Higher Education in South KoreaDue to its rigorous entrance processes and societal emphasis on university prestige, South Korea spends a large portion of its annual GDP on higher education and the costs associated with college admissions preparation. Acceptance into one of the nation’s high-ranking “SKY” institutions can help differentiate applicants in an already competitive job market, as 70% of South Koreans have a college education. Here are five facts about the higher education system in South Korea:

5 Facts about Higher Education in South Korea

  1. Education and Industrialization: Rapid growth in literacy and education rates coincided with South Korea’s emergence as a newly industrialized nation. Just after WWII, South Korea’s literacy rate was a meager 22%, with few Koreans attending college. Now, its literacy rate sits at 97.9% and over 70% of high school graduates in South Korea go on to attend university. Once a beneficiary of American aid, South Korea now eclipses the U.S. in spending per capita on research and development, much of which is done at the university level.
  2. SKY Universities: Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University are widely viewed as the most prestigious institutions in Korea and three of the top-ranked universities in all of Asia. In fact, employment at elite firms and entrance into social circles is often contingent upon holding a degree from a SKY university.
  3. College Scholastic Ability Test: The eight-hour College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) is an assessment that determines which universities Korean students can attend. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), CSAT scores make up 70% of admissions criteria at Korean universities. Comparatively, high school grades carry significantly less weight, comprising only 10% of a student’s profile. Overall, higher CSAT scores are highly correlated with better job prospects and higher income potential.
  4. Spending on College Prep Classes: Since CSAT scores are viewed as the most important factor in South Korean college admissions decisions, Korean families often invest large sums of money in private tutoring. For example, the OECD estimates that middle-income parents of high school students in South Korea spend as much as 30% of their income on tutoring, with families spending an average of 3.6 million KRW ($2,600) on tutoring per year.
  5. An Increase in International Students: Since the early 2000s, the number of international students studying in South Korea has steadily risen. According to the Center for Strategy & International Studies, the global student population in South Korea has risen from 17,000 in 2004 to 160,000 in 2019. The South Korean government has also enacted reforms that expanded government tuition assistance to international students and created bilingual courses taught in English.

Admission to Korean universities is a rigorous process that often involves significant amounts of time and money. The expenses involved in preparing for the CSAT — the single most important factor in application decisions — often put low-income families at a disadvantage in the admissions process. However, international aid and education reforms have allowed several Korean universities to climb global university rankings. Moreover, an influx of international applicants is a strong indicator of increased university quality and prestige.

– Salvatore Brancato
Photo: WikkiCommons

Book banning and censorshipBook banning has become a dominant form of censorship around the world, as governments try to control the internet and technology available for their citizens. Associations similar to Amnesty International are fighting against book banning and censorship to protect democracy, access to education and information and progressive and forward-thinking in the 21st century. Countries across the globe such as China, Bangladesh and Egypt commonly practice book banning to restrict education and allow censorship. Book banning has many implications in terms of access to education and further restricting vulnerable populations from thriving. Fortunately, international organizations are actively working against book banning and censorship to ensure that vulnerable populations have access to a well-rounded education.

Countries that Practice Book Banning

Ironically, book banning has been a topic discussed in iconic books themselves such as Fahrenheit 451, which tells the story of a sheltered dystopia where books are burned to prevent conflicting opinions and an inharmonious society. While the idea is farfetched, countries across the world still employ book banning to stifle controversial opinions and prevent taboo topics from becoming a point of discussion in their societies. Book banning and censorship have been common practices in countries like China and Hong Kong in order to protect the Chinese Communist Party from criticism. Politically sensitive reading materials as well as those dealing with religion, sexual content, and other taboo topics are consistently avoided by booksellers.

European countries such as Russia and Hungary also have a history of censorship, especially with those relating to LGBTQ+ themed materials. Hungary had legislation passed in June 2021 which excludes LGBT content from school curriculums and sexual education programs and has also censored such material on a wider, more national scale as well. Far-right politicians have banned many books that display homosexuality and Russia has also claimed obscenity for similar literary materials.

