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Facts About Education in the United Arab EmiratesThe United Arab Emirates started focusing on building a modern, mass-scale education system after its independence from Britain in 1971. In the past 50 years, the country revolutionized its education system aligning itself both with a modern and Western approach. Below are eight facts about education in the United Arab Emirates.

8 Facts About Education in the United Arab Emirates

  1. The UAE achieved universal education which was part of its ‘Education for All’ initiative, thus focusing on a new challenge for its UAE Vision 2021, that is, quality education. Its primary goal is to create a ‘first-rate education system,’ intended to enable students in the UAE to rank among the best in the world in the fields of mathematics, reading and science. To achieve this, the government proposes a transformation of the education system and intends to use Smart systems and devices as a basis for new teaching methods. In doing so, the UAE aligns its own national agenda to the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to achieve quality education as its Target 4.
  2. The UAE now focuses on ways to develop the economy outside the hydrocarbons sector and sees education as the key to do so. The core mission of the Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan 2017-2021 is to develop an education system adapted to generate a high-skilled and knowledge-based competitive economy. The founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, stated that the “greatest use that can be made of wealth is to invest it in creating generations of educated and trained people… [T]he prosperity and success of the people are measured by the standard of their education”.
  3. Literacy is a powerful tool against poverty, and the literacy rate in the UAE has increased from 54 percent among adult men and 31 percent among adult women in 1975 to almost 95 percent for both genders in 2019. Besides this considerable improvement, the government is now working on increasing the inclusivity of the education system to migrant workers too, in order to further close the wealth gap in the UAE.
  4. The education system in the UAE comprises both private and public education. Public education, from primary school through university, is free for all Emirati citizens and is entirely funded by the government. The primary language of instruction is Arabic and English is often taught as a secondary language. Public school enrollment is also accessible to non-UAE citizens, provided they pay a tuition fee, however, only 26 percent of the total enrolled students in the UAE are enrolled in public schools.
  5. Approximately 74 percent of students are enrolled in private schools, representing a huge part of the education system. This is mostly due to the transient nature of the expatriate population that opts for international schools. There is an increasing demand for private-sector education in the UAE, and according to the Boston Consulting Group, there is an expected growth in the education market from $4.4 billion in 2017 to over $7 billion by 2023.
  6. The UAE aims to improve considerably its tertiary education system in order to retain a higher number of Emirati citizens in enrolling in tertiary degrees, as well as attract students from abroad. The UAE has an extremely high outbound student mobility ratio, as 7.1 percent of UAE nationals enrolled in tertiary degrees abroad in 2016. Moreover, its inbound mobility ratio is one of the highest in the world, attaining 48.6 percent in 2016.
  7. The UAE emphasizes the importance of inclusiveness and quality education for all and has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol in 2006. The government strongly supports people with disabilities/special needs and has included federal laws to protect the rights of people with special, guaranteeing equal education opportunities. In addition, the UAE aims to increase the inclusiveness of special needs children in mainstream educational environments, through various initiatives and as a part of its 2020 agenda.
  8. In 2019, the UAE allocated a $2.79 billion budget to Education, representing 17 percent of its total federal budget. A part of it will go towards the establishment of an Education Support Fund to incentivize partnerships and involvement with the private sector, in order to achieve its upcoming goals and priorities.

 

These eight facts about education in the United Arab Emirates illustrate the achievements and progress made in the country’s education system and highlights the ambitious aims and goals the UAE has for the future.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Cocoa Farmers in Côte d’IvoireCôte d’Ivoire produces 35 percent of all cocoa, making it the largest cocoa producer in the world. A majority of cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, however, live below the poverty line. Within the past couple of years, a financial crisis within the cocoa sector has worsened conditions for cocoa farmers. Improving financial inclusion and increasing yields could become ways to bring cocoa farmers out of poverty.

In 2017, the cocoa crisis left many farmers without pay for their work. George Koffi Kouame, a 50-year-old cocoa farmer, told the BBC that he had delivered 1.8 tons of cocoa and had not been paid. This is the result of plummeting cocoa prices, which led up to 80 percent of cocoa buyers to terminate their contracts with farmers.

Living Conditions

However, even without this crisis, most cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire are struggling. As a condition of their poverty, many lack adequate access to education, healthcare and drinking water.

Only 43 percent of farming communities observed in a study by Barry-Callebaut, a major chocolate manufacturer, had a health facility in their village. For 54 percent of the communities, the nearest health facility was, on average, 12 kilometers away, a little over seven miles.

