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10 Facts About Africa's Education Crisis
The right to primary education frames many international statements on human rights and education. While South Africa did achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal primary education ahead of the 2015 target year, it is unfathomable to think that 17 million of its school-aged children will never attend school. Africa’s struggling educational sector can be outlined in these 10 facts about Africa’s education crisis.

10 Facts About Africa’s Education Crisis

  1. There are 12 countries in Africa–namely Malawi, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Ethiopia, Congo, South Africa, Namibia and Comoros–in which 30 percent or more of children do not meet a minimum standard of learning by grades four or five.
  2. In countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia, over half of in-school students are not learning basic skills by the end of primary school.
  3. A global competitiveness report released by World Economic Forum ranks South Africa last out of 140 countries in regards to the quality of education offered. This perception will severely impact the willingness of employers to create more jobs and invest in the country, thus plunging the South African economy further down.
  4. The fact that only 53 percent of year 12 students who sat for math exams in 2014 achieved above 30 percent, and only 35 percent achieved above 40 percent, shows the extent of the education crisis. One of the more disturbing statistics among these 10 facts about Africa’s education crisis is that 25 percent of South African schools do not even offer mathematics in grades 10 to 12.
  5. Despite being a middle-income country and having six percent of its GDP spent on education, South Africa’s performance in standardized tests is far below the average for African countries.
  6. Another major concern is the relation between the language of instruction and student performance. South Africa’s population speaks 11 languages, and students writing the examination in a language other than their mother tongue continue to experience great difficulty in interpreting questions and phrasing their responses.
  7. Teachers’ knowledge of English is poor, and, unless emphasis is laid on training and preparing teachers, the state of education will not improve. According to the World Bank, teacher absenteeism, neglect and lack of a working knowledge of the language may be blamed for poor student performance.
  8. In many countries within sub-Saharan Africa, educational disparities exist with respect to wealth, gender and social divisions. The degree of extreme educational poverty, which is defined by less than two years spent in school, is much higher among the poor. For instance, in Ethiopia, a staggering 68.3 percent of the poorest quintile of its population lives in educational poverty.
  9. According to Action Aid, the economic crisis has meant that around £2.9 billion is expected to be lost to education budgets for the sub-Saharan regions. It is not an overstatement to say that most rich countries have failed to keep their promises to help poor countries out of educational poverty. This is also attributed to the fact that both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have severely restricted funding to poor countries, thus reducing their chances of investing in education.
  10. Despite all these reasons, both internal and international politics play a major role to play in Africa’s educational crisis.

Education is probably the single most influential tool to ensure that poor countries have the resources to pull themselves out of poverty. While many historic, social, economic, political and international issues play an important role in Africa’s existing educational situation, one can only hope that these 10 facts about Africa’s education crisis will shed some light on the existing roadblocks that the continent faces in fighting its education poverty.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr


Significant progress has been made on the issue of hunger in Oman, including the country already meeting eight of its Millennium Development Goals. The amount of extreme poverty and hunger has been cut in half in Oman since 1990.

The World Food Program defines hunger as undernourishment, or chronic undernourishment. Undernourishment is the result of chronic hunger, that can result in stunted growth in children, the loss of mental and physical abilities, and even death. Undernourishment affects one in six people around the world today.

Another unfortunate result of hunger is referred to as the “under five mortality rate” or the proportion of children who die before reaching the age of five. Hunger plays a large part in this rate, and Oman reduced it’s under five mortality rate by two-thirds since 1990. In fact, the percentage of children under five who were underweight was 9.7 percent in 2014, compared to 23 percent in 1995.

Maternal health is also a big beneficiary of the fight against hunger. As mentioned, undernourishment can have drastic effects on the health and livelihood of individuals, let alone those who are eating for two. Maternal mortality is a huge problem in countries where poverty and hunger rates are high, and Oman was no exception. Since 1990, the maternal mortality rate has been reduced by 75 percent.

Oman has made such strides in the past two decades, that it is now on the other side of the coin. In 2014, Oman donated $1 million to the World Food Program to be used to fight hunger in Mauritania and Senegal, two countries in Africa that are plagued by drought and constant violence.

Success stories like this on hunger in Oman should be built upon for future progression across the board. Oman was near the bottom, with poverty levels and hunger levels affecting the lives of its citizens. Thanks to collaboration from other countries throughout the world, and the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals, Oman has come closer to stabilization than ever before.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Thailand
Thailand is being touted as a development success story. Sustained growth and poverty reduction are the reasons for the incredible progress. Poverty in Thailand was reduced from 21 percent in 2000 to 12.6 percent in 2012 and 7.5 percent in 2015. Between 1999-2005 the economy grew annually by five percent, which created jobs and improved education.

