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education for girls in MozambiqueMozambique is one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world but it has made economic progress in the past three decades as its income per capita rose from $373 in 1995 to $1,136 in 2017. However, Mozambique still lags behind most other countries when it comes to the crucial topic of gender equality, specifically in education. New funding from the World Bank seeks to address these gender discrepancies and improve education for girls in Mozambique.

Girls’ Education in Mozambique

There are several measurements of educational attainment by gender in Mozambique and none present an optimistic picture. About 60% of men in Mozambique are literate, as of the latest measurement, in comparison to only about 28% of women. This is largely due to high dropout rates for girls in primary school. More than 50% of girls in Mozambique drop out by the fifth grade and this drops to 11% by the secondary level of education. Solely 1% of women in Mozambique attend college, and once they graduate, their job prospects are grim.

In 2017, less than 4% of women in Mozambique had salaried jobs and only one quarter were landowners holding official rights. Due to these facts, many women find themselves forced to marry early in order to gain any financial stability. About 48% of women in Mozambique get married by age 18, most of whom have long since dropped out of school. This lack of education comes with increased health risks as the prevalence of HIV is three times higher among young women than young men. Furthermore, researchers estimate more than half of Mozambican women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime and believe it is justified.

The World Bank’s Efforts

Acknowledging the bleak state of girls’ education in Mozambique, the World Bank approved new funding for a project addressing low learning outcomes for girls in primary school and low retention rates for girls in upper levels of education. This funding includes grants of $160 million from the International Development Agency and $139 million from the Global Partnership for Education for a total of $299 million. The project will address the first problem of low learning outcomes by building 100 new preschool facilities in rural areas that lack quality education resources. It will also train and support teachers in grade levels one to three and expand children’s access to learning materials to improve reading skills for girls in primary school.

In order to address the second problem of low retention rates, the project will seek to create safe school environments for girls, increase the number of lower secondary schools across the country and make general improvements to the infrastructure of schools in order to retain more students. Furthermore, the funding will provide sexual and reproductive health programs and gender-based violence mitigation programs in an effort to decrease early marriages, HIV infections and domestic violence. The project will also implement mentorship programs for girls and expand the scope of virtual learning facilities, which will likely continue to be incredibly important education resources even in a post-COVID-19 world.

Potential Impact

Hopes are high that this project, with increased funding from the World Bank, will have a positive effect on the education of girls in Mozambique. Many rural families with children will have access to quality preschool facilities for the first time and girls in lower levels of primary school will have more resources to help them become literate. Girls in upper primary and secondary schools will also gain access to improved resources and revamped school infrastructures. New sexual and reproductive health programs have the potential to decrease the number of young women who are HIV positive and mentorship programs will build relationships among young women and provide activities and resources for school-aged girls.

Besides the direct and immediate effects the project will have on girls’ education in Mozambique, the country as a whole stands to benefit from the results of increased learning readiness and retention rates in the years and decades to come. According to the World Bank, increasing the percentage of women with secondary levels of education in a country by 1% boosts annual per capita income growth by 0.3 percentage points. Furthermore, one additional year of education can increase a woman’s personal income by up to 25%. Girls with basic levels of education are three times less likely to contract HIV and children born to women with basic levels of education are twice as likely to survive past age 5.

The Future of Mozambique

Mozambican girls and women have suffered from poor educational attainment due to a lack of opportunities, high dropout rates in primary school and low retention rates in upper levels of education. However, the new funding from the World Bank has the potential to improve girls’ education in Mozambique from preschool through secondary school by building facilities, expanding access to resources, enhancing infrastructure, implementing sexual health programs and introducing mentorship activities for young women. Increasing educational attainment for women has a ripple effect on their incomes, their families and their countries. A government choosing to improve girls’ education makes a sound investment in the country’s future.

– Calvin Melloh
Photo: Flickr

Transforming Education in South SudanAround 1.8 million children in South Sudan are not in school; the majority of children are utilized for manual work to provide for their families. This prevents millions of children, especially young girls, from receiving an adequate education. As the world’s youngest country, South Sudan struggles with many pressing issues, such as an unstable political environment and scarce food access. However, the need for educational reform grows increasingly urgent every day. These inadequate educational circumstances can be attributed to many years of war that left behind devastating conditions for the country and its civilians. However, organizations have committed to transforming education in South Sudan.

The Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)

Founded in 2004, HART exists to help countries suffering from national conflicts that are not typically served by major aid organizations. A significant amount of its aid is directed toward South Sudan and the country’s unfavorable education status. In its 2020 report, the organization emphasized how many leaders in South Sudan are unable to access funds from large-scale donors. In response to this, the organization stresses that donating funds for essential services in South Sudan should take top priority, especially education funds, considering the substantial number of children displaced from normal learning environments. The organization works directly with partners in South Sudan to get problems solved through direct communication. 

According to HART, a girl raised in South Sudan is more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than complete her primary education. More than two million children are not in school, which is the worst number the country has seen yet. If these rates continue, the future generation of South Sudan will not be equipped with the skills that come from an educational background, which also statistically places them as more likely to fall into generational poverty. Organizations such as HART use advocacy as the strongest tool. By bringing light to these startling statistics, it hopes to educate the public on the dire need to allocate funds to South Sudan and reform the educational system through donations.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF has been a global leader in transforming education in South Sudan, as it provides funds for classroom materials and teacher training. A primary focus is to intervene in South Sudanese communities to emphasize the importance of educating their children. The organization understands that when children are educated, it benefits not only them but the entirety of the country.

However, learning in South Sudan has been extremely different since the start of COVID-19 as roughly 1.5 million children have been learning through radio lessons instead of the traditional classrooms. In 2020 alone, UNICEF provided over 40,000 radio sets to be distributed to underprivileged children who do not have access to radios in their homes. Amid these unconventional education times, UNICEF continues to deliver essential services to benefit learning in remote locations under the Government of South Sudan’s “Back to School Initiative”. At the end of 2020, UNICEF plans to have provided 729,000 out of school children in crisis access to education.

Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

The Global Partnership for Education has been partnered with South Sudan since 2012. It emphasizes the high demands placed on the education system in South Sudan’s national plans. The General Education Strategic Plan (GESP), developed by the Ministry of General Education and Instruction of South Sudan, lays out situation analyses, policy frameworks, implementation structures and financing plans. However, there is insufficient public expenditure to cover these projects. In fact, South Sudan possesses one of the lowest education funds in the world. 

The GPE recognizes this need for funding and believes in the vision of The General Education Strategic Plan. In March of 2020, the GPE gifted $7 million in support of the Ministry of Education’s learning plan in response to COVID-19. In particular, the grant goes to support guidelines and policies in place to reopen schools in South Sudan. Other focal points revolve around awareness campaigns on COVID-19 prevention, remote learning materials for students, radio programs for at-home learning, hygiene facilities and back to school campaigns. As the GPE continues backing The General Education Strategic Plan, there is an expected expansion of secondary and technical education and institutionalizing teacher training within the next three years. 

The Need for Improved Education

Right now, over 80% of the South Sudanese population live on less than a dollar per day. In the middle of a humanitarian crisis, many basic necessities fail to be met for this vulnerable population. An increasing urgency around transforming education in South Sudan has caused an abundance of organizations to take a special interest in reforming the education system in the world’s youngest country. While the road to a prospering education system is still long, South Sudan is taking substantial steps toward a better future for its children with the help of humanitarian organizations.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

development in Guyana
Guyana is a nation that is full of rich history. It received its name from its early indigenous populations who named it “Guaina” or “land of water.” Guyana was its own land for many centuries before the Age of Exploration. However, in 1498, Christopher Columbus was the first European to see the country and he claimed it for Spain. It was not until numerous decades and many European leaders later that the nation declared its independence in 1970.

Since declaring its independence, the nation of Guyana has faced many struggles including widespread poverty and hunger, however, throughout the past three decades, there have been significant improvements in both of these areas. The Guyanese government’s development projects as well as numerous nonprofits have made lasting changes throughout the country. Here are two examples of projects that have helped advance development in Guyana.