Additionally, 25 percent of villages did not have a primary school, with 22 percent of villages having no school at all. While 87.4 percent of villages had a primary school located within five kilometers, having a school in each village ensures that education is accessible even to the most impoverished, as they may not have the means to travel for schooling.

Finally, access to safe drinking water is also a concern for some cocoa farmers. While 32 percent obtain some of their drinking water from the national water supply and 63 percent have access to pumped water, 5 percent of farming communities do not have access to either source. This suggests that they mainly drink surface water, which is more likely to be unsanitary.

Rural Côte d’Ivoire is in desperate need of better and more abundant schools and healthcare facilities, as well as access to drinkable water in certain villages. These changes would help improve the standard of living of cocoa farmers and their families more generally, potentially aiding in efforts to raise them out of poverty.

Financial Inclusion

Cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire are generally excluded from formal financial services. Rates for all residents of Côte d’Ivoire are high, with 53 percent of men and 64 percent of women lacking access to financial services.

Because of this, the crop cycle generally determines the financial lives of cocoa farmers. Cocoa farmers harvest from October to January and make their money for the year during this period. Then, from February to September, farmers must make the money they earned from this harvest last, as cocoa farming is the main source of income for most farmers.

If their money begins to run out during these months, many are forced to take informal loans with high-interest rates in order to make ends meet. Then, when the next harvest begins generating income, paying back these loans reduces their profit and makes it difficult to save money for the following year.

To improve the financial health of cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and help them rise out of poverty, more financial products need to be available. Access to formal loans is incredibly important, as loans through the banking sector will have lower interest rates and be easier to repay. Many farmers would benefit from being able to get formal loans for school fees, as these are due before the harvest season has begun.

Additionally, education programs to teach farmers how to best manage their money in combination with access to savings accounts can help farmers become financially sustainable over time. Advans, an international microfinance group, has been working in Côte d’Ivoire since 2015, helping farmers set aside money for the future.

Crop Yields

Another solution, proposed by Barry-Callebaut, is to help farmers increase their crop yields, thereby increasing their income. Farmers sometimes do not use pesticides and fertilizers, decreasing their cocoa yields, partly due to low access to financial services. Improving access to financial services, as well as implementing educational programs for farmers to help them learn better agricultural practices, has the potential to significantly increase farmers’ yields over time.

Overall, improving financial inclusion and crop yields has the potential to help cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire rise out of poverty. Additionally, improving education, healthcare and drinking water access will improve their quality of life. As information about cocoa farming continues to be collected, this knowledge will hopefully be used to benefit impoverished farmers.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Madagascar
Even with the 2013 election of a new president that ended a five-year political deadlock, poverty in Madagascar was still a huge problem. Electing Hery Rajaonarimampianina brought fresh hope to the people of Madagascar. However, the National Assembly voted to impeach him after just 18 months of his presidency because they did not feel that he was following through with his campaign promises. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful, but the political situation remains unbalanced. Even though Madagascar has rich soil for crops and a wide variety of wildlife, it has been damaged by years of political turmoil, so poverty remains an ongoing issue.

Political and Economic Instability

If political stability can be restored, it could mean great things for Madagascar. John Stremlau, the vice president of peace programs at the Carter Center in the United States said after the 2013 election, “It has great resources, it has great promise, but it has been hurt by the sanctions that have been in place now for five years. The per capita income is very low, down to less than a dollar a day for 90 percent  of the people, so that this is a new beginning, an opportunity, but the hard work of building a democratic process has only just begun.”

The best way for Madagascar to reduce poverty is by utilizing economic growth. Multiple cities were hit by harsh weather in 2017, which affected agriculture in the areas. Rice crops, a popular trade food and export item, were ruined. The production of rice fell while the price of it increased. While working on repairing the damage from lost crops, the country has increased economically in other ways.

Besides rice, items like cloves, vanilla, cocoa beans and essential oils have flourished, increasing the performance of goods exported to other countries. Economic growth has increased from 4.2 percent to 5.0 percent from 2017 to 2018. With this growth, the country is more likely to achieve its goal of reducing the number of people living below the poverty line by the year 2020. The next step is to provide financial inclusion to those without access to financial services to further ensure the rise out of poverty.

Poverty and Malnutrition

Food poverty affects the children of Madagascar much more than the adults of the country. More than half of Madagascar’s children are chronically malnourished, creating an effect called “stunting”. They are half the size they should be, and some children will not even make it to secondary school, let alone adulthood. Malnutrition damages the body and mind, sometimes irreversibly.

Malnutrition is an increasing concern for parents. “They are seven, they should be much bigger,” says Rasoanandranson, a mother of five children. Her boys at eight years of age resemble five-year-old children. Families grow small quantities of crops rich in nutrients like sweet potato, avocado and maize, but the harvest only lasts two to three months tops. Unfortunately, mothers like Rasoanandranson are eventually forced to sell their food for other much-needed household items, hygiene items an school supplies.