Book Banning and Poverty

Though book banning is harmful for educational and political reasons, there are also financial implications which impact vulnerable populations as well. For example, in China, the Communist Party has increased restrictions on books pertaining to independence movements, pro-democracy thematic elements and other subjects. Since the country is at the forefront of the cheap publishing market, if books are banned by the CCP, they may not be published at all. The restrictions and financial burden fall primarily on small publishers and progressive academics who may not have the means to abandon the Chinese printing market and pursue publishing elsewhere, as it is estimated that high-quality printing in China is almost 40% cheaper than other countries.

In the past decade, more and more books discussing poverty and social class have been banned or restricted in the United States, as well as in European countries including the United Kingdom. By stifling authors’ voices and those trying to depict the harsh realities of some underprivileged populations, book banning and censorship limit awareness and the public’s opportunities to provide relief through advocacy and action.

Organizations Against Book Banning

Amnesty International is one organization that encourages people to take action against international book banning and protect the freedom of expression. Through their annual Banned Books Week, which takes place on September 18-24, the organization partners with the American Library Association and others to bring awareness to book censorship attempts in libraries and schools and its harmful impact by uniting book communities consisting of librarians, booksellers, publishers and everyday readers. Through their research with the Office for Intellectual Freedom, it was found that in 2021, there were 729 challenges in libraries, schools and universities that restricted access to at least 1,597 books. The efforts and data being shared with the public increase awareness about the topics that are being filtered and allow people to take action and prevent further book banning and censorship with community efforts.

Nethya Samarakkodige
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Mexico's Drug War Affects EducationSince the Mexican government declared war against drug cartels in 2006, nationwide violence between cartels, police and the military has been taking a steep toll. The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI)  estimates the war led to 300,000 homicides and the disappearance of 66,000 people since 2006. This increased violence raises particular concern about how Mexico’s drug war affects education quality.

Major Disruption to Mexico’s Education System

Widespread violence from the drug war has caused mass school closures, negatively affecting the quality of education Mexican youths receive. Between 2019 and 2020, cartel violence forced school closures in eight states: elementary schools closed 104 times, junior high schools 51 times, preschools 49 times, high schools four times and universities three times. These forced closures caused severe disruptions for Mexican youths, undermining the quality of their educational opportunities. The World Bank reported in 2020 that only 72% of Mexicans used the internet, implying difficulties for remote learning options.

A study collected data during the 2000s and captured stark differences in education quality between areas with high rates of violence and areas with lower violence. Student absenteeism in high violence areas was 44%, while lower violence areas had 33%. Teacher absenteeism follows the same trend: High violence areas were 20.8%, while lower violence areas had 13.2%. Student lateness compared 52.9% to 11.9%, and teacher lateness had 41.2% to 29.1%. The study found the widest divergence in the presence of youth gangs: 51.6% versus 23.5%. Even one month of gang-related violence can reduce school enrollment by 14%. These statistics show how drug-related violence has heavily disrupted many educational systems in Mexico.

Drug Cartels Target Students and Teachers

The study emphasizes how homicide is now the second leading cause of death for Mexican males aged 15-24, a critical age range for learning skills from education and entering the labor force. Between 2000 and 2019, 21,000 Mexicans under 18 were killed, while 7,000 have disappeared. Cartels have also recruited youths in economically deprived areas where a lack of opportunities and resources contribute to youth recruitment. In 2019 alone, cartels recruited an estimated 30,000 Mexican youths. This recruitment targeting is partly why youths sometimes avoid or drop out of school. In 2006, at the start of the drug war, 11,664 Mexican youths did not attend primary school, compared to 106,131 in 2019.

