Gender Inequality in Africa
Women in Africa are less likely to work in technology than their male counterparts. In 2019, around 22% of women in Africa used the internet. Due to the fact that men oftentimes have higher incomes than women, they are more likely to purchase a mobile device with internet capabilities. In West and Central Africa, four in 10 girls enter child marriage before the age of 18. This allows gender inequality to grow and prevent economic autonomy for young girls and women in Africa. Here is an organization that is actively fighting gender inequality in Africa by advocating for and providing for African women in tech.

African Girls Can Code Initiative (AGCCI)

The project has been able to help women and young girls in gaining access to work in tech. The initiative aims to train at least 2,000 girls from ages 17-25 to help them gain economic independence and an advantage in the rising tech industry. In the camp’s first phase, girls learn about mainstream ICT. The program created an e-webinar to help keep the program intact during the pandemic. Awa Ndiaye-Seck, U.N. Women Special Representative to the African Union and UNECA, says that the AGCCI’s goal is to “address not only the policy-level bottlenecks related to access to technology and finances but also the gender-based harmful norms and practices that hinder women and girls from pursuing STEM fields.”

Impact and Second Stage

Since the camp began in 2018, 600 girls have received training nationally and regionally. The Coding camp has participants from a large and diverse set of countries such as Ethiopia, Burundi, Côte D’Ivoire, DRC, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The aforementioned e-learning platform provides mentorship, coursework, training tools and job opportunities. In 2022, the Belgian government spearheaded phase two of the camp by funding the project. The project will also partner with U.N. Women, UNICEF and UNESCO. The second stage involves selecting a pool of trainers to train 11 more selected countries, thereby setting up more AGCCI learning centers in participating countries and providing learners with adequate technology (phones, laptops, computers, etc.).

Continuing to Reduce Gender Inequality in Africa

A 2016 report suggested that women launched only 9% of tech startups. Low levels of female participation in the tech industry further strengthen and reinforce the inequalities women in Africa face. The African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy has set a mission to provide “digital inclusion for every African by 2030.” This means that there will be more African women in tech positions. It is an ambitious goal that will without a doubt receive help from existing programs such as the AGCCI. Consistent efforts to include women in the field of technology will alleviate existing barriers and inequalities for African women and girls.

Final Thoughts

Programs like the AGCCI are helping to alleviate gender inequality in Africa by providing women opportunities to learn about and work in tech. African women in tech is just one example of positive programs aiming for a better future for African women.

 – Anna Richardson
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania’s Investment in Secondary Schools
HIV prevalence in Tanzania accounted for 4.8% among people aged 15-49 in 2019. HIV/AIDS’s consequences in a developing country can be devastating, leading to more deaths, slowed economic growth and further misery. HIV and poverty share a critical connection, both acting as the cause and the outcome of one another. The virus poses a more lethal and dangerous threat to the economically vulnerable part of the population that might not always have access to food, medicines and proper health care services. Tanzania has invested in an initiative called Education Plus to eliminate HIV in the country. Tanzania’s investment in secondary schools should fight HIV by ensuring education for girls and young women.

HIV and Education

Sub-Saharan Africa is considered the epicenter of the disease, with 69% of the HIV-positive world’s population living in the region. Another critical characteristic of the epidemic is its relationship with education, where less educated groups tend to be more vulnerable to contracting the disease.

Tanzania’s investment in secondary schools to fight HIV is a plan that will further develop through the country’s commitment to Education Plus. The initiative is the result of the combined efforts of UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNICEF, U.N. Women and others to fight and prevent HIV through the empowerment of adolescent girls and women in sub-Saharan African countries. Their strategy aims to achieve gender equality with secondary education as a central focus. Tanzania became the 13th African country to join Education Plus.

The Background

In Tanzania, over the last 12 years, the number of HIV infections dropped by almost half and the number of deaths decreased from 52,000 to 27,000 in 2019. Nevertheless, in 2019 the country has seen the number of HIV-positive individuals amount to 1.7 million. Evidence shows a considerable vulnerability in women to develop the infection.

Younger groups between the age of 15 and 24 represent one of the most prominent groups of new infections, making up 30% of the newly infected population, UNAIDS reported. According to UNICEF, the disease does not exist equally across the country, with a prevalence mainly in the southern areas.

