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The School Fund: What One Company is doing to tackle the Global Education CrisisOver 115 million school-age children are not able to attend school worldwide, largely due to compulsory school fees that are required for attendance. In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 63 million adolescents are out of school and only 37 percent of children finish secondary school. One company targeting barriers to education is The School Fund (TSF). Through the collaboration of technology and willing donors looking to make a difference, the organization is able to provide low-income students with the opportunity to receive an education.

The Mission

The School Fund is a crowdfunded, nonprofit organization based in California. One hundred percent of donations go directly toward each student’s unique scholarship. Its mission is to tackle the global education crisis by connecting donors to students in developing countries who cannot afford an education. It stands firmly behind the belief that education is the most effective way to successfully eradicate poverty.

Barriers to Education

The reasons children do not receive secondary education are plenty and vary from location to location. Some of these reasons are the cost of supplies, the long distances that need to be traveled to reach school, safety and cultural norms. When it comes to education, poor and rural areas are especially disadvantaged.

How it Works

The School Fund partners with local organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. These range from private schools to local public schools, or local scholarship organizations. The Field Partners then select students for the TSF website, including biographies, stories and pictures of the children. Biographies help to keep each donation personal and invested in the growth of each child. Donors then select which student they want to sponsor.

These donors are able to view the breakdown of school costs and receipts on a web platform with complete transparency. Direct journal updates from their sponsored student are available for donors as well, helping to foster the connection between the donor and the student. The School Fund ensures that students are attending school via receipt tracking and field drop-ins.

Outcomes

The School Fund has successfully funded 1,291 students, with many more on the horizon. Since 2009, the organization has raised over $500,000. TSF also found that with just one extra year of secondary education, a student’s lifetime wages have the potential to increase by 10 percent.

TSF has shown a 50 percent growth rate each year in revenue accrued for scholarships. It also connects regularly with its Field Partners to collect updates, including grades and yearly data. This ensures that each student is seeing improvement and growth through their education.

Women in particular benefit from receiving an education. Only one in four girls attend school in many of these developing countries, but of those who do, women have fewer unwanted pregnancies, delay getting married young, have healthier kids and are three times less likely to test positive for HIV. TSF is helping women combat cultural norms and ensuring empowerment for all.

 

Children around the globe continue to face barriers to education. The School Fund is one of many organizations breaking down these obstacles, making sure money is not a deterrent for something that everyone should be entitled to.

Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Pixabay

Samoa is an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean. It is said to be the “Cradle of Polynesia” because it is believed that the island of Savai’i is Hawaiki, the Polynesian homeland.

Samoa became independent from New Zealand in 1962, which brought over 100 years of foreign dominance to an end. Internationally, Samoa is thought of as a tropical paradise where the inhabitants are welcoming of tourists, but there are still problems on the small island nation, one of which is education.

The major challenges for education in Samoa include the quality of education and access to early childhood education, according to a 2015 report filed by the government of Samoa. Early childhood education helps get children ready for primary school, but most teachers do not have the skills to fully prepare them. Another concern for early childhood education in Samoa is children’s performance in basic education. A number of children do not gain basic literacy and numeracy skills, which are important for them to further their education.

The quality of teaching poses a problem for early childhood education in Samoa as well. There are some challenges when it comes to qualifications and certifications, but the main problem is the competence of teachers and principals. Many early childhood education teachers are untrained.

Primary and secondary education in Samoa also has problems. Various schools do not achieve the minimum standards for the quality of learning in the classroom. Many primary school teachers do not have the proper training and support, and teachers seldom have the skills to identify and teach special needs students. Teachers often have a lack of commitment to the profession as well. For many teachers in Samoa, teaching is not their career of choice, and they often leave when the opportunity comes up. This makes keeping good teachers a challenge in both the primary and secondary levels. To improve the quality education in Samoa, high quality teachers must be retained.

Despite this, the graduation rate among high school seniors continues to be above 90 percent, according to the Samoa Observer. Between 2011 and 2014, the graduation rate was 98 percent, but it fell to 96 percent in the 2014-2015 academic year. The CIA reported that the literacy rate among adults was 99 percent, but the country ranks 48th in education spending.

Although education in Samoa has made significant progress, it still faces problems with quality. In order to improve on this, they must they must prepare children for further schooling in their early life. Public awareness of the importance of early childhood education must be raised as well.

For primary and secondary education, marketing for teachers must be more aggressive in order to attract teachers and keep them committed to the profession. Teachers should be encouraged to find creative ways to deliver a lesson in order to keep students engaged.

Fernando Vazquez

Photo: Flickr

Education in Slovakia
Education in Slovakia has a lot of similarities to the education system in the U.S., however there are a few key differences worth noting.

The first one of these major differences is the years of preschool education. In America, most schools have one year each of pre-school and kindergarten, which most students attend at the ages of four and five, respectively. However, Slovakia has a few years of kindergarten education. Most students attend this when they are between three and six years old. Although this level of schooling is not required, kindergarten is a period where students learn numbers, nature, colors, how to draw, shapes and names of the days and months.

The next level beyond kindergarten is primary school, which is required by law. In America, primary school is called elementary school and is six years long, and leads into two years of middle school. In Slovakia, primary school is split into two sections. The first section starts at age six and is four years long (first to fourth grade) and the second section is five years long (fifth to ninth grade). By the time students finish this level of education, they should be about 15 years old. In America, at 15 years old, students would already be halfway into their high school education.

Secondary schools are where the most differences show between American and Slovakia. High school education in America is still focused on core subjects like history, science and math, although they usually delve deeper into the subject matter. Rather than general subjects, you can specialize in certain subjects. For example, it is no longer just science class – you can usually pick between biology, chemistry or physics. Secondary education in Slovakia focuses not only on higher education in these subjects, but vocational training is a key aspect. This better prepares students for the future job market, and also this blend of general education and vocational training is what makes education in Slovakia so effective. The Legatum Institute releases a yearly ranking of countries based on certain aspects. In 2016, according to the Legatum Prosperity Index, Slovakia ranked 30th out of 149 countries evaluated, compared to the U.S., which was ranked eighth.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), attending secondary education gives students a significant advantage in the job market. Employment rates for those who complete upper secondary education is 70 percent and that rises to 82 percent if they complete tertiary education as well. However, the rate of employment for those without upper secondary education is 30 percent, which is against the OECD average of 55 percent.

Slovakia and America have different ideologies about education, but it is clear that Slovakia’s focus on higher education and vocational training especially have hugely benefitted Slovakia in terms of education for its citizens.

Scott Kesselring

Photo: Flickr

Education_El Salvador
While education has slowly grown more accessible for El Salvador children since the end of the country’s civil war in 1992, poverty continues to keep children away from classrooms — particularly when reaching secondary school.

In 2013, elementary schools had a 91% enrollment. However, only 50-60% attended secondary school (grades seven through nine). Poverty levels also fluctuated between 30-40% over the past decade, rising to 55% in rural areas.

Poverty conditions often affect academic performance and can cause children to leave school early, as disadvantages faced by families often influence the choice.

Work

El Salvador has child labor laws; it is illegal for children under 14 to have jobs and hours are restricted for anyone under 18. However, about 1.8 million children between the ages of five to 17 work to contribute to their families. Many of these children have to leave school to do so, thus continuing the cycle of poverty.

School Supply Costs

Although secondary education in El Salvador is free, students are required to have uniforms and basic supplies. This cost is often too much for families. Rural students are often unable to attend because they do not have means of transportation to get to even the nearest school.

Resources

School quality varies from region to region It is difficult to encourage students to actively participate in education when schools often are poorly constructed, lack the proper resources and are overcrowded.

Crime

After Honduras, El Salvador has the second-highest homicide rate in the world, fueled by active gangs, drugs and poverty. Children risk becoming either participants or victims of the violence. In this case, both employment and education appear to be part of the solution. Young people who join gangs are often those who do not have the resources to attend school but are unable to find a job in the stagnant economy.

Unregistered Children

Approximately 10% of the population were not registered at birth. This prevents children from becoming citizens or attending public schools in El Salvador. Unregistered children are born to families in rural areas or living on the street. Barring this particularly vulnerable group from education only continues the issues of violence and poverty.

Child Marriage

Legally, girls as young as 14 and boys as young as 15 can marry with parental permission. Twenty-five percent of Salvadorans are married by age 18. Members of a Global group called Girls, not Brides, state that child marriage often ends a girl’s formal education pursuits.

Change on the Way?

Problems with secondary education in El Salvador have been recognized and many are mobilizing to tackle these issues.

El Salvador passed a plan to end child labor by 2020 through the reduction of poverty, protection of children’s rights and improvements to education.

To reduce crime, the government passed a law called National Youth Policy, with the intent to create outlets for young people through education, employment or other constructive participation. Some American organizations like USAID and Tailored for Education have invested in Salvadoran schools to improve resources and infrastructure.

None of these economic or social issues are easy to resolve, but Salvadoran officials believe that with a literacy rate of 97%, high primary school attendance and a low gender gap, there will be a good foundation to make progress.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Flickr

HIV_Prevention

When Ben Franklin said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, he probably wasn’t referring to HIV/AIDs prevention and international development, yet the idea is applicable nevertheless.

Oftentimes, medical interventions in the developing world consist of sending and administering medical supplies, personnel and medical training. However, when it comes to HIV prevention, secondary school education might be a “two birds, one stone” scenario, cost-effectively cutting down the rate of new infections in the first place rather than focusing on expensive treatment.

Traditional HIV/AIDS reduction programs such as the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have focused on primary school education and generally expanding access to information regarding HIV/AIDS as a prevention strategy. However, programs like PEPFAR generally don’t go so far as to include secondary school education as a strategy, which can be a rather ambitious objective.

A recent study published by The Lancet suggests that secondary school education ought to be a main feature of programs such as PEPFAR.

The study correlates a drop in new cases of AIDS with extra schooling in Botswana. Jacob Bor of Boston University School of Public Health, one of the co-authors of the study, made this point succinctly saying, “investments in secondary schooling are a slam dunk and should go alongside biomedical interventions in any effective HIV prevention strategy.”

According to the study, young people who attended an extra year of secondary school were 8.1% less likely to contract HIV. Girls in particular were 11.6% less likely if they attended at least two years of secondary school. The study found that there was no such correlation with primary school attendance. Apparently, the greater impact on preventing new cases of HIV in girls might be due to the fact that there are simply more women with the virus to begin with; in 2013, almost 80% of new adolescent infections in Sub-Saharan Africa occurred among girls.

Because AIDS has a disproportionate impact on women, secondary school education might even represent a grand slam of development objectives, improving health, education and gender equality; expanding opportunities for women and girls is widely regarded as one of the most effective poverty-reduction strategies.

The Millennium Development Goals included the objective of achieving a universal primary education for all children, which even now is a lofty goal. However, to realize a substantial improvement in AIDS reduction as well as other related goals, universal secondary school education might need to be included in the next set of global development objectives.

Derek Marion

Sources: SciDevNet, The Lancet, PEPFAR
Photo: Flickr

Education-in-Africa
As the world’s leading countries and corporations search for new frontiers, all eyes are focused on Africa.  The continent offers many opportunities for economic activity and prosperity.  African nations are seeking to take advantage of their position but face tough obstacles due to an undereducated population.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 176 million adults are unable to read and write.  47 million youths ages 15-24 are illiterate and 32 million primary aged children are not in school.  In nations like Malawi, one of the world’s poorest nations, where 45 percent of the population is under 14 years old, it is imperative to produce future generations of educated citizens capable of lifting the nation out of poverty.

Malawi is a land locked nation and is home to approximately 17 million people.  The country does not have many natural resources such as oil like its neighboring countries.  The economy is based on agriculture, mainly, the export of tobacco and is supported through financial aid by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In order to turn the tide and help the people of Malawi, Xanthe Ackerman founded Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa, or AGE Africa.

AGE Africa seeks to transform the lives of millions of young girls by providing them with opportunities to become educated leaders.  Beginning with Malawi, the organization’s vision is to ensure all girls in Africa have equal access to secondary education and that they be able to leverage their education into economic opportunities.

Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa seeks to create informed citizens capable of making their own life choices.

The Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa organization has a multidimensional approach to achieving their stated goals.  The first begins with comprehensive scholarships that allow girls to not only attend schools but also complete their education.  Scholarships go towards providing for tuition and school related expenses.

The second approach deals with extracurricular programs that promote life skills, leadership development, self-advocacy and career guidance.  The final piece of the program, post-secondary transitions, ensures that the girls have the necessary information, resources, and support to apply for educational and economic opportunities beyond high school.

AGE Africa’s impact on the girls of Malawi is extraordinary.

By age 20, just 17 percent of Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa participants are mothers compared to 65 percent of 20-year old women in Malawi.  About 88 percent of AGE Africa students finish all four years of secondary school, compared to just 8 percent nationwide.

Among these students, 74 percent are now pursuing higher education, have wage-based employment or engage in economic activity that provides income above the poverty threshold.

The tremendous success of Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa within the country of Malawi is beacon of hope for the nation and a promising sign of the future for other girls throughout the continent.

Sunny Bhatt

Sources: AGE Africa, AGE Africa, AGE Africa, FAO
Photo: Development Diaries

Education_in_developing_countries

Five philanthropic organizations joined together in 2012 to commit millions to improving secondary education opportunities for children in developing countries. The MacArthur Foundation along with The MasterCard Foundation, ELMA Philanthropies Services, Human Dignity Foundation, and another donor formed “The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education.” The Partnership was formed as one of the key supporting efforts behind “A Global Compact on Learning”, an education initiative developed by the Brooking Institution’s Center for Universal Education.

The Partnership believes that educational attainment has far-reaching benefits from improved health to increased productivity. In the first call for applications, The Partnership received more than 500 proposals and committed over $8 million to funding 19 different educational projects.

Organizations such as International Child Development Initiatives, Educational Initiatives, and Build Africa received grants to implement projects aimed at providing secondary education to all youth in developing countries. Projects focus on everything from assessing teacher effectiveness to implementing new technologies to best methods for transitioning students from primary to secondary school. In addition, secondary education for girls has been identified as a key step in ending poverty.

In 2013, The Partnership will commit an additional $10 million in funding with several key areas in mind. Grants will focus on “increasing demand for secondary-level learning, improving teacher skills, promoting employment-relevant skills, and promoting alternative education models.” New approaches to education and innovation in learning will be the primary backbone to this year’s funding.

– Zoë Meroney

Source: MacArthur Foundation