In 2011, 7,000 Acapulco teachers protested against gang violence threatening their schools. They called on the government to provide safety in the face of teachers being attacked, extorted and kidnapped. More than 100 schools shut down in Acapulco due to teachers standing up to cartels who had demanded half their salaries in extortion. Schools only reopened four years later, in 2015, after the Mexican National Guard stepped in to ensure student and teacher safety.

Mexican citizens have increasingly mobilized to demand accountability from their government and better protection for schools. In 2014, the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero sparked national protests over the government’s inability to provide a safe, educational experience for teachers and students. Mexico continues to fight drug-related violence affecting schools, knowing how important education is in reducing poverty and improving opportunities.

– John Zake
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Diseases Impacting AfghanistanSince the early 2000s, Afghanistan’s disease prevention and treatment services were far below sustainable, with only 11 physicians and 18 nurses per 100,000 civilians working in 2003. As foreign aid began to pour in, these numbers slowly improved. However, infant, child and maternal mortality rates remain the highest globally, alongside many other diseases impacting Afghanistan today. Currently, two diseases impacting Afghanistan include tuberculosis and polio, which the Western world is well equipped to diagnose with far less difficulty.


Tuberculosis is a highly infectious, airborne disease impacting many Afghan people. Tuberculosis symptoms include a dry cough (sometimes with blood), fatigue, loss of appetite, night sweats and others. Yet, early diagnosis and quality treatment are easily accessible in the United States, preventing mass outbreaks.

The World Health Organization states that tuberculosis kills around 13,000 Afghans yearly, making it a disease that impacts Afghanistan severely. In 2014, Afghanistan had approximately 58,000 new tuberculosis cases. Only 56% of these cases were diagnosed and provided with adequate treatment. Keeping the disease at bay only becomes more challenging with up to 25,000 Afghan people left undiagnosed and untreated.

However, with WHO’s help, BRAC Afghanistan and USAID started a community-based TB DOTS program to control tuberculosis outbreaks. Through the program, diagnostic facilities for tuberculosis expanded and existing facilities were further equipped with microscopy screening technology. After the initiation of these health programs, more Afghans saw doctors and received treatment for tuberculosis: Since the program’s launch in 2004, access to dots has expanded from 15 to 121 clinics two years later. By 2006, more than 6,000 community health workers had trained under the program, of which 53 percent of trainees were women. Through the continued funding and advancement of the TB DOTS program, tuberculosis may slowly begin to lose its footing and become a lower-risk illness.

Poliomyelitis (Polio)

Polio is a viral illness that can lead to severe nerve damage and injury, eventually leading to paralysis and sometimes death. Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan remain the only countries worldwide that have yet to eradicate polio. Due to inconsistent vaccination rates at birth, polio remains a disease impacting Afghanistan heavily today. In the 2015 report by the polio eradication initiative, researchers found that reported polio cases in Afghanistan had decreased since years prior. However, Afghanistan is still far from eradication.

In efforts to eradicate the polio virus worldwide, UNICEF worked with WHO to find innovative ways to give every child polio vaccines. The program implemented three National Immunization Days (NIDs) to increase access to polio vaccines and potential treatment if necessary. NIDs aim to reach nearly 10 million children through house-to-house and health facility-based approaches.

Furthermore, in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health is investing in a polio program to support vaccinators, community mobilizers, influencers, volunteers and campaign coordinators to reach children in need of vaccines. According to UNICEF, 392,000 polio branded items were distributed in 2020 to Afghan students to raise awareness about the disease’s severity, prevention and symptoms. As efforts continue, polio may become a disease impacting Afghanistan far less than before.

Why it Matters

Though efforts to improve health care access and treatments in Afghanistan have increased, much work still needs to be done. Today, tuberculosis is a disease that the U.S. quickly diagnoses and treats, while, in Afghanistan, the disease is often more threatening.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health and emergency operating system know how to help their people lead healthier lives yet lack the resources to do so. In funding programs that help international organizations and ministries provide the support needed for their people, both tuberculosis and polio can become low-priority diseases for all.