Guyanese President Desmond Hoyte’s Economic Recovery Program

Due to long-lasting droughts, high rates of emigration, political uncertainty and many other factors, the nation of Guyana has experienced many economic stalls throughout its time in independence. In addition, competing parallel markets and decreases in agricultural production have played roles in Guyana’s economic struggles. In the 1980s, the country faced a complete economic collapse, while also having almost 50% of its population living in extreme poverty.

In an effort to address these issues and approach development in Guyana from an economic standpoint, Guyanese President Desmond Hoyte announced his Economic Recovery Program in 1988. The goal of this project was to restore economic growth, absorb parallel markets, eliminate payment imbalances and to normalize international financial relations. In order to meet these goals, the government liberalized harsh regulations on foreign exchange relations, removed price controls on key goods and devalued the Guyanese dollar to match market rates. These were only some of the decisions and changes that Hoyte and his government made while implementing his program, however, each of them was very impactful in its own ways.

Almost no positive change occurred within the first two years of the project and there were even some negative effects. However, by 1991, Guyana’s debt had lowered to a point at which the nation could receive international loans and foreign investment had surged. This program was the foundation for the nation’s sustained economic stability and opened the door for further development and growth.

The Guyanese Government and Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) Long-term Investment in Early Childhood Education

The Guyanese education system has lacked sufficiency for decades. There is a significant disparity between the education that students living in the more urban and populated parts of Guyana receive and the education that students in the more remote regions receive. For example, it is very common for students living in remote areas to lack the necessary resources to facilitate adequate education as well as to have teachers with less training.

In an attempt to address these issues and disparities and to approach development in Guyana from a human capital standpoint, the Guyanese government and the GPE decided to make a long-term investment in the nation’s education system. This program focused on strengthening teacher forces through training, constant monitoring and evaluation. It also provided students with learning materials in the form of resource kits and teacher use manuals. The project also held training sessions for the primary caregivers of students across the nation in order for them to be able to support their children’s education at home. This project took a very well-rounded approach to mitigate education disparities and issues in Guyana and continues to have a lasting effect today.

According to the Guyanese Ministry of Education, this program helped improve literacy rates within students living in the hinterland and riverine regions by 139% and improved numeracy rates by 133%. There were also significant improvements within coastal and urban populations. Although this project ended in 2018, the Guyanese government made sure that it could provide identical services going forward in perpetuity.

A Bright Future Lies Ahead

Guyana has proven to be a model for development and growth. The projects and programs that have emerged throughout the nation have turned the country around and set it on a positive path towards continuous success. These projects and many others have accelerated development in Guyana and have made clear that the possibilities are endless for this small South American country.

– MacKenzie Boatman
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Tajikistan

Tajikistan, a country of 9 million people in Central Asia, recently created a new educational approach that will help address its ongoing struggles. The number of females enrolled in primary and secondary schools is significantly lower than males, and keeping children in school during economic or political crises is difficult for many families who rely on them for immediate financial returns. Despite gender and financial inequalities that still exist in educational institutions, however, many projects and investments are underway that will undoubtedly help reduce these discrepancies.

8 Facts About Education in Tajikistan

  1. Children are required to attend school between the ages of 7 to 15. Nonetheless, the number of out-of-school children in 2017 was 11,435, with girls accounting for more than 70 percent of this figure.
  2. Armed conflict during the 1990s meant that females in the region were 7.3 percent less likely to complete their education than females in non-affected areas. In the long-term, they also returned to school at a lower rate than males.
  3. The Global Partnership for Education, a funding platform that helps increase the attendance in schools in developing countries, works in conjunction with the Tajikistan government to increase access and quality of early childhood education. In fact, more than 18,000 children have benefitted from improved schooling conditions in 400-500 education centers.
  4. As of 2017, 5,400 primary teachers were trained and two million new learning materials were distributed to schools.
  5. Along with the addition of new materials, an enhanced curriculum that teaches practical applications and an interactive atmosphere are being used by 160,000 primary students.
  6. Location, gender and finances are the main obstacles to completing higher education. The proportion of students who complete higher education from the most well-off households is eight times higher than from the poorest families.
  7. Girls make up less than 30 percent of the overall number of students enrolled in universities. In fact, one in three women stops their education before completing secondary school.
  8. According to 19 percent of parents and out-of-school youth, the main reason for high dropout levels in females is marriage and avoiding “a bad reputation.”