While Thailand has become a middle-income country and an active development partner, the country’s growth has slowed to only 3.5 percent between 2005-2015. Despite this, Thailand is making great progress towards meeting their Millennium Development Goals.

Thailand’s economic success is not shared with all citizens. Poverty in Thailand mainly affects those living in rural areas. There are 7.1 million people living in poverty and 80 percent of those live in rural areas. The inequality is not limited to those living in rural areas. Some areas and ethnic groups are affected more than others, particularly in the Northeast, North and Deep South.

Poverty and inequality create a challenge for a country with a faltering GDP. While the World Bank predicts that growth will increase 3.2 percent in 2017, it has grown by less than 2.5 percent annually between 2014-2016.

A 20-year strategic plan to end poverty in Thailand and help attain developed country status includes reforms to stabilize the economy and provide equal economic opportunities, environmental stability, and effective government bureaucracies. The country has already implemented large-scale public infrastructure projects, renewable energy tariffs, strengthened the renewable energy market, identified opportunities for energy efficiency improvement, diversified fuel sources and created a state enterprise policy committee. On a more economical level, the country has transferred supervisory oversight of specialized financial institutions to the Bank of Thailand, created a National Savings Fund and created a retirement safety net for workers.

Thailand may achieve its desired goals and see an end to poverty in the country if it can sustain growth and implement additional sound reforms.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr

10 Ways to Reduce Poverty in the World
The Millennium Development Goal to cut the poverty rate in half by 2015 was met in 2010 – five years ahead of schedule. While progress has been made, global growth estimates show more work is needed to reach the target of ending global poverty by 2030. Discussed below are the top 10 ways to reduce poverty in the world.

Effective 10 Ways to Reduce Poverty in the World

  1. Develop and implement rapid and sustained economic growth policies and programs, in areas such as health, education, nutrition and sanitation, allowing the poor to participate and contribute to the growth. Studies show that a 10 percent increase in a country’s average income reduces poverty by as much as 20-30 percent.
  2. Improve management of water and other natural resources. Most of the rural poor depend on agriculture or other natural resources for their livelihood. Consequently, it is necessary that they have more equitable access to those resources so they are better able to manage their resources.
  3. Invest in and implement agricultural programs. China has helped 800 million people out of poverty since 1978. As a part of its strategy to eradicate poverty by 2020, the Agricultural Bank of China will lend more than $400 billion to help develop rural areas, fund education, infrastructure, and crop production.
  4. Encourage countries to engage in trade as a path out of poverty. Trade is the key to growth and prosperity. Some of the world’s poorest countries including Indonesia, Botswana and Brazil have traded their way out of poverty.
  5. Create and improve access to jobs and income and develop entrepreneurial talent.
  6. Providing all people with access to basic social services including education, health care, adequate food, sanitation, shelter and clean water.
  7. Progressively developing social protection systems to support those who cannot support themselves.
  8. Empower people living in poverty by involving them in the development and implementation of plans and programs to reduce and eradicate poverty. Their involvement ensures that programs reflect those things that are important to them.
  9. Remove barriers to equal access to resources and services.
  10. Provide access to technology and innovation including internet access and affordable energy. In Bangladesh, only 40 percent of the rural poor have access to grid electricity. Those that do have access endure frequent power outages. The Second Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project plans to increase access to electricity in rural areas via renewable energy sources.

This list highlights only 10 ways to reduce poverty in the world. It is imperative that people and governments work together to implement these ideas and others so that it is possible to end poverty by 2030.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr


In recent decades, Uruguay has taken strides to eliminate poverty and the prevalence of hunger. Only 3.3 percent of the country’s population was considered undernourished in 2016. Only 1.3 percent of children under the age of five experienced wasting conditions. The elimination of hunger in Uruguay can be attributed to both broad changes in infrastructure and the contributions of nonprofit organizations.

How Uruguay is Successfully Addressing Hunger

Uruguay succeeded in meeting the first U.N. Millennium Development Goal, known as the “Zero Hunger Challenge” in 2013. The country achieved this goal two years ahead of schedule.

The government’s success in its social policies against poverty has received international attention. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) especially praised the implementation of monthly income subsidies. Households classified as “vulnerable” receive a monthly income subsidy of 700 Uruguayan pesos. “Highly vulnerable” families receive twice that amount.