– Opal Vitharana
Photo: Flickr

Education for Pregnant StudentsThe African Court on Human and People’s Rights had to make a pivotal decision regarding the right to education for pregnant students in Tanzania. On November 19, 2020, Equality Now and Tike Mwabipile, executive director of Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA), filed a joint application to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights to abolish a discriminatory ban. Three human rights groups, the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Women’s Link Worldwide (WLW), joined the application as joint amici. This application is in direct response to the discriminatory ban in Tanzania, whereby the government of Tanzania is disregarding the rights of females who are pregnant, married or mothers.

The Discriminatory Ban and Joint Amicus

The discriminatory ban in question has been in practice for decades across Tanzania, but in 2017, former president John Magufuli introduced an official ban against the education of pregnant girls, married girls or mothers, stressing immorality as reasoning. The ban draws its power from the Tanzania Education Act, which states that expulsion for a student is deemed necessary when they have “committed an offense against morality.”

Tanzania’s current and first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, who stepped into her role in March 2021 after Magufuli’s death, has made it her mission to incentivize the progression of women’s rights in Tanzania and distance herself from the controversial policies of the previous presidency.

The three human rights organizations, attempt to highlight the injustices that have come to fruition as a result of the discriminatory ban and to prioritize the need for education for pregnant students in their joint amicus, which highlights:

“Tanzania’s international and human rights obligations to guarantee the freedom from discrimination; to prevent and respond to violence against girls, including in school settings; and to safeguard the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and young women.”

This legal endeavor represents one of the many collective efforts for women’s rights progression in Tanzania in recent times. The discrepancy in policy regarding Tanzania’s education laws appears to represent a significant obstacle to overcome on the road toward progress.

However, in November 2021, Tanzania announced that it would make a critical step toward safeguarding the right to education by lifting the ban. Human Rights Watch says Tanzania has “recently removed restrictive policies, but [has] a policy gap,” indicating that this supposed breakthrough may have more effect on paper as opposed to in practice.

Tanzania’s History of Educational Subordination

Tanzania as a nation has a long and troubled history in regard to the education of women and young girls. Several core aspects of its education policy are founded on the decisions of a fundamentally patriarchal government in the 1960s, after the nation’s official independence from Great Britain in 1961.

These prior actions have resulted in a situation where, today, across Tanzania, the guarantee of education for pregnant students is far from a reality. According to a 2013 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a large percentage of schools across Tanzania interpret the act of pregnancy for students as immoral.  This has manifested as a situation that sees student dropout numbers at an alarming number according to figures provided by the World Bank in 2021: “More than 120,000 girls drop out of school every year in Tanzania. 6,500 of them because they are pregnant or have children.”

The 2013 report also noted a widespread belief within the education system in mainland Tanzania that expulsion is mandatory if a student is pregnant. However, the report found that there is in fact no legal mandate for expulsion, and on the contrary, according to the World Bank, “Tanzanian laws and policies promote and protect adolescent girls’ rights to education, health, nondiscrimination and privacy.”

Due to the widespread misconception in Tanzania that expulsion is legally necessary for pregnant students, and with standardized pregnancy tests standing as common practice within the education system, societal norms instilled by previous presidencies shape and control the educational rights of thousands of young girls.

The lifting of the ban not only leads to legal progress within Tanzania but also upholds the rights of women across the nation.

– James Garwood
Photo: Flickr

Haitian Children’s Quality of LifeHaiti struggles with many issues: gang violence, poverty, lack of education and poor health care. All of these issues intertwine to ultimately create a knot of seemingly irreversible damage for Haitian youth. However, Together for Haiti is working to improve Haitian children’s quality of life through four key pillars.

Haitian Gang Violence

The capital of the island, Port-au-Prince, suffers from gang violence at the cost of its children. Most recently, since April 24, 2022, violence from warring gangs has led to the displacement of close to 17,000 people and the deaths of 188 people at minimum, as of June 3, 2022. Displaced Haitians have sought refuge in schools converted into shelters while others fled to the north of the city, causing massive travel problems. In May 2022 alone, Port-au-Prince noted 200 random-based kidnappings.