There is still hope for these families and in the near future. In May 2017, the country set out to achieve their goal of reducing malnutrition from 47 percent to 38 percent by 2021. The goal can be achieved by building more nutrition centers and recruiting more volunteers to educate villages on proper nutrition. There is another player to this game that will help fight malnutrition, and that’s clean water and sanitation services.

Hygiene and Sanitation

Poverty in Madagascar has affected the water and sanitation systems as well. More than half of the people in Madagascar do not have sanitation systems or access to clean drinking water. There seems to be plenty of water in the capital city of Antananarivo and other nearby cities, but the water is severely contaminated. Trash lines the edges of rivers and streams, and heavy rains wash away street debris into the water supplies. Waste from households without proper sanitation systems also gets washed away into the water supply.

On top of contaminated water, the piping systems that were previously installed are defective and leak at least 40 percent of clean water. With the population rising, conditions will only worsen; however, volunteers are working improve the piping systems and to educate people about safe water practices and sanitation. They have even started facilities to wash clothing to prevent people from further polluting the river by washing their clothes in it.

Programs like USAID, WaterAid and WASH are trying to improve conditions by first educating the community about food security and environmental programs. Secondly, they plan to improve local, community-based governance of water and sanitation resources. Thirdly, they will roll out a program called Triggering Health Seeking Behavior Change to promote good hygiene at the household levels. The final process is access to credit for the people to microfinance products for clean water and sanitation systems. With all the issues from malnutrition and contaminated water, how is Madagascar’s healthcare?

The Healthcare System in Madagascar

In the capital city Antananarivo, there are public and private hospitals that provide basic medical treatments and small operations. However, for more complex surgeries, patients are transferred to a hospital in South Africa. Although Medical services are actually free to the community, people who can afford it are advised to take out private, international health insurance for situations involving being transferred to a larger hospital for more extensive surgeries.

The most common diseases in Madagascar are malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis. The healthcare system is working to combat these diseases and, going back to the lack of clean water, it is strongly advised that people boil tap water before drinking or using it to cook. Though most of the hospitals are in cities and towns, Christian missionaries run hospitals in rural areas in case some people can not make it to town, but they cannot reach all areas.

Nonprofit organizations and volunteers are currently working to improve access to proper education about nutrition, sanitation and financial stability. Madagascar is on its way to becoming a better country for its people. Hopefully, the political situation will improve, and the government will begin doing its part to end poverty in Madagascar.

– Kayla Cammarota

Photo: Flickr

This is where the financial technology sectors (Fintech for short) come in. The financial technology sector is comprised of tech startups that exist in the financial services industry. These startups are disrupting the private sector ecosystem in The Middle East. In just the past five years, fintech startups have raised over $100 million.

Fintech and The Middle East

Fintech startups aim to provide a large range of financial solutions using technology. Therefore, financial technology does not aim to replace banking systems; rather, financial technology startups aim to improve the customer experience surrounding banking and other financial services.

Often times, fintech startups address a diverse range of customer needs, whether it be educating them on the process of setting up a bank account or making investing easier to handle. While fintech startups provide differing services, one thing remains the same: fintech is using technology to make financial services more accessible to the general public.

In The Middle East, fintech startups are a new driving force to increase accessibility to the general public. With over fifty startups, fintech companies aim to foster greater financial inclusion. For example, one of the main obstacles for small business owners in The Middle East is gaining financial inclusion.

Startups, such as Ambareen Musa’s Souqalmal.com, address this need by connecting investors with small business owners. This refined database and algorithm allow small business owners to raise capital for a cheaper price while also allowing investors to gain better returns on their deals. Another fintech startup that has raised 20 million dollars in funding is PayTabs, which is an online payment processing solution that allows small businesses to add payment services to their sites.

Funding for Fintech

Funding for fintech startups is done through a combination of crowdsourcing (84 percent), allowing people with startup ideas to get funding from anywhere around the world, and government and industry support. Through crowdsourcing, startup founders can receive money faster than they would be able to from investors; as a result, their businesses can grow faster and have an impact on the public faster.

There is a 380 billion dollar market that is comprised of the world’s financially underserved consumers and businesses. Not only are there economic gains to be made through the rise of fintech but there are also large social gains. Furthermore, governments in The Middle East are contributing to the thriving fintech ecosystem by supporting regulations and initiatives such as accelerator programs.

