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Ahmad Joudeh and SOS Children's VillagesAhmad Joudeh is a world-renowned ballet dancer and is famous for his performance in Eurovision 2021. His background is less well-known. Growing up in a refugee camp in Syria, Joudeh dreamed of dancing. In 2021, he began volunteering with SOS Children’s Villages, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting children and families in poverty and providing humanitarian assistance where it is needed.

Ahmad Joudeh Growing Up

Ahmad Joudeh grew up with aspirations of dancing since he was young. For much of his young life, he lived in a refugee camp. Joudeh lived in an environment where poverty is the norm. The people around Joudeh were primarily unsupportive of his dancing. However, he defied traditional expectations of men in Syria and would dance in the streets.

Joudeh studied dance at the Enana Dance Theatre for almost a decade from 2006 to 2015. He made his biggest appearance on the world stage in Eurovision 2021. In his free time, Joudeh teaches at the SOS Children’s Villages. Joudeh dances with the children and volunteers to inspire them in the art of dance and help them build confidence to navigate any issues that may arise while living in poverty.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages is an international organization with more than 130 “villages” in operation. The organization was founded by Herman Gmeiner in 1949 after witnessing the effects of World War II on local children. Gmeiner developed SOS Children’s Villages with the help of family, friends and generous donors. Since then, Gmeiner’s organization has blossomed to help children on an international scale.

The SOS Children’s Villages help families struggling financially by training parents in skills for workplace environments or counseling families as needed. The organization works one-on-one with children to provide education and health services while advocating at policy levels and providing safe spaces to explore.

Children and Families Using SOS Children’s Villages Services

Since children and families involved with SOS Children’s Villages face financial difficulties, they often do not have the tools or resources to help themselves. As a result, a significant number of SOS Children’s Villages residents rely on education. With volunteers, the organization reaches out within the communities where volunteers operate. The volunteers engage the families and children struggling and provide quality education on life skills.

When SOS Children’s Villages are helping a child or a family, the villages provide a safe space. For hours each day, the families are cared for in a safe environment to foster new habits and skills until each individual or family no longer requires the organization’s services. SOS Children’s Villages operate in areas where poverty is high. For example, in the main village in Syria where Ahmad Joudeh volunteered, the poverty rate reached 80%. The village works with families to ease financial burdens in both the short and long terms.

Building Community

The education provided to parents and children worldwide through this organization helps each person find a good job or mentorship. In addition, with its advocacy work, SOS Children’s Villages helps build protection within communities and in governments to support families in poverty.

Because people born into poverty often do not have access to higher education, they are likely to remain in poverty. In 2018, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) surveyed childhood education, attendance and poverty and found that more than 250 million children globally cannot attend school due to the cost. SOS Children’s Villages provide education to children at no cost to the families to break the cycle of poverty.

Understandably, Ahmad Joudeh knows the strains poverty can have on children. The mental health issues that develop in children living in poverty are most commonly anxiety and depression. So while SOS Children’s Villages operate to ease physical and financial difficulties, Joudeh dances with the children and strives to help them achieve their dreams.

Ahmad Joudeh’s Involvement and His Hopes for the Children

Joudeh has a deep respect for the work of SOS Children’s Villages. For some time, he has taught dancing in the organization’s village in Damascus to help build long-term goals for children. In 2016, Joudeh also did a workshop with the children in the SOS Children’s Village Vicenza. Joudeh dances with the children and guides them to work through their anxieties and constant worries around them. The mental toll on children in poverty in the areas where SOS Children’s Villages operate is devastating.

Joudeh dances with the children step-by-step, providing undivided attention, teaching them to focus on the music and not the world. The safe space he creates through dance grants these children an opportunity to explore and feel free without worries about what the outside world may bring or what challenges await their families. Joudeh dances with the children because his dreams of dance have expanded over the years. The freedom Joudeh finds in dancing is a feeling he hopes to extend to the children in the SOS Children’s Villages.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Sabee AppNearly 200 million people currently live in Nigeria. Out of all the children in the world who are not attending school, one in five of those children live in Nigeria. The statistics of education in Nigeria paint a bleak picture as only 61% of children aged 6-11 attend primary school on a regular basis. Furthermore, in 2018, only 20% of Nigerian adults who finished primary school were literate. However, Nigeria might be turning the corner in education as many educational tech startups focus on facilitating education in Nigeria. Facebook is the latest company to invest in the development of Nigerian education through the Sabee app.

Education in Nigeria

At the moment, Nigeria’s education system suffers from a severe lack of funding. In 2020, Nigeria dedicated only 6.7% of its annual budget to education even though UNESCO recommends that a government should allocate a minimum of 15% of the annual budget toward education. Therefore, Nigeria allocates far less than is recommended.

Although education is free in Nigeria, Nigerian public schools do not have many teachers. In some regions, the teacher-to-student ratio is an astounding 1:73. The schools also lack the vital resources needed to learn and lack quality and clean facilities. There is also insufficient training for teachers in schools. The government does not have established guidelines for hiring teachers, leaving students with inadequately trained instructors. Unqualified staff means the quality of learning severely decreases.

Lastly, terrorism has impacted the learning ability of Nigerian students. Due to the Boko Haram group terrorizing the northern parts of the country, less than half of female students in Northern Nigeria attend school. Furthermore, the ongoing violence has left many schools damaged and destroyed.

The History of the Sabee App

Sabee is an educational app that “aims to connect learners and teachers in online communities to make educational opportunities more accessible.” Facebook aims to develop Sabee as a part of its long-term investment strategy in Africa. Since most people will live in urbanized areas by 2030, and with Africa’s population rising fast, Facebook wants to establish a market in the African region. The platform particularly focuses on Nigeria. This decision is based on studies that estimate that Nigeria will become the second-most populated country by the turn of the century.

The Nigerian word “sabi,” which means “to know,” is the inspiration behind the app’s name, Sabee. The Sabee app will increase access to educational opportunities and bridge the literacy gap in Nigeria. With COVID-19 still affecting many parts of the world without vaccine access, the Sabee app will help many gain access to education remotely. In addition, the Sabee app seeks to address the poor literacy rates of Nigerian women and girls.

Development and Implementation of Sabee

Currently, more than 100 million Nigerians have access to the internet and more than 95% of internet users utilize mobile broadband data. Additionally, 250,000 new internet users in Nigeria were online by the end of 2019. Facebook aims to ensure Sabee works with 2G networks to make it accessible to more people, even those with less advanced internet connections.

As of now, the app is in the testing phase, “with fewer than 100 testers” assessing the app. Facebook plans to develop the app further based on the testers’ feedback and implement another phase of testing before the close of 2021.

Several technology startups and companies such as Facebook are investing in improving the system of education in Nigeria. However, to make a lasting impact, Nigeria must dedicate more of its resources toward ensuring quality education for all youth.

– Matthew Port Louis
Photo:Flickr

Vocational education centers in Afghanistan
After spending nearly 20 years in Afghanistan, the U.S. is withdrawing from the conflict with Taliban insurgents by August 31, 2021. The U.S. withdrawal is leaving the Afghan people and government susceptible to a Taliban takeover or all-out civil war, which could lead to the souring of Afghan-American relations. Perhaps U.S. support of new and improved vocational education centers in Afghanistan could help provide Afghans with the skills to repair the infrastructure that war has ravaged and maintain positive relations between the two nations.

History of Afghan Vocational Training

Afghanistan established its first institutions for technical and vocational training in the 1950s, with the help of countries such as the U.S., USSR, Germany and the United Kingdom. The Afghan education system integrated technical education with the creation of the Faculty of Agriculture and Engineering in 1956 and Kabul Polytechnic in 1968. However, following the Soviet invasion and the rule of the Communist Regime in 1979, many male students were unable to pursue technical education. These students either entered the military, fought with Mujahideen freedom fighters or fled the country. Additionally, many intellectuals who others associated with vocational education centers, opposed the Soviets and either went to prison, died from violence or had to flee.

The Soviet invasion severely hampered Afghan economic development and destroyed much of Afghanistan’s infrastructure, including many technical education centers. However, Afghanistan did not rebuild the infrastructure that experienced destruction in the civil war after the Soviet Union left and since the U.S. entered Afghanistan in 2001. Additionally, much of Afghanistan’s basic infrastructure, including clean water, proper sanitation and electricity, has experienced damage from the country’s previous conflicts. More vocational education centers in Afghanistan may increase access to trained individuals who could remedy these infrastructure issues.

Benefits of Vocational Education Centers

As of 2020, the World Bank reported that Afghanistan has an unemployment rate of 11.7%. According to UNICEF, 3.7 million Afghan children do not attend school. The formation of additional vocational education centers in Afghanistan could create more employment and educational opportunities for the Afghan people. Additionally, it could potentially provide the centers’ graduates with the capability to repair the infrastructure of a country that war has ravaged. Providing Afghan citizens with more vocational education centers would aid in the alleviation of poverty throughout the developing country. As UNESCO stated in a report concerning the development of Afghanistan’s Vocational Education programs, “education is one of the keys to sustainable development, peace and stability.”

U.S. institutions and Afghan vocational education centers have worked together successfully in the past. Prior to the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan had a rapidly developing set of vocational education centers. The Faculty of Engineering at Kabul University received almost all of its training in the U.S. and used U.S. textbooks for their classes. From the school’s formation in 1956 until 1978, the school had a significant affiliation with U.S. institutions through USAID support. As of 1977, the admission rate of the Faculty of Engineering at Kabul University grew from 300 to 1,000 per annum.

Additional vocational education centers in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion included:

  • Kabul Polytechnic Institute
  • Kabul Mechanical School
  • Afghan Institute of Technology
  • Kandahar Mechanical School
  • Khost Mechanical School
  • Mazar-i-Sharifi Technicum
  • Kabul Technicum

The Soviets methodically dismembered these vocational education centers following the 1979 invasion. Soon, the communist ideology took precedence over all aspects of education. This lasted until the collapse of the communist government and the subsequent civil war in 1992. After that, all technical colleges and schools in Afghanistan underwent severe damage.

How USAID Assists With Development

The U.S. has been helping with the development of Afghanistan’s vocational education centers more recently as well through the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program (AWDP). USAID conceived the program in 2012 and sought to expand employment and wages in Afghanistan. It did this by increasing the employability of Afghan citizens in areas where skilled labor was necessary. This task reached completion through a four-step process. Firstly, a “labor market demand assessment” occurred to identify the skills in demand by the Afghan private sector. Following this assessment, USAID guided the curricula of the Afghan training providers to meet the demand of the private sector. After establishing the curriculum, USAID provided subsidies to help local training centers educate trainees in lacking areas. Finally, USAID provided pre-employment, job placement and follow-up services to ensure that those who completed training programs found work.

Positive Results

The AWDP was effective in many ways. As of 2018, 48,873 Afghans, 36% of them women, received training in competency-based technical and business management skills. Additionally, 28,790 participants of the program obtained assistance in finding work as a result of the AWDP. To ensure progress following the program’s completion, USAID also allowed private institutes to open career counseling centers. These five institutes trained 1,758 university graduates and landed 807 trainees jobs as of 2019. Furthermore, the program provided Master Training of Trainers (MToT) training to 1,401 master trainers attending institutes of higher learning. About 1,060 of those trainees earned jobs relevant to their expertise or received a promotion at their current jobs.

Since the U.S. military is withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2021, it may be beneficial for the U.S. government to support vocational education centers in Afghanistan further. Continuing to provide resources and increase funding may help maintain positive relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan. Furthermore, new or improved vocational education centers in Afghanistan would increase employment opportunities and empower more Afghans with the ability to repair infrastructure and further develop the state.

– Wais Wood
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Economic and Educational Disparity
As economic vulnerability is an important risk factor for HIV, economic empowerment projects are becoming an increasingly common measure for HIV prevention and mitigation. Stakeholders are primarily concerned with the effects of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. However, concerted efforts have begun to improve their living conditions by finding sustainable ways to remove economic and educational disparity and improve their economic status.

Connections between economic and educational disparity and HIV status remain complicated. Few studies have linked involvement in economic empowerment methods and HIV outcomes for young women. Therefore, the exploration of effective interventions must go beyond the healthcare sector to further address the linkage between HIV risks and economic and social factors.

Furthermore, strong stigmatization of the disease persists in sub-Saharan Africa in addition to poor awareness of HIV transmission and preventive initiatives. This increases the need to improve HIV-related knowledge in the region for future prevention strategies. Thus far, initiatives to improve HIV-related awareness in sub-Saharan Africa have included a broad range of information-dissemination methods, including the use of means that can easily reach the vulnerable populations, such as mass media or community-based social cohesion methods.

The significant social determinants of HIV require more comprehensive educational interventions. These interventions became designed in light of social- and gender-inequity-based theories. These include social norms theory, the social constructivist theory of gender and the theory of gender and power. Furthermore, approaches focused on behavior theories have undergone wide use in interventions aimed at improving HIV-related knowledge, as experts have found that HIV-education interventions, when combined with behavioral change components, correlate with a higher probability of eventual implementation of preventive behaviors.

The Current Landscape

Implementation issues in HIV-education interventions became neglected. The sub-Saharan region of Africa suffers from a lack of HIV education because this region has the highest rates of education exclusion and the highest out-of-school rates for all age groups in the world. A disproportionate number of young children attend school for a short while and quickly drop out. Around 20% of children from 6 to 11 years old are out of school in addition to 34% of children between 12 and 14 years old. According to UIS, 60% of teenagers from 15 to 17 years old remain unenrolled in school.

These statistics show that HIV-education interventions do not always have wide distribution. This results in few youths receiving education from these programs. Thus, how to deliver effective HIV/AIDS education in sub-Saharan Africa is worth discussing.

Current trends in sub-Saharan Africa indicate that digital education is getting traction even though technological barriers persist. Many perceive digital education as not only a better form of learning but also as a cost-effective way to broaden educational opportunities. The rapidly growing population is exploding with demands for education. Countries are increasingly embracing digital tools to increase access to education and improve educational and social equity.

According to World Bank Education, the learning crisis, which resulted from learning poverty, started long before the COVID-19 pandemic. With the spread of COVID-19, 1.6 billion children and youth are out of school. Thus, it has become more and more urgent to prepare students in low-resource areas for digital learning. This is so they have an opportunity to gain healthcare knowledge, especially the knowledge of COVID-19 treatment and HIV prevention.

Educational Radio Programmes

Educational radio programming can be an excellent tool to keep children from disadvantaged areas engaged in HIV-knowledge acquisition. It enables disadvantaged populations to access the information they need to achieve sustainable development. Many of these radio programs aim to improve regional development. Community radio platforms became promoted to encourage local development. Many villages have limited access to information about education and nutrition. Radio programs allow them to study and improve their living conditions.

UNESCO, which set up multi-collaborations with low-resource countries, stated that these countries rely heavily on the radio (93%) and “the use of radio and television broadcasts as distance learning solutions is a powerful way to bridge the digital divide in the education sector and reach the most marginalized learners.” Previous research and studies have focused on how the radio programs have developed in recent years, but these studies have neglected the application of radio and have rarely directly studied how people use the radio, and specifically how radio platforms can be effective educational tools.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa seek to develop into emerging nations by 2035 and are setting policies and goals. For example, in Cameroon, the government has prioritized Information Communication Technologies (ICT) development in the economic, culture and education domains in all state sectors, with a specific focus on ICT in the education domain. It encouraged programs consisting of agriculture, health and rural and urban development content for a mass audience. Many see radio programming as a way for Cameroon to achieve overall development.

Educational Equity and Digital Learning

Still, a portion of the population in the rural areas – for example, 42% of the population of Cameroon – cannot receive national radio services. Young adolescents in these rural areas are still in a more disadvantaged position than those in urban districts because they are unable to receive important information.

Therefore, policymakers ought to develop a short- or long-term digital learning arrangement and evaluate their systems’ capability to support a digital learning paradigm that incorporates a mixture of technologies and delivery mechanisms. It is also critical for policymakers to collaborate with outside stakeholders such as EdTech companies, local broadcast centers and private radio stations to ensure the accelerated growth of the designated digital learning modality. Dispersing economic and educational disparity should always be the priority among all planning efforts.

Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr

women for bees programAngelina Jolie is widely considered one of the film industry’s most successful and famous stars. In 2020, she was the second-highest-paid Hollywood actress, earning more than $35 million for her work in films such as Marvel Studio’s “Eternals.” Additionally, Jolie’s humanitarian work has received a lot of attention, partnering with the U.N. Refugee Agency and launching the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative. She built her reputation as an advocate for global human rights and women empowerment. Recently, the actress joined forces with UNESCO and French perfume company Guerlain to jumpstart the Women for Bees program.

Women for Bees Program

Beginning on June 21, 2021, the global “female beekeeping entrepreneurship” program will send 10 women each year “to a 30-day accelerated training course” in beekeeping at the Observatoire Français d’Apidologie’s (OFA) Domaine de la Sainte-Baume in Provence, France. After five years, the 50 total course participants will have gained a solid foundation of beekeeping skills.

Participants will also form a strong global network of fellow female beekeepers. Furthermore, participants will all be able to run their own professional apiaries, bringing in an income to sustain themselves for years to come. Jolie was appointed “godmother” of the Women for Bees program and will track the progress of the beekeepers. The collaboration between UNESCO, Guerlain and Jolie aims to promote biodiversity and support bees’ crucial role as pollinators while simultaneously empowering women in female entrepreneurship. According to UNESCO, the program “aims to enable women’s social emancipation through an expertise-driven sustainable professional activity.”

As the female participants progress through the Women for Bees program, they will be able to gain critical skills for long-term economic enhancement for both themselves and their larger communities. The initiative will involve UNESCO’s biosphere reserves located in areas such as Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, France, Italy, Russia, Rwanda and Slovenia. About 2,500 hives are set to be built within 25 UNESCO biosphere reserves in the next four years.

World Bee Day

On World Bee Day, Jolie generated buzz for the Women for Bees program by partaking in a National Geographic photoshoot with bees roaming her face. Dan Winters took the portraits as a photographer and amateur beekeeper himself. The photos aim to raise awareness of the importance of bees and the ability of the beekeeping industry to contribute to economic growth. During her interview with National Geographic, Jolie spoke about the connection between saving bees and supporting women’s entrepreneurship. Jolie explains that pollinating insects are “an indispensable pillar of our food supply.” Therefore, bees contribute to global food security. The Women for Bees program protects bees while “empowering women in their livelihoods.”

Jolie’s collaboration with the Women for Bees program is a strong example of a celebrity utilizing their social influence to promote social good. Her efforts with the Women for Bees program are sure to help the environment, global food security and the livelihoods of the many women involved.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Unsplash

The ActivistToday’s youth continue to make headlines by showing their passion for global activism. The increase in mass action against global injustices amplifies awareness of some of the world’s most pressing matters. The top five areas of concern for Gen Z youth are mental health, disease and famine, environmental issues, unemployment and education. According to a survey done in 2020, 20% of Gen Z youth often “donate or volunteer time to a cause.” The increased interest in global activism has captured the attention of major television networks, including CBS. The network plans to bring activism to primetime in fall 2021 with its new competition series, “The Activist.”

The Premise

The new show will center around six enthusiastic activists who will be split into three teams. A high-profile public figure will lead each team. The teams will compete to improve one of three critical global issues: education, health or the environment. The teams will receive judgment on how well they successfully campaign for their causes. The objective of each team is to establish influential movements that will publicize their message, spur action and propel the teams to the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy. From there, the activists must gain funding and support from world leaders. During the season finale, the team with the most support will be crowned the winner. Some of the world’s most noteworthy musicians will also perform at the finale. The series is produced by Global Citizen, a “movement of engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end extreme poverty by 2030.”

Relevance to Global Poverty

One of the issues participants in “The Activist” seek to address is education. In 2016, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that roughly one out of five children do not attend school worldwide. The “upper-secondary out-of-school rate” is highest in low-income countries at almost 60%.

The show will also tackle public health issues. Governments in low-income countries spend an average of $23 per person per year on health. This is extremely low when compared to the staggering rate of $3,860 per person spent by the U.S. government. Furthermore, child mortality rates in low-income nations are more than 10 times higher than in wealthy nations.

Lastly, “The Activist” plans to emphasize environmental issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that climate change will cause more than 250,000 deaths by 2030 due to heat stress, malaria and malnutrition. Climate change is especially troubling for low-income countries because of their susceptible geographical locations and their weakened ability to survive damage caused by extreme weather and elevating sea levels.

Inspiring Action

“The Activist” will be a platform to educate viewers on these imperative global issues and motivate the global population to support laws and policies beneficial to improving conditions in developing countries. By showcasing the hard work and commitment of Gen Z activists, others will hopefully be inspired to take action themselves. In all global issues, the commitment and activism of the youth will certainly have a marked impact.

Tiara Tyson
Photo: Flickr

Educational Disparities in Brazil
A number of organizations are working with local governments to combat educational disparities in Brazil. In 2021, people are living in a modern world that has deep connections to the internet, so a significant disparity for education in Brazil is access to connected technology. A majority of Latin American students lack access to digital devices with internet connections. A 2018 report stated that less than 30% of students in major countries including Brazil and Argentina had access to the web. One of the few countries with a majority of students connected to the internet is Chile. For context, around 18% of “remote rural” students in Mississippi lack internet connections. Students, especially those in extreme poverty, need access to the web, and educators need the proper equipment to teach their students.

Disparity Between Urban and Rural Students

A few factors play into the educational disparities in Brazil. The country invests one of the lowest shares of its GDP into primary and tertiary education. This may directly link to the fact that approximately 11.5 million Brazilians over the age of 15 are illiterate. A 2017 poll of public school teachers in Brazil found that “two-thirds of Brazilian public school teachers cite poor equipment as a reason for not using technological resources in the classroom.” Research shows that educational equipment and tools along with internet access at schools improve student academic performance. Meanwhile, rural students continue to have access to a limited number of technological resources. 

A large education disparity in Brazil exists between rural and urban students. Both rural and urban students transitioned from in-person to online school during COVID-19. However, teacher Ivonaldo Lopes de Araújo found that half of his class lacked access to the internet. Brazil’s government, international organizations and Google for Education are working to fix these issues.

Google for Education

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, created a program called Google for Education. The mission of the program involves “directing [its] products, people, programs and philanthropy toward a future where every student has access to the quality education they deserve.” Specifically, the program helps fund initiatives and institutions in Brazil that provide technology access for students and teachers. Colégio Agostiniano São José is a reference school for Google. The school has experience using Google Workspace and Chromebooks. The college services early childhood education and grade school educators and classrooms. Certified coaches run workshops for Brazilian educators, in which the coaches teach the educators how to properly utilize the technology in classrooms.

Google also spotlights Latin American innovation projects. In 2018, Google highlighted a few ways that the organization partnered with local governments in Brazil to make computers accessible to students and teachers in public schools. Carol Neris, a high school student, created an app called Hack Health, which gives users information about health resources near the students. The app shows doctor availability, vaccine availability and other information that bridges educational access gaps for locals. Other students from a reference school in São Paulo’s Colegio Magno developed a way to condense local water sources into drinkable water. The students even created a system to purify and use river water to grow vegetables for the cafeteria to use. Students and educators are using the technology resources available to enhance student education and improve local communities.