The prevalence of gangs and the violence that follows is often a product of areas suffering from poverty — Haiti is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, with a GDP per capita of $2,925 in 2020. Furthermore, Haiti ranks 170 out of 189 countries on the 2020 United Nations Human Development Index. Haiti’s Human Capital Index indicates that “a child born today in Haiti will grow up to be only 45[%]as productive as they could be if he or she had enjoyed full access to quality education and health care.”

In these circumstances, gang life can become a way to survive and make money when there are limited opportunities to forge another way of life and secure a brighter future. Gang membership provides protection in the dangerous environments that Haitian children are forced to grow up in, and soon enough, gangsterism becomes a generational occupation. In Haiti, particularly, gangs hold significant power. With no real army or strong police force, there is little hope of stopping large gangs who are better equipped than the small government forces trying to protect the 11 million people who live on the island.

Mortality and Health of Children

Widespread gang violence leads to the deaths of countless civilians, including children. But, Haiti also has infantile, child and maternal mortality rates higher than anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, these rates are more comparable to Afghanistan and many African nations.

Like so many other places suffering from poverty, this is due to a lack of funding for the health care sector. In 2020, Haiti’s under-5 mortality rate stood at 60.5% deaths per 1,000 live births. In numbers, this equates to 16,214 deaths for children under 5.

Poverty raises the likelihood of premature death for Haitian children as impoverished households tend to lack the resources or access to services necessary for the proper health and well-being of a young child. Families dealing with poverty often experience malnutrition and several illnesses that can turn fatal as many impoverished families cannot afford the costs of health care and medicine.

Poverty in Haiti does not just affect its citizens, but also the medical facilities. Underfunding means the health care system lacks “adequate staffing, supplies and infrastructure” necessary to aid the nation’s people.

Together for Haiti Assists

Together for Haiti works toward providing resources to impoverished Haitian families so that they may secure a brighter future. The organization’s leader, Jean Alix Paul, has established four schools, two children’s homes and one human trafficking shelter, among many other initiatives. The organization focuses on spiritual development, educational development, economic development and physical development to create a better quality of life for impoverished Haitians, especially the nation’s most vulnerable children.

Through its focus on education, Together for Haiti provides schooling to about 2,000 children with four schools situated in four disadvantaged Haitian communities. Together for Haiti also provides teacher training, university bursaries and vocational training. The organization aims to strengthen Haiti’s economy by offering micro-loans, helping people create businesses and providing training on improved farming practices.

The efforts of Together for Haiti, and other organizations with similar goals, are improving Haitian children’s quality of life, giving them hope for a brighter tomorrow.

– Kelsey Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in IranChild poverty in Iran runs rampant among young residents. In 2020, 50% of Iran’s population lived under the poverty line. The effects of poverty on children are dire and 9 million Iranian families currently struggle amid poverty, but organizations are stepping in to assist.

Contributors to Child Poverty in Iran

Families cannot earn enough money because of gender discrimination, unemployment and other factors. Only men can work well-paying jobs because of the large pay gap. In 2021, the Global Gender Report stated that women earn 19% of the wages a man earns for the same job.

With the significant differences in pay between men and women, women are often unable to help support their families. Additionally, the unemployment rate among men and women is very high. According to the World Bank, the unemployment rate for women was 16.1% and for men was 7.8%.

Along with the unemployment rate and gender discrimination, the cost of basic needs is high, so the majority of families’ wages go toward securing this. In Iran, high inflation rates directly impact the cost of food and groceries, making it difficult to afford basic essentials. In 2019, 33% of underprivileged communities’ income was allocated for food.

Poverty forces many children to make money for their families, but their wages are unlivable. Garbage collecting, run by the municipality contractors, is one of the main jobs children work to earn a living. In 2020, however, children made only 6% of the profits of garbage collectors. Of the children in the workforce, 60% are their families’ only source of income. Working to support their families has an impact on a child’s education. In 2017, “37% of Iranian students drop out before getting their diplomas.”