The mainly affected population are people injecting drugs, men who entertain sexual relationships with other men, female sex workers, transgender individuals and prisoners. Studies show that crucial contributors to virus transmission are younger age, lack of education, alcohol use and the number of sexual partners.

Socio-economic Backgrounds

Tanzania’s poverty rate was 26.4% in 2018 and HIV is a disease that tends largely affects those coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

According to a report from the National Education Profile in 2018, 61% of females aged 14-19 in Tanzania were out of school compared to 51% of males from the same age group. According to UNAIDS, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of child marriage and teenage pregnancy. Such aspects are definitive in keeping young women out of education and about 27% of girls aged between 15 and 19 in Tanzania are either pregnant or already have a child. As of 2019, adolescents and young women constituted 24% of new cases worldwide in sub-Saharan Africa.

Before joining the UNAIDS initiative, Tanzania was already making progress in tackling the issue with the revision of the HIV and AIDS Act, which now permits self-made HIV testing and has lowered the age of consent to take the test.

Education Plus

Research shows that secondary education has a significant role in the reduction of the risk of HIV/AIDS infection. Access to education leads young women to pay more attention to matters of sexual and reproductive health and it allows them to become economically independent later in life and ensure higher incomes for the future. It also decreases the risk of them becoming child brides and teenage mothers.

The initiative Education Plus began with the focus of helping achieve gender equality, ensuring free and good secondary education for all women by 2025 in sub-Saharan African countries. The plan consists of encouraging decision-makers to raise and expand investments and efforts on instructions and teachings for girls and young women. Such measures aim to prevent HIV and offer major social and economic benefits, including to those who already have contracted the virus, UNAIDS reported on its website.

Not only does the initiative give young women the opportunity to complete secondary education, but it also offers “universal access to comprehensive sexuality education, fulfillment of sexual and reproductive health and rights, freedom from gender-based and sexual violence, school-to-work transition and economic security and empowerment,” according to UNAIDS website.

The project relies on the help of influential U.N. leaders and partners and their role as advocates for the education of young girls to encourage further action and investment in the cause. Education Plus is the ideal approach to facilitate Tanzania’s investment in secondary schools to fight HIV.

The country’s high secondary school dropout rate is a risk factor in the development and spread of an epidemic that needs significant attention and intervention.

The Relationship Between Poverty and HIV

The socioeconomic status of people infected with HIV has a significant role in their living conditions. Many of the situations associated with the risk of contracting the virus are the consequences of coming from a disadvantaged background, such as a lack of access to decent food, housing, safety and the need to exchange sex for basic necessities.

HIV also has a negative impact on the socioeconomic state of a population. Poor health conditions can impact an individual’s ability to work and function independently, and according to research, the unemployment rate of those living with HIV/AIDS goes from 45% to 65%, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

Looking Ahead

Despite the country still being a lower-middle income economy, Tanzania’s financial status is growing and has been so for the last decade. One of the key battles to win in order to ensure the economic reprise of Tanzania is through a strategy that allows for its population to have good health and work at their full potential.

Tanzania’s investment in secondary schools to fight HIV is not only an investment to fight and defeat a fatal disease responsible for 32,000 deaths in 2020, but also to build a country characterized where gender equality and strong economic performance are a reality.

– Caterina Rossi
Photo: Flickr

New Schools
In most cases, high poverty rates and poor education go hand-in-hand with each other. However, some of the poorest nations in the world are taking steps to better their educational systems. One of the best ways to do this is to increase access to education by creating new schools.

La Salle Secondary School, South Sudan

In 2011, South Sudan gained independence and became the world’s youngest country after decades of civil war. Unfortunately, it also became one of the world’s poorest countries with a national poverty rate of 82.3% in 2016.

In addition to its high poverty, according to data from 2018, just about a third of the country’s population is literate. With less than 5% of eligible children attending secondary school and “72% of primary-aged children” not attending primary school in 2017, South Sudan is “the most educationally challenged [country] in the world,” the La Salle International Foundation says.

In response to the issue, in 2018, the De La Salle Brothers established a new all-boys high school in Rumbek. The school can hold more than 300 students and training has been provided to local teachers to ensure that students are receiving the best education possible. Classes at the La Salle Secondary School began in 2019.

Royal International College, Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is located on the West Coast of Africa and is the only African country to have Spanish as its primary language. Despite standing as a resource-rich country thanks to its minerals and oil reserves, it still had a poverty rate of 76.8% in 2006.

Education in Equatorial Guinea is cost-free and mandatory for children up until age 14. However, Equatorial Guinea tends to have “high dropout rates,” and in 2004, just 50% of primary-aged students attended primary school in the country, the U.N. said.

Also, the entire country has only one main tertiary institution for post-secondary students, the National University of Equatorial Guinea. The goal of the Royal International College is to provide more post-secondary options for students while preparing them for the global stage. The Royal International College plans to open in 2023, boasting an internationally accredited curriculum and international teachers. The school will contain 20 classrooms, a computer lab, a science lab, a reading room and various recreational facilities.

Bougainvillea, Madagascar

Africa’s island nation, Madagascar, had a poverty rate of 70.7% in 2012. According to UNESCO, as for education, one-third of Madagascar’s children do not finish primary school. Furthermore, 97% of 10-year-old children in the country do not have the reading skills to “read single sentences,” Forbes reported.

In 2017, primary school enrollment stood high at 76% but took a nosedive to about 24% for lower and upper secondary schools. Even though enrollment in primary school is high, only 7% of children actually finished primary school in 2017.

Thanks to Maggie Grout’s nonprofit, Thinking Huts, Fianarantsoa city welcomed a new school in April 2022 named Bougainvillea. Unlike most schools in the world, Bougainvillea is an entirely 3D-printed school. Planning behind Bougainvillea took seven years; but, the building construction took about three weeks. Bougainvillea allows up to 30 students to learn at a time.

West African Vocational Schools, Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau is a tropical country on the West Coast of Africa. The country’s poverty rate stood at 47.7% in 2018. Education in Guinea Bissau is mandatory for children between the ages of 7 and 14; however, just 55% of children participate in basic education.

The West African Vocational Schools (WAVS) in Bissau have provided more than 1,000 individuals with vocational skills over the last 10 years. In 2020, WAVS expanded, building a 28-acre new campus in the nation’s capital city.

The new WAVS campus aims to train 1,000 students annually, unlike the initial campus, which could only train 1,000 students per 10 years. Once the school opened in April 2022, students had access to English, French and computer classes.

With these new schools bringing educational opportunities to thousands of children, hope exists that the upcoming generation will be well-prepared both academically and professionally. Furthermore, as education continues to improve, the world can possibly anticipate a dip in the global poverty rate.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Flickr

English Learning in Latin AmericaLatin America notes large numbers of extreme poverty across its population. In 2021, extreme poverty hit 86 million, under the pressures of COVID-19. This is a 5 million increase from 2020 — the Social Panorama of Latin America report highlights that this is a setback equivalent to 27 years. English learning in Latin America could help reduce poverty across the region by opening up more economic opportunities.

English Learning in Latin America

According to the English Proficiency Index, “Latin America is the region [with] the lowest levels of English” as of 2020. Low English proficiency rates stem from a “low quality of language teaching programs in public education and the difficulties in accessing alternative training” as a result of the scarcity of language training institutions and the expensive costs of such programs.

According to the index, some of the Latin American countries with the lowest rates of English proficiency are Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Mexico. In Mexico, less than 10% of schools have English as part of the education curriculum. Furthermore, in 2015, Latin America lagged 2.5 years behind Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations in schooling development.

The Importance of English Skills

According to the report “Work in Progress: English Teaching and Teachers in Latin America, “Many, if not most, English teachers in Latin America lack either the necessary English skills, the necessary pedagogical skills, or both, to be effective educators in the classroom.” Yet, most Latin American countries do not have programs in place to ensure English educators receive the training necessary for high-quality English education.

The Inter-American Dialogue highlights that one of the top “21st-century skills for most countries in [Latin America] is English language proficiency.” It says further, “English proficiency is increasingly necessary for business and international communication and, in that regard, linked with prospects for economic competitiveness and growth in the global economy.”

Learning English in Latin America offers many new opportunities, sources of revenue and securities. There are clear benefits to learning and speaking more than one language. In particular, English speaking skills open up a greater range of job opportunities. On top of this, English is commonly used as “a trade language or diplomatic language.” In fields such as tourism, science and computers, English is the dominant language.

Opportunities in and out of Latin America

Firstly, tourism is booming in Latin America, bringing significant income to the region. Considering the proximity of the United States and Canada to Mexico, it is no surprise that Mexico is a popular destination for tourists from these English-speaking countries.

In 2019 alone, 55 million U.S. citizens traveled to Latin America. Speaking English would likely enable locals in Latin America to do business more effectively in the tourism market. Locals could conduct tours in English or provide translation services.

English is growing as the language of choice for international business and trade, known as “business English.” As much as 80% of jobs offered in Latin America require proficiency in English. Considering only 20% of professionals in Latin America can speak English, a lack of English proficiency is concerning for labor markets. As international commerce expands, if Latin America wants to draw in more money and attain greater job security and revenue, it needs to promote greater education in English. This will persuade more multinational corporations to relocate to Latin America or hire individuals within Latin America.

Lastly, speaking English provides individuals with the opportunity to apply for jobs in countries that offer better wages and job security. The minimum wage in Mexico is 172 pesos for one day of work, which converts to around $8 a day.

The Positives of the Pandemic: Education, Policies and Technology

The restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic led to a rise in education software that people across the world can access remotely. This expands people’s access to opportunities for English learning. With the added pressure on governments to provide online services for schooling, in Latin America, there are now 12 million adults accessing online education, UNESCO says.

Many Latin American countries are recognizing the importance of providing English language learning opportunities. Costa Rica has made English learning compulsory and launched an initiative in 2018 where teachers across the country enter into English learning courses.

Following the increased pressures of COVID-19, resulting in about a third of Latin America living below the extreme poverty line as of May 2021, English learning in Latin America appears to offer a window for many to access new opportunities in a wider job market with higher pay and more security. If Latin America continues to prioritize English learning, this skill could translate to economic growth across the region.

– Reuben Cochrane
Photo: Unsplash

Early School Dropouts
Education is one of the most fundamental rights a child must have, no matter where they live. A free, equitable and good-quality education is also one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the United Nations designed. Education allows a student to be literate and articulate, and gain proper knowledge of various subjects. Unfortunately, many students experience early school dropouts drop out of school due to financial, social and political reasons.

Rates and Statistics

According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics, more than 64 million primary school students dropped out of their education in 2020. The rates are even more extensive in low and middle-income countries. For example, in Ethiopia, more than 2 million students dropped out of primary school whereas, in India, more than 6 million left primary schools. The dropout ratio between female and male students differs in countries. Boys in India abandoned school nearly two times more than girls in 2020, while female students were two times more likely to leave school in Ethiopia in the same year.

Reasons Why Students Drop Out

There are several reasons for early school dropouts in developing countries. The most common causes are:

  • Child Labour: Based on UNICEF estimations, one in 10 of all children around the world are victims of child labor. COVID-19 has worsened this crisis by forcing them to work for longer hours.
  • Child Marriage: Even though marriage under the legal age of 18 is a contravention against human rights, almost four out of 10 teenage girls marry before 18 in West and Central Africa. Female child marriage rates are lower in Eastern and Southern Africa (32%). Boys also face early marriages. Based on the reports, 115 million young males marry before the age of 18 around the world, with Belize, Suriname and Nicaragua having the highest child groom rates in 2022.
  • Conflict: Schools should be a safe place for pupils to study and learn, but this is not often the case in developing countries. In fact, many students miss out on school due to periods of conflict.
  • Funding: There is a substantial issue regarding low prioritization and underfunding of the education sector in countries facing a crisis. Only 2.6% of humanitarian funds go to education. Moreover, government funding related to education is distributed inequitably, with children of poor households receiving as low as 10% or less of the public education spending. This funding crisis will deprive students of the opportunity to study in developing countries.

Addressing Early School Dropouts

Many organizations, charities and institutes are raising funds and implementing strategies to prevent and end the global education crisis. UNICEF, UNESCO, Education International and The Global Partnership for Education are some organizations that serve and support this cause. UNICEF is currently working with various partners and officials to remove current barriers along girls’ education paths. UNICEF’s priority is to enable girls to complete their secondary education.

Keeping Girls in School Act

Keeping Girls in School Act is a bipartisan (H.R.4134 / S.2276) to employ and direct the U.S. government to create solutions to address the global education crisis and barriers in the way of female students. The Keeping Girls in School Act empowers girls around the globe by increasing educational opportunities and economic security.


Even though many efforts are helping girls obtain an education, there is still much work to do. Every little contribution can improve the educational crisis that girls face. Moreover, free education can give equal opportunities to the future community of girls who can be the leaders of tomorrow. Equality in education can lead to stable and civilized communities around the globe and put an end to early school dropouts.

– Hasti Mighati
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in GhanaPoverty in Ghana has been reduced, thanks to the tremendous growth of the Ghanaian economy over the past years, but at a hidden cost: the natural resources that undergird this success are being increasingly and perhaps unsustainably, depleted. The increase in the price and production of raw materials such as cocoa, gold and oil have quadrupled the real GDP growth, and cut extreme poverty in Ghana to a Lower Middle-Income Country status, from its previous status as a Low Income Country. Nonetheless, such impressive growth must be balanced with environmental protection in order to prove enduring.

Ghana’s Precarious Dependency on Natural Resources

Residents of the Bia Biosphere Reserve in Ghana are extremely dependent on the forest for their livelihoods. As cocoa farmers, harvesters of wild honey, mushrooms and other non-timber forest products, the people living in the region cannot economically sustain themselves without such natural resources. And yet, environmental depletion has become a serious concern, seeing as local populations rely almost exclusively on the forest’s resources for income. Large corporations also contribute to this degradation: unmanaged solid waste and gold mines result in air, plastic and water pollution, contaminated sites diffuse hazardous chemicals, and general deforestation and overfishing severely strain the biosphere.

Beyond the sheer environmental toll, the economic costs of such overexploitation are immense. The World Bank Ghana Country Environmental Analysis (CEA) estimates that environmental degradation incurs an annual cost of $6.3 billion, equivalent to nearly 11% of Ghana’s 2017 GDP. Air pollution costs nearly $2 billion and causes approximately 16,000 deaths each year. The damage caused by water pollution equates to 3% of the GDP. Land degradation costs over $500 million while deforestation costs $400 million per year. In addition to the immediate economic tolls, the depletion of natural resources inhibits the potential for future growth.

Green Economy Initiatives

In response to the increasingly salient threat of the Ghanian economy’s overdependence on natural resources, local communities have begun working with UNESCO and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to put in place green economy initiatives. The project builds on the Green Economy Scoping Study, performed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) between 2012 and 2013. The goal of such initiatives is to uncover income alternatives, as to reduce local populations’ reliance on natural resources for economic survival.

The project, launched in 2013, has thus far identified multiple viable alternatives to depleting natural resources, a few of which include mushroom farming, bee-keeping, snail rearing and palm oil production. According to UNESCO, there have been 235 direct beneficiaries, of which 91 are women, who received training and support as part of the green initiatives to transition to alternative livelihood options. In addition to the direct crafts, the residents also received education in marketing and investing, as to ensure the sustainability of their new businesses.

The green economy initiatives have had tremendous positive impacts on the socio-economic status of local communities, who have since been able to vary their sources of income and avoid environmental depletion. The project attests to the importance and viability of reconciling nature and economy for sustainable growth.

– Emily Xin
Photo: Unsplash

The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Albania
The 2020 pandemic lockdowns hit Albania, a nation still struggling to cope with the effects of a once-in-a-century earthquake from just the year before, extremely hard. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Albania resulted in acute economic and social challenges but targeted fiscal policies and international aid suggest a hopeful future for the Balkan state.

Impact on the Most Vulnerable Sectors

Albania’s economy relies heavily on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which comprise more than 85% of the private sector’s formal employment. Its reduced size increased its fragility in the face of the earthquake and the pandemic made it difficult for MSMEs to access loans and use insurance policies. MSMEs’ hardships meant a significant drop in tax returns for the government and increased unemployment in the lower socio-economic sectors.

In 2019, one-third of the Albanian population lived on less than $5.50 a day, making it the nation with the highest rate of poverty out of all the Western Balkan states. COVID-19 ended up increasing the poverty rate by 4%, which is equivalent to additional 112,000 people living in poverty.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Albania is especially hard for women. Not only did more women face an increase in unpaid domestic labor compared to men, but 97.5% of women-led firms are in the MSME category, Financial Protection Forum reports. In addition, a 2020 U.N. Women report found that women between 25-44 years old living in urban areas were at the highest risk of unemployment.

International Response

This dual economic and social blow to women’s livelihoods required urgent action to prevent this vulnerable group from falling into long-term unemployment. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) addressed the issue of the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Albania through a series of small projects for women in Tirana and other municipalities. The projects also targeted the promotion of equal family gender roles along with measures to combat domestic violence and offer psychological support to victims.

The UNDP aided other at-risk groups as well. From teletherapy services for disabled persons to employment promotion for ethnic minorities, the UNDP provided localized efforts to address problems raised by the pandemic.

The French Agency for Development (AFD) also continued its projects to increase Albanian women’s access to economic opportunities and further the fight for gender equality. The AFD’s foreign aid is part of an initiative to lead Albania towards fulfilling the social criteria needed for entry into the EU.

Albania’s cultural sector also needs help to recover from the impact of COVID-19. Lockdowns and travel restrictions gravely damaged the industry as it relies heavily on events and tourism. Along with MSMEs, the cultural sector plays a significant role in the economy, generating 2.95% of Albania’s GDP.

Wide-Reaching Solutions

These severe impacts on two of Albania’s most lucrative sectors, MSMEs and culture, needed to be curbed as soon as possible while addressing the state’s high pre-pandemic poverty rate. The Albanian government thus implemented a fiscal stimulus of about 3.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Through welfare support, tax relief and credit schemes the government alleviated the burden on the private sector and policies on credit installments curtailed impacts on new businesses.

Only 18% of Albanian firms reported using digital platforms to adapt to the pandemic, suggesting that the government efforts were the primary aid to alleviate the pandemic’s impact. The cultural sector, however, stands out. The Ministry of Culture founded the National Digitalization Center. Apart from that, 87.5% of institutions and enterprises in the cultural sector reported moving part of their business to virtual platforms, UNESCO reported.

The government also alleviated the impacts of the fall of the euro. The Bank of Albania promoted the lek’s stability and increased transparency in transactions involving foreign currencies. The European Commission and European Central Bank contributed financial aid to stabilize the banking system and provide euro support, LSE reported.

These sweeping measures were effective in helping the nation bounce back in the post-pandemic period. Despite rising inflation levels and supply chain disruptions, both the real wage and the minimum wage increased in 2021. Most significantly, the poverty rate dropped to 22% in 2021.

Looking Ahead

In 2021, the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) agreed to loan Albania €60 million to “mitigate the effects of COVID-19.” The loan aims to aid individuals especially vulnerable to the pandemic and help close the €570 million gap created in 2020. The loan and government measures may thus offset the impacts of COVID-19 on poverty in Albania through sustainable growth.

The impacts of COVID-19 on poverty in Albania were challenging, touching the most vulnerable sectors of the economy and exacerbating social challenges for women. However, the government’s wide-reaching economic reforms successfully curbed the pandemic’s economic impact on the industries and continued decreasing the nation’s poverty rate. International aid from the UNDP, EU and CEP was crucial in helping complement the government efforts by addressing the pandemic’s social impacts. This continued aid can continue to help Albania lower its poverty rate.

– Elena Sofia Massacesi
Photo: Unsplash

Education System in Nigeria
The education system in Nigeria faces several barriers, however, organizations are working to strengthen these systems, recognizing that education is the pathway out of poverty. Geographical difficulties, gender inequality and circumstances of poverty impact students’ abilities to attend school.

Education in Nigeria

In Nigeria, primary education is “free and compulsory,” yet the primary school net enrollment rate stood at just 64% in 2010, according to the latest available data. In the northern region of Nigeria, net school attendance rates are particularly low at just 53%, according to UNICEF. UNICEF also highlights the gender disparities in school enrollment, with just 58% of girls enrolled in primary school in 2010. These disparities are greater in the north because there are more economic barriers and socio-cultural norms that discourage school attendance, especially that of females.

Secondary education is helpful in bettering the development of the country and securing higher-paying job opportunities for the population. Over the years, Nigeria has made strides in gross secondary school enrollment rates, going from nearly 32% in 2007 to 43% in 2018, which is a significant change although still low. If one analyzes further, gender disparities are still visible in secondary education with 42% of girls enrolled in 2018 in comparison to 44% of males.

Population Increase

The population in Nigeria has increased significantly over the years, standing at 206 million people and making Nigeria the most populated country on the African continent. This population growth, however, means there are not enough schools to adequately serve the entire population. Overcrowded classrooms in Nigeria are not uncommon — UNESCO recommends 30 students per teacher yet many classes contain more than 100 students. Overcrowded classrooms are difficult to manage and are not conducive to both learning and teaching.

Lack of Equipment and Teacher Shortages

Because there is a general shortage of school resources, facilities and equipment, many schools must share laboratories and equipment. This serves as a barrier to learning because learning depends on the accessibility of the laboratory or equipment. Because there is also a shortage of teachers in the secondary education system in Nigeria (less than 50% of the required number of teachers), teachers cannot give students individualized attention because there are so many students in a classroom.

One of the main problems that threaten the education system in Nigeria is “ineffective monitoring of the implementation of educational policy.” In addition, there are disparities in resources allocated to government schools versus public schools, the latter often enduring fewer resources and equipment.

Nigeria Partnership for Education Project (NIPEP)

Beginning in 2015 with a budget of $100 million, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has helped train and improve the quality of teachers in five Nigerian states through the Nigeria Partnership for Education Project (NIPEP). The overall aim of the project was to keep children in school, with a particular focus on girls, and increase the quality of education, even in religious schools.

Each school decides how to use the grants from the advice of the school management committees because schools know their unique needs. Overall, the GPE support in Nigeria has benefited more than 46,000 schools through learning environment improvements. The GPE assistance also allowed for the training of more than 132,000 educators and scholarships for more than 417,000 girls to purchase school attire and supplies.

The program came to a close in 2020 but the GPE continues to help Nigeria to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19  pandemic. At the peak of the pandemic in June 2020, the “GPE approved a $15 million COVID-19 emergency grant to support the country’s response to the pandemic in 16 states.” In August 2020, the GPE gave Nigeria a grant of $20 million to support the Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, “focusing on girls and internally displaced children, as well as host and marginalized communities who are suffering from lack of access to education.”

Looking Ahead

Education provides skills that increase job opportunities and earnings while helping to protect people from socio-economic vulnerabilities. A more equitable expansion of education would reduce inequality and lift the impoverished from the bottom rung of the ladder. Therefore, improving the education system in Nigeria would help improve inequality and poverty rates in the country.

Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr

France hosted representatives from more than 100 countries at the One Ocean Summit in the French city of Brest from Feb. 9-11, 2022. The summit aimed to “raise the collective level of ambition of the international community on marine issues” and turn the global responsibility to “[safeguard] the ocean into tangible commitments” by addressing challenges such as pollution and overfishing. Ocean sustainability is key to the success of global economies. Marine conservation has an array of humanitarian benefits and can help alleviate poverty in developing nations.

One Ocean Summit

Water covers more than 70% of Earth’s surface, meaning that oceans are a critical part of everyday life for people across the globe. Prior to the One Ocean Summit, few international meetings focused directly and solely on ocean conservation. The One Ocean Summit aimed to highlight the vast importance of healthy oceans, with an emphasis on ocean resources, trade and the multitude of connections between marine and human life. The summit addressed threats to healthy oceans, including resource exploitation, pollution and extreme weather events.

In response to the issues brought to light by the One Ocean Summit, with the support of its Member States, the private sector and other U.N. bodies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made a commitment to map by 2030 80% of the global ocean seabed, 20% of which was mapped prior to the summit. Mapping the seabed will help countries better understand oceans and marine resources and learn how to conserve them. The One Ocean Summit also led to other initiatives that will help protect marine ecosystems, promote sustainable fishing and combat pollution, especially in relation to plastics.

Ocean Conservation and Poverty Reduction

Healthy oceans are essential to sustainable development. Oceans provide food, natural resources and employment to people around the world. Marine degradation often affects tropical, low-income areas the most. As sea levels/temperatures rise, fish migrate to other locations, which creates challenges for people who rely on fishing for their livelihoods. An unsustainable supply of fish can lead to food insecurity in places where the seafood is the main source of sustenance and protein. Multinational efforts are necessary to fund and promote effective ocean conservation. The seabed mapping project from the One Ocean Summit will help nations discover and execute best practices for ocean conservation.

Future Steps

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified marine pollution, especially because of the “increased demand for single-use plastics.” According to the World Bank, ocean conservation relies on a combination of policies, monetary investments, technological innovations, a collaboration between public and private organizations and changes in consumer behavior. Governments can create and enforce laws in favor of ocean conservation while the private sector can help fund ocean conservation efforts and create new innovations to support the cause. Public and private collaborations that promote ocean sustainability may be particularly useful when it comes to reducing plastic pollution. International meetings like the One Ocean Summit can make large-scale steps in fighting threats to healthy oceans, including marine pollution and overfishing.

Ocean sustainability directly connects to poverty reduction and socio-economic development. Marine conservation is highly valuable in areas where fishing is essential to economic success. As a global resource, the ocean relies on international collaboration to stay healthy. The One Ocean Summit models a constructive international effort to conserve the world’s oceans.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Study Hall Educational Foundation
Numerous studies have indicated a strong association between poverty and education. Out-of-school rates are the highest in poor countries such as India. Poverty and a lack of education have an inextricable connection, creating a vicious cycle difficult to escape. Illiteracy and lack of schooling keep young people from obtaining better-paying jobs as adults, making it near impossible to ever rise up from poverty. In low-income countries, girls are more likely to withdraw from school — or never attend — than boys. However, the organization, Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF), is transforming the lives of girls in India.

Daughters Cannot Attend School

There are several reasons why many girls in India do not have access to education. In rural areas, even if school is free, parents must pay for books and transportation. Parents typically believe educating girls is a waste of money, and would rather have them contribute to family income.

Often, girls stay home to look after younger siblings. Additionally, many end up in early marriages as soon as they reach puberty against their will. These factors could explain why the literacy rate for males 15 and older in India is above 82%, while for girls and women, it is barely 66%. Yet just one extra year of schooling can increase a woman’s earnings by up to 10%, thereby helping to raise her out of poverty.

Help for Girls in India

A nonprofit organization is working to change these daunting statistics. Study Hall Educational Foundation has a history of transforming the lives of Indian girls. Through a network of model schools and outreach programs, it promotes girls’ rights, enabling their access to schooling. Foundation administrators believe a lack of education directly affects a girl’s future ability to earn good wages and to escape poverty.

Urvashi Sahni, Study Hall’s founder, is an activist who became married as a teenager. She had two daughters by her early 20s, and later lost her sister tragically — burned to death over a dowry dispute. It was that anger and frustration that inspired Sahni to found Study Hall. Her work to promote gender equality and education has impacted more than 5 million children, according to the Foundation.

A prime example of Study Hall’s pioneering work is the Prerna Girls School in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Founded in 2003, its enrollment has grown to more than 1,000, providing accessible and affordable education to girls from marginalized, low-income communities — most of whom would not have the opportunity to study otherwise. Many of the girls come from local slums, working as domestic help for neighbors. Although many also come from abusive homes, that fact has not abated their excitement to study and eventually join the professional workforce.

From Slums to Orchards

Another Study Hall program is GyanSetu — or Bridge of Learning — a network of support centers operating from small huts in slums and rural mango orchards. Children attend an accelerated learning program before enrolling in formal schools while continuing to receive supplementary education and support.

Increasing schooling among those 15 or older by just two years would allow nearly 60 million to rise out of poverty, according to UNESCO. That has a better chance of happening thanks to programs like those administered by Study Hall Educational Foundation, helping Indian girls have a better life.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Hippopx