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Improve Education in BangladeshIn a speech given at a Boston high school in 1990, Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” For many of the world’s impoverished, education is not an option. Today, more than 72 million children of primary education age are not in school and nearly 759 million adults are illiterate. While many maintain the capacity to survive without an education, the knowledge and awareness garnered through school allows the impoverished to improve their living conditions and rise out of poverty. USAID and the World Bank are working to improve education in Bangladesh as a means of addressing poverty.

The State of Education in Bangladesh

In the last 10 years, there has been progress when it comes to improving education in Bangladesh. According to USAID, nearly 98% of children of primary school age are enrolled in school. In 2016, 50.9% of all enrolled students were girls, meaning total gender parity. Both of these statistics are major accomplishments but there is much more to be done to improve education in Bangladesh.

While enrollment is high, the quality of education that the children are receiving remains quite low. Reading fluency is the barometer that is used to measure a school system’s quality, and in Bangladesh, most students are unable to pass basic fluency assessments. To put exact numbers to this, USAID conducted an assessment and determined that “44% of students finish first-grade unable to read their first word and 27 % of third-grade students cannot read with comprehension.”

This lack of literacy not only puts these students at a great disadvantage but stunts prospects of economic growth for Bangladesh. Education plays a significant role in sustaining and developing countries and economies which is why USAID and the World Bank have invested in improving Bangladesh’s education system.

The World Bank’s Education Efforts

On January 18, 2021, Bangladesh signed an agreement with the World Bank, financing $6.5 million to help more than 39,000 kids receive primary school education. The package also allocates funds to vocational training schools for approximately 8,500 dropouts. Mercy Tembon, the World Bank country director for Bangladesh and Bhutan, says that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted the education of children from lower-income households. The additional financing will help slum children and vulnerable youth to build the foundations necessary to improve their lives and increase their opportunities. The World Bank has given Bangladesh the means necessary to improve the quality of their education system and thus support the greater economy.

USAID’s Educational Assistance

USAID has taken a more hands-on approach in improving the quality of education. It works directly with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Primary and Mass Education to improve early grade reading for children to ensure that all children learn to read in their first years of schooling. USAID’s education programs in Bangladesh have:

  • Expanded access to schooling to almost 30,000 out-of-school children
  • Increased the reading fluency of third graders by 18%
  • Increased the first-word reading fluency of first graders by 36%
  • Trained nearly 17,000 new teachers on how to teach early grade reading
  • Issued more than two million reading materials to primary schools

Education as a Key to Poverty Reduction

Every young mind deserves the opportunity for education and with the help of the World Bank and USAID, Bangladesh has the means to offer that. Efforts to improve education in Bangladesh will uplift an entire nation. The state of education in the world is progressing and thus bringing about poverty reduction success.

Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr

literacy in EthiopiaThere are 781 million adults in the world who are considered illiterate. This statistic reflects more than just the ability of people to read, it is inherently tied to the poverty rate. In fact, 43% of adults with low literacy rates live in poverty. There are multiple issues that contribute to this, however the most influential is education. Several programs address literacy in Ethiopia.

The Relationship Between Literacy and Poverty

In the fight against global poverty, education is a sought after resource. With increased education comes increased opportunities for those within the community to contribute to the economy and increase their prospects. In order to bolster educational efforts, children must be able to read. Literacy is considered to be the foundation of learning and is directly responsible for the success of children in education as a whole. Without this vital skill, children are unlikely to move onto higher education or secure high paying jobs. This stagnant economic standing is perpetuated through families because parents with low literacy rates are 72% likely to pass that low literacy rate down. The resulting generational illiteracy is a detriment to the growth of communities because it cements them into a lower economic standing.

The importance of literacy within the fight against poverty is underscored by the World Bank. It has coined the term “Learning Poverty” which refers to the inability of a child to read and comprehend by age 10. The severity of “Learning Poverty” aids in the prediction of future literacy and economic success. Additionally, the World Bank believes that this statistic is a useful indicator as to whether or not global educational goals are being met. In relation to poverty, these goals are paramount in the rate of sustainable development in poor countries. Moreover, poverty would be reduced by 12% if all students in low-income countries were able to read. As educational goals are met and literacy is increased, impoverished communities have the opportunity to create sustainable change in terms of their economic standing and overall quality of life.

Illiteracy and Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, with 109.2 million people. Unfortunately, the country also suffers from rampant poverty as it was reported in 2016 that 24% of Ethiopia’s population is considered impoverished. Poverty is a multifaceted and complicated issue, however, one can generally find a low literacy rate in countries with corresponding high poverty rates. In Ethiopia, this holds true because just under half of its population is illiterate. Given the extreme disadvantage that low literacy rates put on communities, there have been multiple efforts to improve the Ethiopian education system. and literacy in Ethiopia.

READ II

READ II is a project that focuses on the education of children considered at risk of school failure or dropout due to the cognitive, emotional and physical effects of hunger, violence and displacement. READ II spans 3,000 schools across 50 districts, ultimately wishing to expand the basic model to reach a targeted 15 million learners. Specifically, within the Addis Adaba, Tigray and Amhara regions, the project is working to improve the preparedness of teachers, increase support for women’s education and push for the widespread education of English.

Unlock Literacy

Unlock Literacy is a project founded by World Vision in 2012 that has reached a total of 1.7 million children in the endeavor to increase the literacy rate in impoverished countries. Unlock Literacy is committed to the implementation of teacher training programs, better educational resources and appropriate reading materials. The program acknowledges the fact that oftentimes rural areas are unable to attain reading material that is applicable to the children being educated. As a result, it has aided in the creation of over one million new books in the common languages of the students. Unlock Literacy has also seen success as children who could read with comprehension rose from 3% to 25% after the program.

READ TA

READ TA was founded in 2012 by USAID in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education in order to advance writing and reading among 15 million early education students. With READ TA’s methods, more than $17 million has been provided to train 113,385 teachers in safe and practical learning initiatives. In recognition of low literacy’s association with poverty, the program also seeks to improve the student’s overall understanding of class materials. This has been accomplished by giving schools the necessary educational resources that have been designed to appeal to the student reading it. Additionally, READ TA has adapted 320 educational materials to address the local context of communities living outside of administrative regions.

With organizations and programs committed to improving literacy in Ethiopia, the prospect of reduced poverty in the region is hopeful, as is reaching the goal of alleviating global poverty overall.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

BOOK FAIRIES ADVANCE LEARNINGChildren are the world’s future but half of children account for the world’s poor. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 59 million children, aged between 5 and 17, work to provide for their families instead of attending school. Therefore, every fifth child ends up in child labor. Even in richer countries in Europe, one in five children lives in poverty and 25% were at risk of poverty in 2017. Since poverty and literacy correlate, both must be improved. In Africa, 48 million youth aged 15 to 24 are illiterate and 30 million primary-aged children are not in school. Globally, literacy rates have improved in the past 20 years but women and children still lag behind in literacy. The main cause of illiteracy globally is a lack of books. Organizations like The Book Fairies advance learning in developing nations and address illiteracy.

The Book Fairies

Founded by Amy Zaslansky, The Book Fairies began in Long Island, New York, as an organization accepting new and used books that are donated to libraries and schools that lack funding for educational resources for children.

Developed in 2012, The Book Fairies has donated more than 130,000 books to 25 school districts and 100 organizations across New York. Now, the organization has expanded globally, donating over two million books to date.

Partnered with US-Africa Children’s Fellowship (ACF), a nonprofit that gives supplies to impoverished schools in Africa and refugees in Jordan, The Book Fairies provided 80,000 books in 2017 to ACF. Approximately, this figure accounted for 50% of ACF’s shipped donated books that year. Every year, the organization ships thousands of books to Africa.

The Book Fairies advance learning and literacy in underdeveloped global nations such as Africa, India, China, South America and the Caribbean Islands. Even with COVID-19, students in poor communities in the U.S. and abroad still have access to books due to the organization’s efforts.

Other Book Fairies Hiding Books Globally

The influence of this organization has spread. In 2017, a similar reading organization launched in Europe, also known as The Book Fairies. To be a book fairy, a person chooses a book that they have read and enjoyed, they then put an official book fairy sticker on it that reads “take this book, read it and leave it for the next person to enjoy.” Then, the book is hidden in public for someone else to find and read. This little tradition has expanded to almost 9,000 people sharing books in over 100 countries.

Actress Emma Watson is a notable book fairy. After starring in the 2019 film “Little Women”, the actress launched a Little Women campaign. A whole 2,000 copies of the book were hidden around the world, with a handwritten note from Watson herself that promotes The Book Fairies’ organization.

Alleviating Illiteracy and Poverty Through Books

The main missions of book organizations such as those above are to end the cycle of poverty by improving literacy. The Book Fairies advance learning by providing books of all kinds to poor communities and countries and give children a fighting chance to take themselves out of poverty.

– Shelby Gruber
Photo: Flickr

Better World Books Promotes LiteracyThe ability to read and write is one that is vital to a person’s capacity to function and excel in today’s world. Better World Books, an online new and used book retailer, has set out to provide for this need. Through programs that supply books to those in need and the funding of educational efforts, Better World Books promotes literacy across the globe.

The Mission Of Better World Books

Better World Books was founded in 2002 by three University of Notre Dame students who began selling textbooks online to earn extra cash. However, the business quickly became a social enterprise focused on literacy.

Better World Books does not approach philanthropy like typical companies. A focus on social and environmental good is at the heart of the organization’s business model, not an extra cause tacked on. The company’s mission integrates a focus on literacy and education, so much so that they offer paid time off to employees who are volunteering.

Better World Books collects books from book drives, college campuses and libraries, helping divert used books out of landfills and back into the hands of readers. Additionally, any books not sold are recycled in an attempt to be earth-conscious.

How Better World Books Promotes Literacy

For every book sold, Better World Books promotes literacy by donating a book to those in need. To date, the organization has donated 26,059,744 books to people around the world who do not typically have access to them. The company also gives grants and donations to projects that promote literacy, with a whopping $27,559,358 currently donated.

Better World Books promotes literacy with the help of three main partners: Books for Africa, Room to Read and The National Center for Families Learning. Each of these organizations has unique ways of promoting literacy and education worldwide which they are able to accomplish with the support of Better World Books.

Partnering for Literacy

Books for Africa’s mission is a simple one: bring an end to the “book famine” in Africa. Currently, the organization is the largest transporter of donated books to the African continent having shipped over 41 million books since the company began in 1988. Last year alone $2.5 million was used to send books to students all over Africa. The partnership that Better World Books has established with the organization has been impactful, allowing for more books to be provided to those in need.

Another partner of Better World Books, Room to Read, focuses on providing an education to children everywhere, specifically by increasing literacy and concentrating on gender equality. To date, 10.7 million children have benefitted from Room to Read’s programs, 8,703 teachers and librarians have been trained by the organization and 20.6 million books have been distributed.

Furthermore, Better World Books also partners with The Robinson Community Learning Center in South Bend, Indiana, The Prison Book Program and Ride for Reading. These smaller, domestic organizations were some of the first to benefit from Better World Books’ partnership and began the company’s interest in literacy.

With 750 million illiterate adults worldwide, the work Better World Books is doing is sorely needed. One of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure that all youth and most adults are literate and numerate by 2030. With the help of Better World Books, that goal seems more than attainable.

– Sarah Dean
Photo: Flickr

literacy in yemen
Reading and writing are creative processes in building new pathways to leadership, future college and career plans and community programming. While some nations might make this a priority, Yemen’s focus is not currently to encourage literacy among the educational system.

Issues with Education in Yemen

As of 2017, 4.5 million students did not receive schooling due to absent teachers. Teachers in Yemen are on strike for not receiving payment for their services to the community. No school in session means unproductive minds and no practice with literacy.

Due to progressing conflict in Yemen, educational access and literacy efforts are not a top priority for many. There are approximately 18.8 million people in need of humanitarian aid, which is roughly 69 percent of the population.

The priority aid in Yemen consists of protection, as three million people have been displaced from their homes and approximately 44,000 people have been severely injured or killed. Other priorities focus on basic survival such as food, shelter and healthcare. Restriction on imports, economic decline and inflation among markets is making it extremely difficult for civilians to afford anything, much less education.

Encouraging Literacy in Yemen

As of 2017, UNICEF is a major partner in developing and implementing strategic plans for the ministry of education in Yemen. UNICEF is using a systemic approach to achieve educational goals. The framework consists of support from policy and legislation, ministry leadership, funding and public demand followed by implementation within the pre-primary sector and focusing on curriculum for early learning.

It is important to develop plans for early learning that empower literacy among Yemeni children and youth, as they are the future of the nation. The top three reasons to encourage literacy in Yemen are:

  1. Personal Empowerment
  2. Employability
  3. Active Citizenship

Why Literacy is Important

Reading, writing and learning involve creative and critical thinking as well as problem solving. Literacy encourages better communication, self-management, resiliency, participation, empathy, respect for others, cooperation, decision making and negotiation—all of which are necessary life skills.

There has been a 10 percent increase in literacy over the past 20 years, jumping from 60.22 percent to 70.1 percent. However, areas with high conflict, such as Yemen, have greater potential to fall behind.

With an increasing drop out rate in the education system and high conflict causing other basic needs to take priority, it is easy for literacy to get lost in Yemen. Continued work can ensure a bright future ahead for families in Yemen, but a political focus on education and literacy in Yemen must be made a top priority.

– Ashley Cooper
Photo: Flickr

fostering academic growth in AfricaThe U.N. states that there are 48 million illiterate young people in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, 60 percent of children aged 15 to 17 are not enrolled in schools. Book Aid International has made it its mission to change this by fostering academic growth in Africa.

 

Education for All

One of the major U.N. Millenium Development goals was to have all school children complete primary level education by 2015. Although this was not achieved universally, there have still been several accomplishments in the sphere of education, and there are more children in schools now than ever before.

The U.N. reports that, from 2000 to 2015, enrollment in primary education rose from 83 percent to 91 percent. Additionally, the literacy rate among youth aged 15 to 24 skyrocketed from 83 percent to 91 percent between 1990 and 2015. One nonprofit located in the U.K., Book Aid International, can be accredited for helping the U.N. achieve these goals.

 

The Gateway to Knowledge

Book Aid International is a firm believer that the gateway to knowledge is through reading. Access to information can prevent children from falling into poverty, increase future job opportunities and improve their life expectancy past the age of five by 50 percent. As a result, Book Aid International has developed a program revolved around the power of books called Inspiring Readers.

Inspiring Readers donates books to schools in Africa where resource scarcity is a major issue. Through this program, schools receive a library of 1,250 new books and selected teachers from the schools receive specialized training to ensure that the books will be well utilized. Inspiring Readers also ensures that each school gets further resources and assistance by partnering up with a local library.

The program has already seen success. One particular Kenyan school that partnered with Book Aid International has received recognition from the community for improved student academic performance. The school stated in 2017 that students’ test scores have improved from 48 percent to 54 percent in Kiswahili, 48 percent to 50 percent in English and 45 percent to 52 percent in science.

 

Fostering Academic Growth in Africa

Overall, Inspiring Readers has brought 63,710 books to 50 schools around Africa. The organization has also trained 150 teachers and 20 librarians. Consequently, 31,343 children have been impacted by this program. However, Book Aid International does not want to stop there. Its goal is to reach 250,000 children by 2020.

Book Aid International estimates that it needs £2,600 per school to achieve this goal. There are many ways to help the nonprofit meet this goal, but it relies mostly on donations for funding. Small amounts of money can make a huge difference, as Book Aid International indicates it only costs £2 to send one book to a partnering school. The organization also accepts donations of new books.

Book Aid International has already made huge strides forward in fostering academic growth in Africa, nurturing children’s interests in reading as well as training teachers to become better motivators and instructors. This will only lead children to success and will ultimately help the U.N. in accomplishing its goal of education for all.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr

Largest Library in Arab World
Dubai has announced plans to open what will become the largest library in the Arab World in 2017.

At least 4.5 million books will be housed by the library, which is designed in the shape of an open book placed on an Arabic lectern.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Library expects a crowd of nine million people from across the world to arrive each year.

In addition to traditional print books, the library will be stocked with two million electronic books and one million audiobooks. Visitors can also expect to see a cinema and a gallery within the library, where lectures, presentations and documentary screenings will be held. The library is expected to host 100 cultural events, Gulf Business reports.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, who announced the launch, said, “We are the leaders of civilization, duty and culture, and so we need to revive the spirit of learning and curiosity within our culture through innovative initiatives that push our boundaries.” Trade Arabia reports the launch came during the United Arab Emirates’ Year of Reading.

Sheikh Mohammed launched the Arab Reading Challenge in September 2015 to encourage 2.5 million students from 20,000 schools in Arab countries to read more. This library will promote that initiative with the aim of encouraging reading, supporting translation and documentation and preserving Arabic heritage and language.

This follows a 2012 report from the Arab Thought Foundation stating that Arab children read only “six minutes a year.”

A museum section housing various artifacts from the royal Al Maktoum family will be on display. It will also have Internet services and open reading spaces.

The library will include eight sections: children, youth, family, business, Arabic, international, popular and multimedia.

Gulf Business reports that the library hopes to translate 25,000 books into Arabic and print an additional one million books for schools and universities.

Construction work has begun on the seven-story tall building, which will be built with enough room for 2,600 visitors, reported The National.

Kaitlyn Arford

Sources: The National, Trade Arabia, Arabian Business, Gulf Business, 7 Days, Al Arabia News
Photo: Trade Arabia