Impact on Iranian Children

The vast number of contributors to child poverty in Iran has destroyed the quality of life for children.

Food is all too often a scarcity among these children. They are unable to eat the minimum caloric intake, and numbers have only increased since the pandemic. According to the Global Hunger Index, in 2020, one out of three children were undernourished which can leave to a multitude of health complications, including children’s growth stunting.

Child marriage and trafficking are common in Iranian society. For little money, families sell their children, mostly girls, into marriage. In the summer of 2020, according to the Statistic Center of Iran, 9,058 girls were married before the age of 15. In some cases, child spouses run away from home or attempt suicide because of their treatment during their marriage.

Hope for the Future

The government and other organizations are working to stop child poverty in Iran. In 2020, the Guardian Council, the body in charge of approving legislation passed by the Parliament, approved a Child and Adolescent Protection Bill. The bill was later passed, inflicting penalties on people who prevent children from attending school or putting children in unsafe environments With this law, children in Iran are protected from various circumstances that could potentially be a danger to them and instead, can go to school to get an education

Organizations like Relief International work globally to dissolve poverty. Relief International was established in 1958 with its work in Iran beginning in 1990 after a large-scale earthquake in the country. Currently, Relief International works primarily to aid Afghan refugees in Iran while also mobilizing resources if a countrywide emergency occurs.

Recently, in 2021, because of Relief International, 22,000 people were taught hygienic practices, 3,500 families received cash support and thousands more received health care, education and other services. This is just one of the many organizations and institutions working to end poverty in Iran by providing support to those who reside there.

According to UNICEF, as of 2020, the mortality rate for Iranian children under 5 is 12.9%. Iranian children face increased risks of death due to a lack of food and basic needs. However, the Iranian government and other organizations are working to put an end to poverty.

– Janae O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

How Can $4 Billion Help Education in Underdeveloped Countries?The 2021 Global Education Summit raised more than $4 billion for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and 19 world governments pledged to allocate a minimum of 20% of their budgets to education. The GPE provides for education in 90 countries and territories, aiming to raise “at least $5 billion over the next five years.” Reaching this goal will allow education in underdeveloped countries to thrive, safeguarding the education of 175 million children and enabling the learning of 88 million additional children by 2025.

The Importance of Education

In developing countries, there is a significant gap in learning and schooling. Roughly 53% of all children in these countries “cannot read and understand a short story by the time they” complete primary education. This rate of learning poverty could potentially rise to 63% without immediate global action. However, despite these statistics, more children are in school globally than ever before.

Equality in education is critical for the development of individuals and societies. Education in underdeveloped countries helps assist with poverty reduction, improving health and gender equality. With education, more people will be able to secure higher-paying, skilled employment and health outcomes will improve across nations. With more girls in school, the rate of global child marriage will reduce.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, education is suffering, but the United States commits to efforts to improve education for all.

How the United States is Helping

In the past, although the U.S. has made efforts to advance global education, considering its status as a global powerhouse, many view these efforts as insufficient. Realizing the need for improvement, the U.S. is advancing its focus on education in underdeveloped countries.

At the recent Global Education Summit, the United States pledged $305 million to the GPE for 2021. The Let Girls Learn Initiative was started in 2015 by former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The initiative invested millions of dollars while partnering with the private sector to improve education for girls in more than 50 countries.

On Sep. 8, 2017, the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act was signed into law. The Act ensures that the United States uses its resources to improve global education through programs focusing on literacy skills, mathematics and basic fundamental skills.

The International Basic Education Caucus was launched in 2015 with the ultimate goal of alleviating global poverty through education. Congressman Dave Reichert and Congressman Mike Quigley began this bipartisan caucus with the belief that education is the unrivaled way to promote freedom, peace and stability around the world.