As an outcome, moderate poverty decreased from 32.5 percent in 2006 to 9.7 percent in 2015. Additionally, extreme poverty decreased from 2.5 percent to 0.3 percent in the same period.

Alongside broad government initiatives to eliminate poverty in general, a number of small-scale nonprofit organizations have arisen in recent years. Many share the goal of eliminating residual hunger in Uruguay.

Niños con Alas, or Children with Wings, works specifically to improve the infrastructure of Uruguayan schools. The organization provides schools with staple pantry products like flour, sugar, rice, cornmeal, tomato pulp, oil, noodles, milk powder and minced meat on a weekly basis. Through its contributions, Niños con Alas supplies three meals a day for more than 1,000 children.

Argentine national Santiago Abdala created Uruguay’s Banco de Alimentos, in 2012. Originally operating from Santiago’s home, the food bank now delivers food to more than 45 charities and helps feed more than 7,000 individuals. Banco de Alimentos is supported by the Global Food Banking Network and partnerships with international companies like Unilever.

Overall, the Uruguayan government and charitable nonprofit organizations have provided the people with options in terms of hunger. The defeat of hunger in Uruguay sets a good example for countries all over the world looking to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr


Between 1990 and 2015, there was a significant global decrease in child mortality. The number was reduced from nearly 14.2 million deaths in 1990 to just over 7.2 million in 2015. It was only recently, in 2015, that the number of deaths for children under age five dropped below six million.

Around one-third of the world’s nations have reduced their child mortality rates by two-thirds. In another 74 countries, the number has been reduced by one-half.

In a study conducted by the Global Burden of Disease Child and Adolescent Health Collaboration, health in children under the age of 19 in 195 countries was studied and examined. The report defines the most common causes of death for children and compares countries based on the socio-demographic index. The socio-demographic index is a measurement of development and is based on average income, educational attainment and total fertility rate.

Global Efforts at Reducing Child Mortality Rates

So, what has the international community been doing to contribute to the global decrease in child mortality? The world has been focused on implementing and popularizing several health initiatives and strategies. The World Health Organization (WHO) has outlined several of these strategies. These initiatives include ensuring immediate and exclusive breastfeeding as well as medical professional advice during birth and postnatal care. In addition, access to nutritional supplements and educational resources about warning signs in health have become more prevalent. Appropriate provisions for sanitary water and immunizations employed by WHO have also contributed to decreasing child mortality rates.

Many international organizations are partnering up to support the fight against child deaths. A Global Vaccine Action Plan is working toward universal access to immunization by the year 2020. Over 170 countries have signed onto A Promise Renewed, a call for action led by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the governments of Ethiopia, the U.S. and India. The campaign is working to ensure that children are not dying from easily preventable causes.

There is Still Work to be Done

Although the number of child deaths has been reduced significantly, child mortality is still an issue, especially in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the world has not yet reached the levels outlined in the Millennium Development Goals. Countries with lower socio-demographic indexes still suffer disproportionately from child mortality. Experts suggest that this may be due to a historical lack of health development resources and accessibility.

The study from the Global Burden of Disease Child and Adolescent Health Collaboration concluded with a statement that, “timely, robust and comprehensive assessment of disease burden among children and adolescents provides information that is essential to health policy decision making in countries at all points along the spectrum of economic development.” The Collaboration hopes that the data from the study will help the international community to continue fighting child mortality. The global decrease in child mortality has made a positive impact on poverty and health care development, but there is still a ways to go before the Millenium Development Goals are met.

Taylor Elgarten

Photo: Flickr

How Many People Live in Poverty
How many people live in poverty? The fight to end global poverty has been making strides over the past decade. In 2010, the world met its first Millennium Development Goal of cutting global levels of how many people live in poverty from 1990 in half, five years early. Though a step in the right direction, there are still billions of people living in extreme poverty conditions. There is plenty of work to be done if the world plans on meeting the most important goal: ending extreme poverty completely by 2030.

The World Bank defines being in poverty as anyone making under $1.90 per day. In 1990, the amount of the world’s population living beneath that threshold was 35.1 percent. However, thanks in large part to unifying efforts to decrease this number, 2013 finished with a record low — 10.7 percent of the population under that poverty line. That 25-point decrease in how many people live in poverty over just 20 years is unprecedented.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that these percentages are people, and 10.7 percent of the global population, about 767 million people, were living on less than two dollars per day in 2013. For a frame of reference, the current population of the entire United States is just under 325 million.

