Education in Nicaragua
When it comes to education in Pakistan, there’s no beating around the bush: the country is home to one of the worst education systems in the world. Over 5 million children in Pakistan are out of school. This is the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world, amounting to one in 12 of the world’s out-of-school children.

All told, nearly 50 million adults in Pakistan are illiterate. That represents the third largest illiterate population globally.

And worst of all, Pakistan’s meager spending on education is declining. Education spending in Pakistan dropped from 2.6 percent of the nation’s GDP in 1999 to 2.3 percent in 2010.

The ramifications this has on the people of Pakistan are devastating. Twelve-year-old Fatma goes to school in an abandoned brickyard, one of about 20,000 “shelterless” schools in Pakistan.

“I study at the Government Primary School in Lahore,” Fatma said. “I study English language, and I like it. There are no chairs. We have to sit on the ground. It’s a problem in the winter. When it rains there is nowhere to sit.”

Those schools that are bonafide buildings are not much better off. Sixty percent of these buildings have no electricity, while 40 percent lack access to drinking water.

According to some, the abysmal state of education in Pakistan is the result of a war between the powerful elite and the impoverished masses. Some claim that the rich in Pakistan are purposefully keeping the poor illiterate to stay in power.

Frustrated, one of Fatma’s school council members has said, “Government officials send their own kids to air-conditioned classrooms. Let’s see them make their kids sit here and see what it is like!”

Indeed, disparities in income mean that the most privileged group will receive a far better education in Pakistan. Ninety-one percent of the richest members of society complete their primary education, while only 26 percent of the poorest can say the same.

Still, education in Pakistan for the rich and the poor alike remains dismal. The poor hold classes outdoors, while the main luxury for “rich” schools is air-conditioning.

Yet there is hope for education in Pakistan. USAID has established a set of lofty goals that would significantly improve the quality of education in the country. The organization plans to “bring 3.2 million children to read at or above their grade level by 2018.” Furthermore, USAID has pledged that 120,000 children will get access to new schools. For many of them, it will be their first time in a school with a roof.

There is reason to hope that USAID can accomplish these goals. In the past three years, the organization has built or renovated over 600 schools while also supplying those schools with new computers and books. Similarly, USAID has trained 15,000 teachers and administrators since 2009.

In the end, only time will tell if Pakistan can overcome its pervasive inequality and government spending issues to turn its failing education system around.

– Sam Hillestad

Photo: Pakistan Today

October 1, 2013 marked the opening ceremony of the International Workshop on Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking in Taipei City, Taiwan. The workshop serves to stimulate conversation and collaboration for human rights protection and is organized by the National Immigration Agency under the Ministry of the Interior. Around 200 policy experts and officials from Taiwan and abroad attended, including those from Brazil, Canada, Vietnam, the U.K. and 16 other countries.

Vice President of the Republic of China (ROC), otherwise known as Taiwan, Wu Den-yih, took a staunch stance against human trafficking at the opening ceremony. He stated that protecting human rights is a universal value that needs international attention. He also highlighted the firm commitment of the ROC government against human trafficking and violations of human rights.

In the days after the opening ceremony, the workshop hosted six discussion panels ranging from topics pertaining the protecting the youth from sex crimes to trying to prevent modern-day slavery and labor exploitation. Many guest speakers were featured at panels, including officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

This year was the fourth consecutive year that the U.S. State Department awarded Taiwan the Tier 1 status of the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, based on the government’s effort to fight human trafficking. While the Department of State places countries into one of three tiers, this ranking has no indication of the prevalence of human trafficking in the country, or lack thereof. The ranking simply acknowledges the effort a government has made to make human trafficking a pressing concern in the national political discourse and to attempt to address the problem.

Nevertheless, Taiwan’s ranking demonstrates its commitment of protecting human rights and ending human trafficking. In recent years, Taiwan has been improving law enforcement training, strengthening support services by building shelters and providing temporary work, and establishing policy strictly prosecuting traffickers, such as the Human Trafficking Prevention Act.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: UNPO, AIT, US State Department
Photo: American Institute in Taiwan