When the United States invests in worldwide learning, it brings benefits not only for other countries but for the U.S. as well. Education can improve global and national security and it can contribute to better global health while providing more economic safety.

What Does This Mean for Poverty?

Education not only provides children with the necessary tools to learn and develop but also has significant impacts on poverty. Education paves the road to successful careers, allowing individuals to earn an income and break cycles of poverty.

Each additional year of education an individual receives provides “a 9% increase in hourly earnings.” This increase in earnings allows an individual to contribute more to the economy, affecting entire societies as health improves and others are inspired to look to education to provide a brighter future.

The recent contribution of more than $4 billion toward global education is one major step toward ending poverty. Advancing education in underdeveloped countries will lead to immense progress in countries around the world by breaking cycles of poverty.

– Delaney Gilmore
Photo: Flickr


Standardized English and Poverty
Standardized English and Poverty can be attributed to the fact that English ranks as the most commonly spoken language in the world. English originated in England and then spread worldwide through colonization, the internet, print and the spoken word. Because it has spread through colonization, it has also become a marker of social standing globally. English was not always this unified language.

The Bare Beginnings

English has gone through many changes and evolutions throughout its time. Its letters come from the Roman alphabet with partial pronunciation from Anglo-Saxons. For a long time, many different English-speaking groups lived in England. After the conquests in the middle ages and moving the court seat to London, the new speaking norms came from the English of London instead of ancestral Wessex. Manuscripts underwent revisions to translate them in the dialect of London English. Through printing, this way of speaking spread nationwide. Language is constantly evolving, especially vowels, and many shifts occurred. This period also saw the rise of language purists against the perceived threat of different ethnicities and cultures.

British or American?

English contains two orthographies: British English and American English. Both have the same core rules but hold to some different spelling and terms. A great example of this can be seen in the television series, “The Great British Bake Off.” Aside from a change in accents, bakers use different words for the same thing. For example, a baker may say “sponge” instead of “cake.” Even the show has a name change in the U.S., from “The Great British Bake Off” to “The Great British Baking Show.”

These changes are due to time, distance and America’s colonization. The Englishmen who first came to America were poor and desperate for a new life. Therefore, a new dialect quickly formed in America based primarily on the linguistic styles of rural England. Over time, these dialect differences became bigger and bigger until they diverged officially into British English and American English.

Language and Class

Despite only having two specific orthographies, English sports a ton of different dialects. A dialect is a way of speaking specifically to a region or group. One example of this is AAVE or African-American Vernacular English. This dialect likely formed after the transatlantic trade of enslaved people from Africa, who mingled English with their native languages to form a new dialect. Many groups impacted by colonization, such as India and South America, experienced variations of this phenomenon.

Eventually, English’s various strains and dialects were applied to social class in industry-based societies. These linguistic variants are still closely related to questions of education and race in social stratification. Someone speaking AAVE demonstrates that they have less education and are therefore lower in class. Linguistic discrimination occurs when those who don’t use standardized English are barred from promotion for not appearing as educated or intelligent. At times, linguistic prejudice can even result in unfair legal rulings when particular vernaculars are discredited.

How It Haunts Us

The results of language colonization still exist today. India links English to education and class. Ever since Great Britain’s colonization of India, British culture is still considered high class. Skin-whitening products remain popular in India for this reason. Only 20% of the population speaking any English, and only 4% can boost fluency. Of the fluent speakers, 34% earn more money than those who are not. Fluent English-speakers enjoy more opportunities in jobs and education, which both factors heavily into poverty. Therefore, 96% of the population that doesn’t speak English suffer an immediate disadvantage. Fluency offers greater means to escape poverty. Many other countries and minorities harmed by colonization share this classist structure.

Towards Linguistic Equality

Many organizations, such as colleges, are growing increasingly aware of this linguistic class issue. In 2018, Yale Law School’s Environmental Justice Clinic mounted a legal fight against New Mexico’s Environment Department on the basis of language discrimination against native Spanish-speakers. The conversation increasingly revolves around making college a safe place for all dialects and opening the class barrier. Equalizing education access, especially in areas with sparse funding, offers the first step towards mending the classist language barrier. Additionally, advocates hope to stop discrimination through legal bills as well as encouraging more acceptance among the standardized English-speaking populace.

-Audrey Burran
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in ZimbabweChild Marriage in Zimbabwe has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without schools functioning in person, children have less protection and experience more human rights violations such as child marriage and pregnancy.

Child marriage in Zimbabwe greatly predates the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that efforts to eliminate the practice will require a wide range of economic and cultural mitigation tactics rather than focusing solely on the eradication of the coronavirus.

Current Events

The topic of child marriage in Zimbabwe caught international attention recently when 14-year-old Memory Machaya died during childbirth. The practice is common in Zimbabwe’s Apostolic Church and has led to an online petition entitled “justice for Memory Machaya” garnering nearly 60,000 signatures.

“Female persons are not seen as fully human, with individual rights, choice, right to control our own bodies,” said Zimbabwean feminist activist Everjoice Win in a tweet on August 6, 2021 “The enemy is patriarchy, and the attendant systems within the state and religious institutions and wider society, which do not see us as humans.”

Introduction to Child Marriage in Zimbabwe

Almost one in three Zimbabwean women are married by the time they turn 18. The practice most often occurs in the poorer regions of Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West regions, where 50% and 42% of girls, respectively, marry as children, according to a 2014 UNICEF report. Despite the fact that the Zimbabwean Constitutional Court deemed the practice of child marriage as unconstitutional in January 2016, setting the minimum age for marriage at 18, child marriage in Zimbabwe persists.

What Drives Child Marriage?

The risks for child marriage in Zimbabwe have the potential to exist domestically but require unequivocal participation from healthcare providers. In a 2016-2020 healthcare plan, The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Strategy allowed 16-year-olds to receive contraception without parental consent. However, providers remain reluctant and child services are scarce.

Lack of education also drives child marriage in Zimbabwe. The same 2014 survey found that “the average age at marriage is 17.2 years for girls with no education and 23.6 for girls with more than a secondary education.” Nearly half of 15- to 19-year-olds without a secondary education began having children compared to only one in five girls the same age who completed their secondary education.

Potential Solutions

UNICEF published a list of strategies that it plans to implement throughout Western and Central Africa to reduce child marriage. The organization cites the growing child population in Africa behind the urgency in their efforts.

The following practices will help UNICEF reduce child marriage in the year 2021:

  1. Enable At-Risk Girls to Stay in School Through Secondary Education: UNICEF sees education as an opportunity for at-risk girls to develop vital life skills to make their own life choices and stand up for their rights. As this article previously mentioned, the rate at which girls marry depends on the presence or lack of secondary education.
  2. Fuel Positive Opinions Regarding the Investment in Girls: Through community discussion, the opinions of whether to invest and value the lives of girls could help in promoting and implementing practices that limit or eliminate child marriage.
  3. Provide Adequate and Affordable Health and Education of High Quality: Not only is the presence of education and health care important, but the quality is as well. Without providing affordable and effective health care and education systems, girls are at a greater risk of falling into the cycle of child marriage.
  4. Promote Laws to Match “International Standards” and Ensure the Implementation of the Measures: An effective strategy could be to identify countries or regions with an anti-child-marriage framework and incorporate the successes of those systems in the context of Western and Central Africa.
  5. Partner with Governments to Monitor Progress and Data: By utilizing the services of surveillance and relevant technologies of other countries, Western and Central African nations can adequately track progress to ensure that they are meeting set goals.

While the practice of child marriage in Zimbabwe has deep roots, the international community has taken notice and has a plan to reduce its prevalence. With increased empowerment and investment in young Zimbabwean girls, child marriage will soon enough become much less commonplace and eventually, experience eradication.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr