Building Schools Using Recycled Plastics
Education in Cote d’Ivoire continues to be a major challenge in the country which has had a literacy rate of 53.02 percent among 15 to 24-year-olds as of 2014. In fact, more than 2 million children are out of school due to a lack of infrastructure. Classrooms are often full beyond capacity with more than 100 students. Fortunately, West Africa is building schools using recycled plastics as a ground-breaking initiative to change the status quo.

The Fighting Women

Abidjan, a city in Cote d’Ivoire, produces about 288 tons of plastic waste every day. The country recycles only 5 percent of the waste, and when it is, it is usually women that do so informally. These women recover the waste and use it to make money.

A women’s group called The Fighting Women makes a living from collecting plastic and selling it for recycling. However, The Fighting Women is now a part of a project that will not only clean up the environment but will also help improve education. The Fighting Women is an organization of 200 women that collect plastic. A woman named Mariam Coulibaly runs the organization and she has been collecting trash for 20 years. Coulibaly’s organizational skills are what made the project possible. The plastic that these women collect go into bricks in order to build schools.

Conceptos Plasticos

UNICEF in Cote d’Ivoire has partnered with Conceptos Plasticos, a for-profit plastic recycling Colombian company that will turn plastic to bricks and build schools for children. This project will help reduce the issue of overcrowded classrooms and give children the opportunity to attend school.

In 2018, the first African recycled plastic classroom emerged in Gonzagueville. It only took five days to build this classroom as opposed to the nine months it would take to build traditional classrooms. In addition, within the first year, two small farming villages, Sakassou and Divo, constructed nine demonstration classrooms. These new classrooms included bricks that are cheaper and lighter than traditional ones, and also last longer.

Before the new plastic classrooms, children would go to school in traditional mud-brick and wood buildings. The mud-brick would erode from the sun and rain, and require repairs constantly. However, the newly built plastic classrooms are way better and longer-lasting. The classrooms are fire retardant and stay cool in warm weather. In addition, the classrooms are waterproof, have excellent insulation and can fight off the heavy wind. UNICEF and Conceptos Plasticos are planning to build 500 classrooms for more than 25,000 children with the most urgent need in the next two years.

Further Success of the Project

On July 29, 2019, a plastic converting factory opened in Cote d’Ivoire, which is also the first of its kind. This factory produces easy to assemble, durable and low-cost bricks others can use to build classrooms. The factory will solve a lot of major education challenges that children in West Africa face. According to UNICEF, kindergarteners from poor areas will be able to join classrooms with less than 100 students for the first time. Once the factory is fully functioning, it will recycle 9,600 tons of plastic waste a year and provide a source of income for women that collect trash. Moreover, there are plans to expand this project to other countries where there is a high percentage of children that are out of school.

Now, children are able to sit comfortably in classes that were once too overcrowded. This project of building schools using recycled plastics has not only constructed classrooms, but it has also reduced plastic waste in the environment. Although there is still a large number of children out of schools, this innovative project to help build schools in West Africa has been tremendously successful and has impacted the lives of many women and children.

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Florida Universities Waived Rules and Regulations for Caribbean ScholarsFollowing a request from Governor Rick Scott, Florida schools have waived their rules and regulations for Caribbean scholars who have been left deprived and affected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. State Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart was one of the signees of the order for students from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other Caribbean nations.

In a public address, Stewart announced, “Entire communities were destroyed, and we do not know how long it will take to restore schools and other essential infrastructure…It is critical that these students and teachers have the opportunity to participate in our state’s outstanding public education system. We are pleased to remove barriers to enrollment and help these students and teachers return to the classroom.”

As of now, students from the islands are able to continue their classes and permeate into the Florida public school curriculums without their birth certificates, official transcripts and health forms that transfer students would traditionally be required to have. Also, those who are seeking teaching positions are being given the opportunity to apply without their health records and age verifications, along with proof of degree-attainment and subject-mastery documentation. The federal government has obliged school districts to label students affected by hurricanes as “homeless” to allow the students to be eligible for free meals and more accessible transportation.

Futhermore, some public colleges in Florida have agreed to offer in-state tuition to affected Caribbean students. These colleges include: Broward College, Hillsborough Community College, Miami Dade College, Palm Beach State College, Seminole State College of Florida, the University of Central Florida, Valencia College and St. Petersburg College.

In a statement made by Scott, the governor claimed he wanted to, “ensure students from Puerto Rico can more easily continue their education here in Florida and that teachers from Puerto Rico have every opportunity to continue to succeed in their careers.” He also pointed out that, “as families work to rebuild their lives following the unbelievable devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, we are doing everything we can to help them throughout this process.”

While their education is furthered in the U.S., many of the students wish for recovery for their respective homes. However, because these Florida schools have waived their rules and regulations for Caribbean scholars affected by the hurricanes, many students are able to continue following their dreams and their career paths. Without initiatives like these, many hurricane victims would have to be stuck on pause until the recovery of their homes.

Jalil Perry

Photo: Flickr

schools in Africa
Africa, the second-largest and second most-populous continent, is also home to the youngest population in the world. These young men and women are the future of Africa, but their future is also uncertain. Due to major limitations in education and other mitigating factors, the students of Africa fight an uphill battle to obtain their education.

Here are 10 facts about schools in Africa:

  1. In 2010, there were still approximately 9 million children of primary school age unable to attend schools in Africa due to various reasons.
  2. Girls, nomadic peoples, orphans, children with disabilities, children affected by HIV/AIDS, children affected by armed conflict and children affected by natural disasters are at a particular risk of missing out on education. Young girls are in significant danger due to the threat of bodily injury and sexual abuse while traveling to and from school.
  3. For every two children who attend school in Africa, one will drop out before graduating.
  4. Approximately 8 of the 10 countries with the lowest primary enrollment rates are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, 33 million primary school-aged children in Africa do not go to school.
  5. Many schools are located far away from children’s homes. Only 7 in 10 children who live in rural areas will ever set foot in a school. Secondary schools can only accommodate 36% of students of age and qualification.
  6. Regional primary enrollment rates now stand at 89% for boys and 86% for girls.
  7. Rates for secondary school enrollment are significantly lower than primary schools. Regional enrollment averages 32% for boys and 29% for girls and many do not actually attend school. Approximately 28% of both boys and girls will attend secondary schools in Africa.
  8. Enrollment in percent education programs is expanding throughout Africa. It nearly doubled between 1999 and 2012.
  9. Primary school attendance has more than doubled between 1999 and 2012. Enrollment rose from 62 million to 149 million during this time.
  10. Parents often can’t afford the cost of education, including books, uniforms, and tuition fees for their children to attend schools in Africa. In response, 15 countries have abolished school fees since 2000, enabling more children to attend primary school.

Africa has made significant strides in promoting healthy growth in enrollment. However, there is still much work to be done to ensure that all children in Africa receive a quality education.

Drew Hazzard

Photo: Flickr

Farmers in BusinessBrazil’s government has recently been attempting to tackle its economic recession by offering Brazilian farmers and ranchers $8 billion in financing. The country is slowly transforming into a crop-exporter. Not only is the government investing more money in the agricultural sector, but it is also paying Brazilian farmers to produce food for children enrolled in government schools.

As many as 45 million students are being fed by what is the world’s largest universal school feeding program. The program was originally developed in the 1950s, in response to Brazil’s “zero hunger” initiative. A quarter of the country is currently receiving free meals through this program, and the Brazilian farmers are benefiting directly from the government, as well.

For the past three years, farmers have been able to cut out the middlemen and form an agreement directly with the government. Before, farmers had to make unfulfilling deals with the middlemen on whom they depended to sell their produce.

Brazilian farmers who have a school feeding contract with the government have seen their fortunes increase thanks to a dependable local market and formalized land rights nationwide. The contracts outline the required amount of food that the farmers need to produce and how much money the farmers will get in return. This gives farmers the certainty to plan for investment in new essentials and technology. Overall, incomes have increased significantly due to the resourceful and thoughtfully formulated plans made by the government.

The other small farmers with no formal land title deeds still benefit from the program because of their direct relationship with the state through the school feeding program. These small farmers, with the income they receive from the government, are able to take steps towards gaining title deeds.

In 2009, Brazil introduced a new law that requires schools to spend at least 30 percent of their meal budgets on produce from small farms. Many schools are now giving priority to small, local farms, and 70 percent of food consumed in Brazil comes from small farms. Before these changes were made to help small, local farms in Brazil, the market for school meals was primarily dominated by big food companies, and by middlemen who would exploit small farmers’ business.

Brazil is better known for its large industrial farms which produce the country’s top export commodities such as sugarcane, oranges and soy. However, most food consumed by Brazilians is grown by small family farms. These family farmers are often poor and cannot compete with industrial farms. Thus, they are inevitably forced to give up their farms and move to cities in search of better job opportunities.

The new school feeding program has not only helped keep children well fed, but has also cut government spending on school meals by cutting out the middlemen, and has increased the income for Brazilian farmers. Brazil is making great progress in trying to fix its economy by investing in agriculture and, more specifically, small family farms that feed the country.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

Education_LiberiaNew efforts on education reform are being implemented by the Liberian government through the recently developed Partnership Schools for Liberia.

Across Africa, bolstering public education infrastructure can be one of the best ways for governments to fight poverty in their own countries. UNESCO’s recent Education for All Global Monitoring Report cited that income jumps 10 percent for every grade finished and a country’s Gross Domestic Product benefits 0.37 percent.

As a global deficit of 69 million children out of primary school continues to grow in low-income countries, poverty threatens the societies in these nations.

Helping children to obtain basic reading skills has the potential to lift 171 million people out of poverty, almost double the primary school deficit. These results show the multiplying effect that education can have on income levels.

Liberia has recently taken steps towards education reform after being ravaged by Ebola. The African Business Review cites that “42 percent of children are out of school, and only 20 percent of children enrolled in primary school complete secondary school.”

These statistics are relatively high compared to education levels around the time of the Liberian civil war. Before the Ebola outbreak greatly affected the country, the Liberian Department of Education had enlisted the help of USAID to rebuild the school systems and replenish the trained workforce.

The aid organization cites that their “education programs focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning (especially in early grade reading and math) and increasing equitable access to safe learning opportunities for girls, as well as for youth who missed out on education due to the prolonged civil conflict.”

The relief efforts led to the passing of the Education Reform Act in 2011. The programs within the act looked to strengthen the degraded Liberian school system and provide the new framework more centralization with a way to gauge efficiency.

This year, the Ministry of Education will roll out a new program called the Partnership Schools for Liberia in September. The head of the Ministry of Education, George Kronnisanyon Werner, spoke to Medium last month about the change.

The project will take developing ideas from developed countries around the world and local African nations like South Africa and Kenya in order to design a system that, Werner says, can “adapt to our unique context.” Schools will be set up in conjunction with social organizations like NGOs, but funded by the public sector.

Initially, 120 schools will be opened in late 2016 so that methods and models can be tested before the program is implemented on a large scale. Werner hopes to “generate evidence before we scale further” so that funds are spent efficiently and results are guaranteed when expansion to the entire country is considered.

The Partnership Schools for the Liberia program looks to put the Liberian government in place to reduce the number of children out of primary school. With this tool at Minister of Education George Werner’s fingertips, he hopes to get one step closer to his mission “to provide every child, regardless of family background or income, access to high-quality education.”

Jacob Hess

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

ASHAThe U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has established the goal of ending poverty by the year 2030. Contributing to this effort is $23 million in awards that will be released by USAID to 25 countries this year through the agency’s Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA).

The funding will go to “U.S. organizations and their overseas partners to support construction projects and to purchase equipment for 15 hospitals and clinics, six secondary schools, 16 universities, and one library,” as stated on the USAID website. The awards were announced on Feb. 1, 2016, and will be allocated toward global innovation and development.

USAID/ASHA provides assistance to international schools and hospitals. The organization has also served a public diplomatic role in fostering positive relationships between countries. It provides health services and education to over 80 countries and 300 international institutions.

“It is a remarkable honor to play a role in overseas institutions which advance education and health in their countries and around the world,” says Katherine Crawford, director of USAID. The education awards will reach universities in regions of the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.

Among the winners is Ashesi University College in Ghana, which received $700,000 to go toward classroom innovation. This funding will provide students with a rich engineering education that compares to top U.S. universities. Further contributions include the development of educational facilities in Somalia and Zambia.

In Somalia, USAID funding will help create a new science building, an auditorium and more areas for student dining. In Zambia, the award will help build a library that provides educational outreach and innovative programs to more than 35,000 children.

In the area of health, USAID will provide $570,000 in funding to the CURE Ethiopia Children’s Hospital. The funds will be utilized for operating room equipment, training and the delivery of medical care.

Other countries receiving a portion of this funding include India, where labor rooms for six women and a neonatal intensive care unit for 25 children and 45 mothers will become available.

In India, nursing training will also be accommodated by the grant. Medical equipment for maternal and pediatric programs will be made available in Afghanistan along with a diabetes-fighting program.

This grant will continue USAID’s overseas programs in the areas of health and education. USAID seeks to educate and provide care to the globally disadvantaged while promoting innovation in sciences and technology.

Through these awards, ASHA can impact communities and continue to stimulate progress.

Mayra Vega

Sources: Foreign Affairs, USAID,
Photo: IBT

Peace Education
On August 21, the West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP) launched a manual titled: “Peace Education in Formal Schools of West Africa: An Implementation Guide,” to help instill peaceful behaviors in school children. The 56-page document focuses on peace education as a conflict prevention method.

Professor Bocar Mousa Diarra, the Malian Minister of Education in charge of promoting local languages and civic education who presented the manual, said the peace process starts at the individual level. He recommended that peace education in schools should be at the core of the efforts to attain peace within the western region. In addition, the manual and models developed by WANEP should also involve teachers in the peace process, stressing that peace is a behavioral issue.

Using examples from Mali, Prof. Diarra said the Malian crisis affected about 800,000 children who were displaced. He stated that Mali and the whole of Africa is looking towards Ghana and wishes to emulate Ghana’s good example.

Emmanual Bombande, Executive Director of WANEP, said that the organization recognizes that when young people are informed and empowered, they can become agents of change and can determine their own fate and that of their respective nations.

Bombande also said there is a growing concern for the children and youth in this region. They are being exposed to violence, leading to many vulnerable youths with a worldview shaped and impacted by a culture of intolerance, extremism, and violence with repercussions for future stability of the region—hence the urgent need for the peace education in formal schools.

Bombande said it was more constructive to start peace education with children since they spend much of their formative time in school. He also called the inclusion of peace education in the curriculum of schools.

“Peace needs to be articulated as essential life skills that will help to create more peaceable schools and societies,” Bombande said, emphasizing the need to introduce the youth not only to a new way of thinking, but also a new behavior that could give them the ability to work better together.

The WANEP peace education program in West Africa is targeted mainly at primary and junior high schools to aid in changing the structure and cultural practices in a society that violence, thus creating an atmosphere of sustainable peace for the future of their country.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: Vibe Ghana, UNESCO

It started with a few funny homemade videos posted onto YouTube by a teenager in high school. However, overnight, YouTuber Kevin Wu’s videos shot up half a million views. From then, Wu, known by his YouTube name Kevjumba, would become one of YouTube’s leading cyber-celebrities. His comedy videos gathered millions of views. Today, 4 million people are subscribed to Kevjumba’s channel. His subscribers are roughly equal to the population of New Zealand.

Despite enormous success and fame, Wu has been using his influence for helping those in need, namely by helping to build a school in Kenya. Wu’s involvement in school’s construction began when a The Supply, a non-profit organization, posted a video of students in Nairobi challenging Kevjumba to teach one of their classes. Wu then received a flood of tweets urging him to go to Kenya. Soon enough, this American YouTube star was on his way to Africa.

According to Wu, his trip to Nairobi was life-changing because he learned from The Supply about the 1 billion people living in slums today and witnessed children living in the slums around Nairobi. Wu decided that he would partner with The Supply and commit to aiding the friends he made in Kenya. Wu had already created a charity YouTube channel called Jumbafund where views were generating ad revenue that Wu would donate to charities. Wu decided that he would direct all the funds from his charity channel to The Supply to help fund education for students in Kenya.

After uploading videos about his experience in Nairobi, which generated over 2 million views, Wu was able begin a project to raise funds for The Supply to build a school in Lenana, Kenya. When Wu turned 21, he and partners launched a campaign to urge people to donate 21 dollars to the construction of the school. With $50,000 raised, funding for the school’s construction is now complete. Kevjumba High School is the first secondary school in Lenana, Kenya. It now serves many of the students that Wu met while visiting Kenya.

Kevjumba has revolutionized  charity by using YouTube as a platform to truly aid those who need it. This is because Kevjumba’s viewers play a key part in generating the funds to build the school. Each click and each view plays a part in sustaining the school and providing opportunities for children in poverty to have an education. Furthermore, Kevjumba’s popular videos encourage viewers to donate directly. Kevjumba proves that with just a viral video and a compelling cause, anybody can make a difference in the world.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: The Huffington Post, Forbes,, PR Newser
Photo: KevJumba

Slight Drop in World’s Children Without Primary Education
According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the figure for the number of the world’s children with no access to schools has dropped from 61 million in 2010 to an estimated 57 million. Unfortunately, the improvement is unlikely to reach the millennium goal for primary education for all by 2015.

“We are at a critical juncture,” stated Irinia Bokova, UNESCO’s director-general. Every year UNESCO releases a report measuring the world’s progress towards the goal of universal primary education. Recent years have shown stagnation after early gains. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of children at the primary age who were out of school fell by only 3 million.

The most recent numbers provide a more up-to-date picture, and also show that aid for primary education has fallen by 6% because most major donors have decreased their funding in the past year. UNESCO ranked the U.K. the largest direct donor to basic education. The US was previously the largest donor, but budget cuts in 2011 put the U.K. at the top. Germany, Australia, and Norway also increased their donations while budgets were cut in France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and Canada.

The pledge for universal primary education made by UN-leaders in 2000 is looking likely to be missed, and there have already been discussions to push up the 2015 target. There was a previous target set in 1990 to achieve this goal by 2000. After this was missed the goal was moved forward to 2015.

The latest mid-year figures do reflect some progress, but partly due to previous estimates being revised. According to UNESCO, the most recent numbers show about 2 million fewer children missing school. Over half of the children missing school are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The last annual report showed that in some countries the problem is actually getting worse rather than better. In Nigeria, 40% of children ages 6-11 do not attend primary school. Despite significant increases in enrollment in recent years, UNICEF estimates about 4.7 million Nigerian children of primary school age are still not in school.

But there is some good news: southern and western Asia has seen considerable gains, cutting their numbers of children not in school by two-thirds in two decades.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, UN