As of 2017, the poverty rate in Tajikistan is 29 percent down from 37 percent in 2012 and education is one of the main factors that helped to reduce these levels. As described in these eight facts about education in Tajikistan, many new educational reforms are underway in Tajikistan that seek to alleviate the gender gap and create a system that benefits the community directly. Access to education will allow individuals to help lift themselves from poverty and contribute to the economy, which in turn will positively affect the global economy by reducing trade barriers and creating a more competitive global market. Investments in education have long-term payoffs that can make a tangible difference in the lives of people who live below the poverty line and create a more accessible and powerful global trade market.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Pixabay

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Sudan

Located in Northeast Africa, Sudan is the third largest country of the African continent with a current population of more than 41 million people. The biggest problem country is facing is the poverty rate that is currently about 46.5 percent and continues to increase. This does not only affect men and women living in Sudan but children as well. In the text below, 10 facts about poverty in Sudan are presented.

Facts about Poverty in Sudan

  1. In 2018, about 7.1 million people in Sudan are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, while 5.5 million experience food insecurity and are in danger of starvation, according to the USAID. The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) also reports that almost 50 percent of refugees in the country are experiencing food insecurity. Because of this, malnutrition rates continue to increase, growing not only above the emergency threshold, but even higher. Around 32 percent of Sudanese children are chronically malnourished.
  2. Sudan’s climate conditions such as soil erosion, desertification and recurrent droughts, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), are also causing low and variable productivity since agriculture produces 40 percent of GDP and employs over 70 percent of the labor force in rural areas of Sudan.
  3. USAID states that the consequences of the economic crisis are also fuel shortages, currency depreciation and high inflation levels. These issues have increased transportation costs and food prices, obstructing humanitarian operations in Sudan. The shortages could also increase not only food production costs but curb yields in upcoming harvest seasons.
  4. Almost 550,000 breastfeeding mothers and babies in 2010 were lacking needed additional nutritious foods. In 2015, maternal mortality rate involved 311 deaths per 100,000 live births while the mortality rate for children was 65.1 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  5. Sudan remains a high-indebted country that has accumulated sizeable external arrears. IFAD states that by the end of 2014, Sudan’s external debt was $43.6 billion in nominal terms, and around 85 percent of this amount was in arrears.
  6. In response to the rise of food insecurity and hunger in Sudan, USAID happens to be the largest donor of emergency food assistance to Sudan. The Office of Food for Peace (FFP) partners with WFP and UNICEF to provide emergency assistance to those in need. The FFP assistance currently supports more than 2.5 million food-insecure people in Sudan per year.
  7. According to the UNICEF, 3.2 million people were internally displaced, including almost 1.9 million children in 2016. UNICEF provided access to the drinking water supply through operation, maintenance and water chlorination services to about one million displaced persons and refugees.
  8. IFAD has prioritized Sudan for more than 20 years and their loans help increase agricultural production through environmental practices and distribution of improved seeds. Their activities include promoting land reform, harmonizing resources for nomads and farmers as well as promoting equitable distribution of resources. They also ensure representation of both women and youth in grass-roots organizations and guarantee access to microfinance for women. This is very important since 24.7 percent of women in Sudan are unemployed.
  9. WFP, thanks to the E.U. Humanitarian Aid, has been able to provide five months of nutritional support to 86,600 children under the age of five and to pregnant and nursing women in 2017.
  10. Global Partnership for Education (GPE) started the educational program that began in July 2013 and continues to improve the learning environment in Sudan, providing and distributing almost six million textbooks and strengthening the education system. Almost 1,000 additional conventional and community classrooms have been built through this program which benefits over 52,000 students. Over 3,400 communities and 4,800 students in the country also received school grants.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Sudan bring not only the awareness of the people’s lives but reflects how much change and development is being brought to the country. These issues can be solved and poverty rates can be improved.

Organizations, including the few listed in the text above, will continue to develop and come together, bringing not only hope to the people but also dedication, ensuring a better future for the people in the country.