The world was able to exceed the first Millennium Development Goal five years early, but the momentum has slowed in recent years, and certain regions of the world are having a slower time producing progressive results. Because of this, the continued consistent reduction of how many people live in poverty and the eradication of all extreme poverty by 2030 is an ambition that will not be an easy goal to reach. However, like the President of World Bank, Jim Yong Kim said, “This is the best story in the world today — these projections show us that we are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty.”

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Many surveys show that Americans believe 20 percent of the government’s budget goes to foreign aid. In reality, this figure is less than one percent. The common misconception that the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid shows that many people do not know which are the largest donors of foreign aid. On average, the U.S. gives $30 billion to the world’s poor each year.

Foreign aid is defined as any resources that are given by one entity to another across national borders for the latter’s benefit. This may include money, food, water, medical supplies, materials for infrastructure, defense supplies, volunteers and other resources.

This is not to be mistaken with military aid, which is aid given by more stable countries to help people that live in countries with lower standards of wealth and less developed infrastructure. The average amount the U.S. spends per year on the military is $663 billion.

While the $32 billion the U.S. gave out in foreign aid in 2014 represents the largest dollar amount given by any country that year, this amount is low compared with U.S. gross national income (GNI). This number represents only 0.19 percent of the U.S. GNI.

Based on 2014 data, this list shows the largest donors of foreign aid based on GNI:

  1. Sweden: 1.41 percent GNI
  2. United Arab Emirates: 1.09 percent GNI
  3. Norway: 1.05 percent GNI
  4. Luxembourg: 0.93 percent GNI
  5. Denmark: 0.85 percent GNI
  6. Netherlands: 0.76 GNI
  7. United Kingdom: 0.71 percent GNI
  8. Finland: 0.56 percent GNI
  9. Turkey: 0.54 percent GNI
  10. Switzerland: 0.52 percent GNI
  11. Germany: 0.52 percent GNI

Analysis of the U.N. Millennium Project shows that enough resources to meet the Millennium Development Goals could be provided if developed nations give 0.7 percent of their GNI to foreign aid. Only seven countries on the list meet the 0.7 percent goal for donors of foreign aid.

This goal was first introduced by the U.N. in 1970 and has been reaffirmed in several international agreements since then, but many developed nations still fail to meet this goal each year, including the U.S. at only 0.19 percent GNI.

– Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Solutions on How to End HungerSignificant success has been achieved in alleviating global hunger since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000. Of 129 participating countries, 72 met target MDG 1c of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger. Prevalence of undernourishment in developing countries has dropped from 23.3 percent to 12.9 percent over the past 25 years, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Despite such improvement, approximately 793 million people are still starving. How to end hunger remains a significant question.

The disparity exists in the magnitude of advancements between different regions. Countries with stable political and economic conditions and reliable social support met their international hunger targets. But nations in a state of protracted crisis failed due to lack of income opportunities for impoverished groups. Region-specific causes and solutions need to be identified to end hunger. Four underlying causes and resolutions on how to end hunger are listed below.