For instance, The Bahrain Economic Development Board launched Fintech Hive in 2017, a fintech startup accelerator that funds and provides instrumental resources for fintech startups. Banks in The Middle East, particularly the UAE, have also started to adopt some of the digital solutions put forth by fintech startups.

With the public sectors of the government working together with the private sectors in the fintech industry, there is a powerful combination of forces working together to foster greater financial inclusion to those in The Middle East.

– Shefali Kumar

Photo: Flickr

Financial Inclusion in Jordan
According to the World Bank, financial inclusion is the point at which individuals and businesses in disadvantaged or low-income societies have access to affordable financial products and services. Financial inclusion in Jordan is increasingly important for economic growth, where nearly a third of the population lives below the poverty line. The influx of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, high unemployment rates and a strain on natural resources are plaguing the Jordanian economy.

The importance of financial inclusion in everyday life is that it eases monetary needs and helps people to prepare for the future. While progress has been made for financial inclusion in Jordan, there are still a great number of people who lack affordable financial services.

Around two billion people don’t use formal financial services and more than 50 percent of adults in the poorest households are unbanked,” the World Bank stated about financial inclusion across the globe.

As of early August 2017, financial inclusion in Jordan was behind the curve, with only 24 out of every 100 Jordanians over the age of 15 having a bank account.

Among Middle Eastern countries, Jordan has one of the smallest economies. In 2016, it slowed drastically and has remained stagnant. While crises in Iraq and Syria are key factors in the slowing of growth, the lack of affordable financial services is also to blame.

In today’s world where digital payments are king and cash seems to be the enemy, access to a secure network to receive, store and use money is a stepping-stone to financial inclusion and economic growth.

According to Visa, Inc., access to financial services allows children to get a proper education and homes to be safer, healthier and happier. As a part of the World Bank’s call for universal financial access, Visa, MasterCard and other payments companies have made a commitment to provide financial services to the unbanked adults of the world.

The Central Bank of Jordan has also devised a strategic plan for financial inclusion from 2018 to 2020. The Jordan News Agency reported that the plan will focus on the areas of financial literacy, protection of financial service recipients, support of small- and medium-sized projects, micro-finance and online payments.

The plan will also work on improving financial inclusion rates for women, young people and refugees in Jordan, as these groups are often alienated financially.

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Financial Inclusion Improves Globally

What is financial inclusion? Financial inclusion is when all members of society have access to financial services at affordable prices.

What does financial inclusion have to do with poverty? Some people may not be able to afford certain financial services. In addition, financial inclusion can help decrease global poverty. For example, when people have access to financial services, they can start and expand businesses, invest in higher education for their children and withstand financial hardships more easily. When other marginalized groups like women and disabled people have access to financial services, this can improve the economy of a country as the whole.

In 2011, 51% of adults,, or roughly 2.5 billion people, did not have a bank account. Now, 62% of the world’s adult population, or 2 billion, have an account.

China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Tanzania have seen significant increases in account ownership. Account ownership in China increased from 64% to 79%, from 20% to 36% in Indonesia, from 35% to 53% in India, from 27% to 39% in Mexico, and from 17% to 40% in Tanzania.

Mobile money accounts have also helped increase financial inclusion. In Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, adults are more likely to have a mobile money account than an account at a financial institution. Mobile money accounts are the sole reason for the dramatic increase of account ownership in Tanzania.

In terms of the poor, account ownership increased disproportionately among adults in the poorest 40% of households. In 2011, only 29% of the poorest individuals had an account. Now, 46% of these individuals own an account. This is great news!

Overall, women are more likely to own an account than ever before. In 2011, 47% of women owned an account. Now, 58% of women own an account. Again, this is significant progress.

Account holders are using their accounts. About half of account owners in developing countries use their account to make or receive a payment. About a quarter of account owners in developing countries use their debit card to make direct payments. About 39% of account holders in developing countries use their accounts to save. This is secure and helps the economy grow.

Can we still make progress? The short answer is, of course we can. About half of the poorest individuals still do not have an account. Additionally, there is about a 7% gender gap in account ownership. The good news is that there are many ways that we can decrease this number.

Governments and businesses could drastically decrease the number of unbanked adults by digitizing wages and transfers. Additionally, many farmers are unbanked. About 23% of people in developing countries receive cash for agricultural sales. Countries could focus on banking these farmers. Additionally, mobile money accounts could be a way to expand account ownership significantly, especially among women and the poorest individuals.

Overall, financial inclusion is improving in developing countries. More adults than ever own an account. This will help improve both financial equality and financial prosperity.

– Ella Cady

Sources: Center for Financial Inclusion, Impatient Optimists, World Bank
Photo: Live Mint