– Charlene Frett
Photo: Flickr

GuyanaIn April 2018, Global Partnership for Education (GPE), an international organization devoted to advancing childhood education, reaffirmed its commitment to improving education in Guyana with a $1.7 million grant. This grant intends to strengthen the Early Childhood Education Program, which strives to improve literacy and numeracy levels in several remote regions of the country. Backed by the GPE and The World Bank, this grant will also positively contribute to girls’ education in Guyana.

Literacy and Numeracy Results

The results of these efforts are notable in literacy and numeracy scores among nursery school students. The percentage of students attaining a level of “approaching mastery” or higher in emergent literacy assessments rose from 39.58 percent to 68.30 percent between 2016 and 2017. Similar gains occurred in emergent numeracy levels, in which the percentage of students achieving a level of “approaching mastery” or higher rose from 41.91 percent in 2016 to 77.03 percent in 2017. These gains indicate significant improvements in boys’ and girls’ education in Guyana.

A Gender Gap in Education

According to certain indicators, girls’ education in Guyana has grown stronger than boys’ education. In June, the University of Guyana hosted a symposium on the underperformance of boys in the Guyanese education system. During the symposium, Dr. Mairette Newman, representative of The Commonwealth of Learning, noted three key statistics, which indicate a widening gender gap in Guyanese education:

  1. Girls outperform boys in literacy tests, once they transition into higher grade levels.
  2. Boys are more likely to drop out of secondary school than their female counterparts. (In early education, the ratio of boys to girls is one to one. However, at the secondary school level, the ratio is two to one, in favor of girls).
  3. Boys are less likely to transition into tertiary education programs.

According to Dr. Newman, girls normally have an advantage, since teachers prefer “female” qualities in the classroom, such as the ability to work well in groups and be introspective. All of these factors contribute to girls outpacing boys in the Guyanese education system.

Gender Barriers

While the symposium touched on this gender inequality in education, it did not address how these inequalities and gendered expectations also affect girls’ education in Guyana or limit girls in society. Though growing numbers of Guyanese women succeed in school and participate actively in public life, significant gender-related barriers still exist.

The Guyana Empowered Peoples Action Network (GEPAN) explains that children take on specific gender roles early in life. While girls take on household tasks, society encourages boys to be independent, as future “providers.” These gender roles continue into adulthood and expose women to limitations and violence in Guyana. For example, in 2014, UNICEF reported that at least one-third of Guyanese women experience sexual violence. These barriers and violence make it difficult for women to reach their full social and economic potential.

Women’s Empowerment

Luckily, Guyana’s First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, has already begun to address these gender-related issues. Last month, she held a Girls’ Empowerment Workshop, designed to inspire and empower girls (ages 10-15), encouraged girls to pursue non-traditional career paths and fight through prejudices to achieve their goals. As the First Lady emphasized, education is the first step to empowerment for women, which will strengthen economic development. For the First Lady, women’s empowerment and girls’ education in Guyana are crucial to the future success of Guyana. This movement for women’s empowerment also goes beyond the First Lady’s initiatives.

In April 2018, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications launched a program for girls and women in Information and Communications Technology, a field dominated by males in Guyana. The program, Guyanese Girls Code, is a free, three-month course which teaches beginning coding and programming to girls (ages 11-14). Over forty girls enrolled in the initial class. According to Cathy Hughes, the Minister of Public Telecommunications, the classes strive to bring women into the ICT sector and give them opportunities to gain the education they’ll need to succeed. Hughes hopes that bringing girls into the ICT sector will offer new perspectives and talent, which will be crucial for advancing Guyanese society.

Thus, education and women’s empowerment in Guyana are intimately linked. For women’s empowerment to advance in Guyana, education must remain a priority. With the support of organizations such as GPE and World Bank, Guyanese leaders strive to continue strengthening education and addressing gender inequalities in the classroom and society.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Benin

Benin had set tremendous precedence after The Cold War ended by being one of the first African nations to democratize. Its successful democratic system has since allowed Benin to achieve relative economic stability; however, it still suffers from high infant and maternal mortality rates as well as women’s illiteracy.

Barriers to Girls’ Education in Benin

Girls’ education in Benin has been hindered by factors such as illnesses, extreme poverty and illiteracy. As the world becomes more and more technologically driven, the economic development of a country is directly affected by low levels of literacy. Poverty, coupled with the high costs of education, creates limited opportunities for girls to acquire a quality education in Benin and succeed in life.

Other major issues that Benin is facing regarding education are the high rates of teacher absenteeism and the limited resources to effectively manage the educational system. Along with these overarching issues, Beninese girls are disproportionately burdened with traditional gender roles. The traditional division of domestic labor typically calls for girls to stay at home and work, which has led to the traditional belief that an education is irrelevant to a girl’s reality. In Benin, the male literacy rate between the ages 15 and 24 is about 55 percent while the female literacy rate in the same age group is about 30 percent.

Improvements to Girls’ Education in Benin

An education population serves as the backbone of every nation. In Benin, improvement has been their top priority. The former president of Benin, Yayi Boni, took very important steps in developing the national education system and ensuring that girls had the resources they needed to go to school by enacting certain measures between the years 2006 and 2013.

A few of President Boni’s measures included ensuring free and universal primary education for all children, tuition support for girls pursuing a secondary education and partial support of enrollment fees for girls who are in industrial science and technology fields.

Partnerships for Education

International organizations such as the United Nations, The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF have all worked with the government of Benin to ensure that girls’ education in Benin is prioritized. Thus far, these partnerships have produced impressive results.

The United Nation’s main objective with this initiative was to mobilize the government of Benin and develop partners to improve the quality and availability of education, confront traditional gender norms surrounding girls’ education in Benin and help economically struggling parents afford the direct and indirect costs of school.

In 2016, the GPE approved a $428,794 grant for Benin to develop its education sector. This plan was implemented in 2017 and is set to end in 2025. The Education Sector Plan Development Grant will allow Benin to conduct a sector-wide analysis of the educational system in Benin.

UNICEF and Big Sistering

A creative UNICEF-supported program called “Big Sistering” was also established in Benin to make the typically long walk from home to school a little more enjoyable. The older girls who are considered “big sisters” not only make sure that the younger girls get to school every day but also have the added responsibility of advocating for the importance of going to school.

If a girl does not come to school one day, it is the big sister’s duty to find out why and report it back to the headmaster. Big sisters also keep a lookout for girls who are not enrolled in school and encourage them to attend. Often times, parents keep their girls home from school to work on farms or tend to animals. In these cases, the parent-teacher association contacts the parents in hopes of finding ways to overcome these barriers.

Through the collaboration of international organizations and the government of Benin, gross enrollment rates for primary education rose from 93 percent to 121 percent, the primary school completion rate increased from 65 percent to 77 percent and gender parity has almost been achieved.

To support these developments, Benin plans to continue its efforts in increasing the education budget. Increasing the budget will not only improve access to secondary education but also the quality of learning and equity at all levels of education.

– Lolontika Hoque

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Mauritania

Mauritania is a deeply divided and struggling country. Slavery has only recently been legally abolished, about 20 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day and over half of adults are illiterate. Although one of the biggest threats to Mauritania remains the increasing influence of Al Qaeda, poverty and lack of female educational opportunities are some of the worst perils facing Mauritanians in their daily lives. To understand the current reality of girls’ education in Mauritania, it is first necessary to know where the country has been.

Mauritania’s History

Initially settled by Berbers and Arabs in the 3rd century A.D., Mauritania was a trading and transport hub for connecting West Africa to the Maghreb. In the 1850s, France came to control the territory militarily, leading a brutal regime of oppression. This regime left those living in the area profoundly divided between Arabs and Berbers and subjugated to subhuman conditions. By 1904, France formally established Mauritania as a colony, and in 1920, Mauritania became part of French West Africa and was subsequently administered by Senegal. Mauritania became an overseas territory in 1946; by 1958, the country was self-governing and became independent in 1960. 

Shortly after Mauritania gained independence, a series of elections, coups and race riots took place through much of the latter 20th century. The elections and coups slowed to a considerably slower pace in the 2000s and the subsequent decade, providing Mauritania with some semblance of stability. This stability was vital; it allowed outside organizations such as the U.N. and UNICEF to offer much-needed assistance to the battered nation of 3.7 million. Between 2000 and 2007, for example, literacy declined nearly 8 points. This was primarily due to the Mauritanian government’s failure to dedicate any time, money or resources to education.

Successes in Education

While Mauritania has had significant struggles with education, there have been signs of improvement and cases of success. For example, the NGO Global Partnership for Education (GPE) began funding the Mauritania Basic Education Sector Support Project. Over the course of this program, gross enrollment rates increased from 88 percent to 97 percent and completion rates rose from 53 percent to 71 percent between 2001 and 2012. Girls’ education in Mauritania also improved significantly; 21,168 adolescent females have been enrolled in lower secondary education in 2016, as opposed to 7,400 in 2014. 

UNICEF has also forged a partnership with the Mauritanian government to promote education and provide resources for schools. This national partnership was reached following the success of UNICEF’s initial mission in the country. The new goal of UNICEF and the Mauritanian government is to achieve universal access and completion of secondary education for all Mauritanian children.

The Importance of Female Education

It is critical to recognize why female education in Mauritania is so important beyond the educational aspects. Girls’ education has been shown to lead to female empowerment. In a country so bitterly divided and struggling with social progress, support for women’s empowerment is a vital aspect. Improving education in Mauritania also improves poverty in the country. The United Nations Girls Education Initiative reports that many young girls in Mauritania face dire poverty. Since only 53 percent of households have access to clean water, disease is common, and there is insufficient access to vaccinations. Girls’ education provides access to schools, which in turn provides access to the water and medicine many desperately need.

While the challenges to girls’ education in Mauritania are plentiful and can seem immense, much headway has been made in recent years. With organizations like the U.N., UNICEF, and GPE working with the government, there is significant improvement on the horizon for girls’ education in Mauritania.

– Sam Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

Education in Guyana
Howard Steven Friedman, a writer for the Huffington Post, stated in “America’s Poverty-Education Link” that poverty and education are linked as one and can be the determinant of the other. This means that without education, one is less likely to rise in social ranking in society. In fact, in the United States, 46 percent of Americans who failed to obtain college degrees remained in the lower income rankings.

Personal Testimonies of Education in Guyana

In The Borgen Project’s interview with Nadira Barclay, a student of Guyana, she stated her belief that “there are factors such as not having enough money to travel to school that affect your quality and quantity of education.” That being said, living in poverty takes away the means one may need to succeed educationally.

For Barclay, her education in Guyana brought her through only primary school — grades 1-6; since she lived in the countryside, the only way she would have been able to attend secondary school with minimal costs was to live with someone closer to the school. Due to the fact that she was a young girl, however, her father did not allow her to make the transition.

This is a prime example of the inconveniences students face while trying to pursue education in Guyana. Since Barclay only had a Primary school education, her ability and qualifications to work were limited, which is why today she works as a home health aide for the elderly.

On the other hand, Famida Sukhdeo, an individual Barclay cares for who is also from Guyana, explained, “I had to leave school to take care of my grandmother who was sick. I had to basically babysit her. I had to feed her, bathe her, and clean for her.” Sukhdeo’s case is one of many Guyanese women. For Sukhdeo, she spent her time in the workforce as a nanny, a job not far from what she had to do when she dropped out of school, due to her limited ability to read and write.

Redefining Educational Opportunities

So far, readers have seen the issue of travel costs, sex and domestic responsibilities in relations to education. Both Barclay and Sukhdeo were women raised in poverty who did not have a choice but to comply to gender-based restrictions despite their want to pursue higher education, as their options were limited by their social standings.

Unlike the United States that requires all children to attend school of all levels — from elementary to high school — Guyana makes no such stipulations. In fact, only primary school, which serves children ages 6 to 11, is compulsory. After completion, adolescents are no longer required to attend school and mostly resort to performing domestic tasks such as housekeeping and raising cattle.

As of 2012, Guyana’s expenditure on education from the total GDP was 3.18 percent, 5.22 percent lower than in 2000. According to both Barclay and Sukdheo, back when they were living in Guyana, the government played a bigger role in promoting and supporting education. For instance: “They used to give out clothes, supplies and money to children for school, but all that has stopped.”

Since there is less effort being given towards education in Guyana, research demonstrates that as the age of the population increases, so does the illiteracy rate. As both Barclay and Sukhdeo were able to explain, their lack of education affected them in the long run, especially for employment.

Support and Advocacy Efforts

As of 2002 and continuing to the present day, Global Partnership for Education, coordinated through the World Bank has begun working to improve the quality and quantity of education. This is being done by targeting areas: increasing the number of trained faculty, providing increased access to technology improving the conditions of physical facilities and so on.

So far, the Global Partnership for Education and the government of Guyana have agreed on two goals: increasing the learning outcomes for all regardless of background, and decreasing the differences of education received depending on factors, such as location.

There have also been goals set in place to measure Guyana’s progress: increasing literacy among fourth grade students to 50 percent, increasing the quantity of sixth grade students who reach 50 percent or more in core subjects to 40 percent, and increasing the number of students who pass core subject tests in secondary schools to 60 percent.

A Brighter Future

By continually working with the Global Partnership for Education, education in Guyana will continue to improve as the awareness and importance of education spreads. Thanks to continued organizational efforts and a U.S. education-geared grant of $1.7 million, the quality of education and quality of life of its recipients should both hopefully improve.

– Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in Sierra Leone
As is true in many countries around the globe, female education in Sierra Leone has lacked greatly throughout the nation’s history. Remnants of severe educational inequality still persist with males leading their female counterparts in literacy rates at all levels of education. While the country as a whole faces extreme poverty, it is females who suffer the most. In times of desperation, many young women are forced to leave school in order to work at home or find a husband. As a result, the current state of girls’ education in Sierra Leone is underemphasized and unjust, however, we may be embarking on a new era in female empowerment.

A Turning Point for Sierra Leone

The last decade has proved to be a turning point for the nation and its female population. Beginning in 2007, Sierra Leone became a member of the Global Partnership for Education. Through its commitment to the organization and the reciprocal aid received in the process, Sierra Leone was able to redesign its Education Sector Plan and offer new resources to females across the country.

This new plan not only focused on increased access to free pre-primary education (ages three to five) but also enhanced its commitment on the backend, strengthening equitable access to senior education by providing more scholarships to female students. As the country enters into more formal relationships with international groups, such as the U.K. Department for International Development, girls’ education in Sierra Leone is undergoing a remarkable transition.

Improving Girls’ education in Sierra Leone

In addition to government-sponsored relief, other organizations have also implemented innovative programs that increase the focus on girls’ education in Sierra Leone and create an atmosphere where such a focus is of utmost concern. UNICEF now annually supports a Girls’ Education Week which is formally run by the Education Ministry. The fact that such a program is now receiving national attention demonstrates the changing public attitude in regard to girls’ education in Sierra Leone.

Girl Child Network, a nonprofit organization that works around the globe, is currently implementing crucial outlets for girls to be protected, be treated as individuals and be able to receive quality educational materials throughout Sierra Leone. The organization offers leadership training programs, which aim to build confidence in young women and girls.

It is also currently implementing Girls Empowerment Villages that offer a place of refuge where abused girls can stay. Now protected, these girls have the ability to pursue education and receive quality information that is disseminated within the villages.

Effects of Girls’ Access to Education

While relief and equal access programs are vital in transforming girls’ education in Sierra Leone, it is important to see the true effectiveness of this recent movement. According to the Global Partnership for Education, the gender gap between primary enrollment and primary completion rate has decreased since 2012. While the male enrollment rate has not changed dramatically, female enrollment has been on a steady increase and completion rates have skyrocketed.

As of now, improvements to girls’ education in Sierra Leone are still underway and the eventual outcome cannot yet be determined. However, the success of recent years and the amount of campaigns and groups that continue to operate on behalf of girls and their education nationwide is promising. National commitment to this movement, combined with international aid, is creating the foundation for a stable future in female education in Sierra Leone.

– Ryan Montbleau
Photo: Flickr