  1. Poverty Trap
    People stuck in an endless loop of poverty and deprived of nutritious food become weak and unable to work. Farmers without access to land, seeds, tools, fertilizers, clean water or education are incapable of effecting positive change. Such families benefit from financial assistance and voucher programs for food, health insurance and school meals complemented by procurement contracts with local farmers. Conditional transfer programs (CTP) provide backup to low-income families in the form of cash or benefits under the obligation that the family uses the aid to invest in the children’s wellbeing. The first CTP, the Oportunidades program, was initiated in Mexico in 1997. These programs are now prevalent in most developing regions of the world, especially Latin America.Food Assistance for Assets (FFA), established by the World Food Programme (WFP), the largest humanitarian organization in the world, provides food assistance to the disadvantaged in exchange for their help in building infrastructural assets that benefit the whole community.
  2. Lack of Agricultural Infrastructure
    Lack of cost-effective resources such as reliable transport, storage and water supply impedes rural farmers’ productivity and access to food. The least-developed, poor economies rely on agriculture for 27-30 percent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and sustainable farming has a direct positive impact on acute poverty and the “how to end hunger” question. This correlation is more pronounced in an environment of income equality. China drastically lowered poverty from the 80’s to mid-90’s due to agricultural growth from an equal share in the farmland. A comparable impact on poverty reduction is less evident in Latin America and India in spite of higher yields due to unequal land allocation and mechanized farming. Agricultural investment policies for effective land management, use of water and access to resilient seed types aid in ending hunger. Easy access to markets is equally important for smallholder farmers to generate income. Producing food with no avenue for sale is futile. The WFP’s initiative, Purchase for Progress (P4P), provides opportunities for rural farmers to sell their produce in markets, collaborate and expand.
  3. Education
    Education is another key aspect to enhancing sustainable food security. Educating rural populations is critical for smallholder farmers and women to derive benefits from agricultural growth through collaborations in the value chain.It also facilitates recruitment of current uneducated populations in the non-agricultural workforce. This is especially important in economies not predominantly reliant on agriculture. Education gives communities the ability to secure an income and improve earning potential through independent entrepreneurship.Instruction and training resources on nutrition and family planning are crucial tools for preventing malnutrition. According to the World Hunger Education Service, enhanced education for women improves nutrition for the whole family.
  4. Gender Gap
    Gender equality is vital to answering the question of how to end hunger. Women represent approximately 43 percent of the labor force in developing countries. But predispositions regarding women’s roles hamper their contribution to reducing poverty and hunger.Though women’s farming capabilities match that of their male counterparts, reduced access to quality land, seeds, tools, fertilizers, animals and education results in lower yields. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that equal distribution of resources for women would increase yields by 20-30 percent. This translates to an increased output of 2.5-4 percent and 100-150 million more people with access to food.In most societies, women spend 85-90 percent of their time on domestic activities, an added hindrance to their earnings. Rural labor markets also suffer from gender disparity. Women are mostly employed in seasonal, part-time and low-paying jobs. Household obligations, sociocultural norms and lack of education diminishes their potential.Policy interventions including education, elimination of discriminatory segregation, equal access to resources and financial services, sustainable technologies enabling female participation in labor markets and infrastructural improvements to lighten household burdens assuage gender inequality.

Groundbreaking progress has been made but it has been uneven and the end goal not met. About half of deaths in children under five are caused by malnutrition, resulting in three million lives lost each year. The question of how to end hunger is complex and urgent. The answer lies in integrated strategies targeting region-specific needs. The Sustainable Development Goals set forth by the U.N. in 2015 provide strategic solutions to achieving the goal of food security, improving nutrition and ending hunger. As the FAO Director General, Graziano da Silva said, “We must be the Zero Hunger generation.” Anything short of this is unacceptable.

Preeti Yadav

Photo: Flickr

Surviving the Mau Mau Rebellion
Fifty-six years following the Mau Mau rebellion uprising, Kenyans have relentlessly worked to piece their society back together.

In 1895, the British government declared Kenya as its colony. Thus began the processes of disenfranchisement where European settlers were prioritized over the indigenous communities.

British colonial policy consisted of marginalizing native Kenyans through land expropriation, political isolation and human rights abuses.

After 60 years of peacefully pressing for more equitable political and economic rights, the indigenous people sought alternative means. Consequently, the Kikuyu-led Mau Mau rebellion gained traction.

In the early 1950s, over a million people strong, the Mau Mau rebellion engaged in an armed counter-insurgency to reclaim their land.

Following eight years of acute conflict and over 25,000 Kikuyu deaths, the Mau Mau rebellion was curbed by colonial forces. Nevertheless, the movement served as a vital step in the retrenchment of colonial forces in 1963.

 

Fast forward 56 years and the aspirations of the Kikuyu people have finally come to fruition.

Currently, Kenya’s economy is projected to produce at 6% in 2017, which is a substantial increase following its 2009 output of 1.71%.

Politically, Kenya has shifted from a single-party regime to a representative democracy. Constitutional reformation continues to take place and has “strengthened accountability and public service delivery at local levels.”

As a result of the Millennium Development Goals, Kenya has also worked to reduce gender bias. Women now receive “free maternal health care at all public health facilities.”

Kenyan literature has played a prominent role since the success of the Mau Mau rebellion. Noteworthy examples are the tales of social protest during colonial times by Ngugi wa Thiong’o – Weep Not, Child (1964) and Petals of Blood (1977).

Despite the holistic improvement, Kenya will continue to contend with adversity. The World Bank report on Kenya notes that “addressing challenges of poverty, inequality, governance, low investment and low firm productivity to achieve rapid, a sustained growth rates that will transform lives of ordinary citizens, will be a major goal for Kenya”.

The progress made since the Mau Mau rebellion demonstrates the potential for Kenya to be a continental success story. However, it will not happen unless Kenya continues to receive financial, technological and moral support from the international community.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr