga seek their tertiary education abroad at universities in Australia or New Zealand. Upon completion of their degrees at university, most Tongan scholars remain in Australia or New Zealand to live and work and do not return to their homes in Tonga. In 2018, approximately 25 percent of those who furthered their education within Tonga now exist below the poverty line.
  8. Plan for Educational Improvement – Beginning in 2003, Tonga began a project for educational reform that focuses on providing access to a strong education for all Tongans. The Tonga Education Support Program (TESP) has two tiers. TESP I aims to improve equitable access to education up to Year 8, to improve education past primary school and to improve the administration of Tongan schools. TESP II aims to maximize the amount of learning that students can find within Tongan schools, to increase the teaching abilities of teachers and to improve educational facilities. The Tongan government has received financial contributions from Australia and New Zealand to do so.

Anne Pietrow
Photo: Flickr

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