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Girls Education

In order to initiate better girls education around the world, the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has worked in several countries to improve access to education. In its most recent effort, it granted $6 million to UNICEF in August 2017. The aim of this grant is to assure better health, protection and widespread education for Jordanian children, as well as Syrian refugee children who have found a new home in Jordan.

The funding will be put to a variety of beneficial uses, such as health education, reliable water sanitation, psychological counseling and amplified education for children with disabilities. In addition, specific psychological help will be given to women and girls who may be victims of gender-based violence, discrimination or child marriage.

The funding comes as part of KOICA’s five-year-long, $200 million program, “Better Life for Girls,” which aims to increase the amount of girls in schools in developing countries, better the quality of the education they receive and ensure that no girl is victim to being treated unfairly or receiving a lesser education on account of her gender.

In July of 2016, KOICA brought the “Better Life for Girls” program to Uganda, pledging $5 million to adolescent girls’ education over the course of two and a half years. They promised an emphasis on technology, educating parents as well as children on the harm of early pregnancy and child marriage and encouraging men and boys to join the efforts in reducing abuse and mistreatment of women.

As KOICA points out, almost 62 million girls cannot go to school. Poor families in third-world countries often prioritize boys’ education over girls, who are forced to drop out of school or forgo attending altogether. Many girls are needed at home, are subjected to child marriage, or become pregnant at a young age, restricting their ability to get an education. The Uganda Demographic and Health Survey states that one in four girls from ages 15 to 19 is pregnant or has a child, meaning that she often cannot go to school.

But it is education that will empower women to be able to make decisions about their own health, to start a lucrative career that will allow her independence, and to contribute to her own future and her society’s future with her intellectual prowess. Not only does KOICA wish to encourage this, the agency wants to spread awareness about the unfair treatment of girls at schools in developing countries and explore their untapped potential.

Another effort from the “Better Life for Girls” program was made in the Gaza strip in February of 2016. KOICA pledged $500,000 to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. The UNRWA’s technical and vocational education and training program helps highlight job opportunities and provides training in those areas to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, particularly women. KOICA’s contribution enabled the UNRWA to reevaluate its program and ensure that it would guide bright and innovative refugees to employment.

The “Better Life for Girls” program serves to remind that there is no limit to the new heights that may be reached with more women at the helm, with more girls learning how to make society a better place, with more female minds behind the world’s newest inventions, political advancements, medical discoveries and more.

Expanding girls education will improve the community and open the world to millions more people who have the potential to lead, create, heal and discover. It will change the world for the better.

Charlotte Armstrong

Photo: Flickr

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Learn about the Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act.

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Education in MaliDespite relative improvements in past decades, such as the recognition of education as a constitutional right in Mali in 1993, the implementation of the Malian government’s Ten-Year Education Development Program (PRODEC), and increasing donations from the United States, France and the World Bank, socioeconomic barriers still limit access to education in Mali. Here are five facts about the Malian education system which highlight some of these barriers and some potential solutions.

  1. In Mali, the first six years of schooling are primary education, and the last six years are separated into two three-year cycles of secondary education. Education in Mali is free and compulsory between ages 7 and 16, or until the end of grade nine. Even so, many children still do not attend class due to high ancillary education costs, including transportation, writing supplies and uniforms.
  2. In order to pursue the second level of secondary education, students sit for an exam called the Diplôme d’études fondamentales at the end of grade nine. Secondary schools are mostly located in urban areas and many are private institutions, so accessibility is limited for poor children in rural areas.One organization working to improve school attendance in Mali is the Ouelessebougou Alliance, a developmental partnership with villagers in the Ouelessebougou region of Mali. The Alliance has constructed 18 new concrete classrooms and provides pencils, paper, chalkboards, chalk, erasers, maps, some textbooks, and bench desks for 11 village elementary schools. The Alliance has a five-year plan for school construction with the goal that villages can become eligible to have their education programs sustained by the government of Mali. Over the past year alone, its efforts have allowed over 1,900 children attend village schools.
  3. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 69 percent of Mali children of primary school age are enrolled in primary school and 36 percent of secondary school-aged students are enrolled in secondary school. These statistics correlate with the economic and accessibility barriers keeping many students from obtaining a higher secondary education.
  4. At the end of grade 12, students sit for an exam called the Baccalauréat, which is required to pass in order to graduate. From there, students may attend an institute of tertiary education, like the University of Bamako, to study science and technology, medicine, humanities, arts and science, law and public service or economy and management. Over the past few decades, however, the Malian government and the World Bank have promoted vocational training and apprenticeships as more accessible career avenues.
  5. Malian girls have a greater risk of early school dropout, seeing as they are expected to marry young. According to UNICEF, while 62 percent of all Malian children who enter primary schooling eventually finish their last year of primary school, 64 percent of boys and only 59 percent of girls complete their basic education.

In a study of the scientific, technical, and vocational education of African girls, UNESCO found that on average women made up 23 percent of college graduates in the medical field, three percent of engineering graduates, and 10 percent of graduates in agricultural sciences. Tertiary education in Mali may be inaccessible to many students, but it is especially unobtainable to Malian girls. In response to these findings, UNESCO office in Bamako and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) have taken measures to fund a UNESCO-UNFPA-UNWOMEN joint project. The initiative aims to increase access to quality education for adolescent girls and young women, provide protective gender-sensitive learning environments adapted to strengthened links between education and health, and social services for adolescent girls and young women.

Although education in Mali has seen some improvement in recent years, reassessment of the barriers which impede young students as well as expanding efforts to help them is crucial for continued development.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

KOICA CTS
The Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is a Korean organization that promotes global development. In 2015, they launched an initiative known as Creative Technology Solutions (CTS). CTS awards grants to a select number of research projects that could potentially provide innovative breakthroughs in global development.

A rigorous application process is required to select recipients of the grant. First, written proposals are accepted. Among the initial candidates, few are chosen to give presentations on their proposals. Those who pass the presentation stage are then given interviews and tested on their problem-solving ability. Candidates who make it through all stages are promised a grant to fund their research.

In 2015, 10 teams were selected from the 99 that applied. One research project involved designing a portable autorefractor, which provides detailed imaging of the eye, allowing a quick diagnosis of vision problems. According to KOICA, 80 percent of cases of blindness could have been prevented with a routine checkup, so providing a method of quick and efficient diagnosis should be beneficial to combating visual impairment, especially in underdeveloped nations.

Another team has developed a solar energy system that can be cost-effectively installed in houses that do not otherwise have access to energy. This solar home system is being tested in Cambodia. With the help of this device, Cambodia hopes to increase the percentage of rural households with access to electricity from 57 percent to at least 70 percent.

In addition to creating effective technological solutions, KOICA CTS also aims for a widespread outreach. They are planning to be active in various countries throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Latin America. Second round searches for grant recipients have already launched on July 18 of this year.

The practice of awarding grants in this fashion is reminiscent of the Grand Challenges initiative, which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began in an effort to fund research going towards global development.

In fact, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation considered the launch of the second round of KOICA CTS as the beginning of Grand Challenges South Korea. This means that CTS will be working more closely with other groups involved in Grand Challenges. The likelihood of strengthening these efforts through the addition of CTS, and increasing research is starting to look very hopeful.

Edmond Kim

Photo: Flickr