Resources from UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) outlined information and technology use in Brazilian education. The U.N. organization developed a program that works with regional governments and institutions to contribute resources to enhance the classroom. The program’s goals include providing policy support, training educators and promoting inclusive education that bridges economic and gender gaps. The program also collects statistics that help UNESCO develop and refine the program.

How Partnerships Help

Educational disparities in Brazil exist because of historical underfunding that has led to a limit on the technological resources available to educators and students. However, local education administrations that partner with Google and UNESCO help bridge the technology gap in public schools. While these programs cannot fix the lack of funding, the initiatives help promote technology and communication access in Brazil, which gives students and educators the necessary resources to succeed in this interconnected world.

Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo: Flickr

Mission: Recovering EducationThe global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education has been devastating. According to the World Bank, more than 1.6 billion children have lost out on education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, as of March 2021, many children are still not back in school. The impact of COVID-19 on education systems globally is not just a short-term problem. These disruptions in education could potentially “amount to losses valued at $10 trillion in terms of affected children’s future earnings.” UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank have implemented a joint endeavor to ensure progress made on global education goals is not lost, especially since education is the key to poverty reduction. A 2016 report from Global Partnership for Education (GPE) states that 171 million people could be lifted out of extreme poverty if all learners had basic reading skills. For this reason, Mission: Recovering Education in 2021 focuses on three primary goals.

Mission: Recovering Education in 2021: Goals

  1. All children return to school. The benefits of going to school extend beyond learning. Children also receive nutritious meals, vaccinations and psychosocial support, factors that are critical to a child’s well-being. In a remote learning environment, children lose these benefits, in addition to falling behind their expected learning curves. Mission: Recovering Education aims to reunite children across the globe with critical resources by focusing on two targets. The two targets involve bringing school enrollment back to pre-COVID-19 levels and ensuring that schools provide services to catch up on learning and well-being losses.
  2. Recovering learning loss. The pandemic may have caused children to fall behind their age-appropriate learning curves. Many learners may no longer be ready for a curriculum that they would have been ready for had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions. Remedial learning will help students to bridge the gap. It is important for remedial learning to be seen as essential and not just a luxury. Additionally, social-emotional learning also needs to be incorporated into classroom settings as bouncing back from setbacks can be challenging for children. Furthermore, digital technology is suggested for teaching basic literacy and math skills.
  3. Preparing and empowering teachers. Mission: Recovering Education recognizes the vital role teachers play in the global education system. Without healthy and well-trained teachers, students will be unable to recover the many months of learning opportunities they lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recovering the lost months of learning is essential to reducing global poverty rates. Teachers should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations and must receive support for implementing remedial education, incorporating social-emotional learning and transitioning to remote learning.

Looking Ahead

According to the GPE, education increases earnings by roughly 10% per year of further learning, supporting the fact that education reduces poverty. Mission: Recovering Education will incorporate monitoring tools to assess progress on its three primary goals. In doing so, the organization will help children globally recover as much lost education time as possible. This, in turn, will ensure that the global education system continues to lift children out of poverty.

Thomas McCall
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Communities Respond to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected indigenous populations around the world. This led to initiatives creating opportunities to translate critical information about the coronavirus into indigenous languages. As a result, they were able to aid in countering the spread of misinformation and save lives in an attempt to help indigenous communities respond to COVID-19.

International Year of Indigenous Languages

The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 71/178 in 2016. It declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The International Year is an important mechanism in the United Nations system for raising awareness about and mobilizing action toward global issues, such as helping indigenous communities respond to COVID-19. The goal of the International Year of Indigenous Languages was to promote and protect indigenous languages at risk of disappearing. This includes recognizing indigenous knowledge and communication as assets that make the world a richer place.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous Communities

Pandemics affected indigenous communities disproportionately since the beginning of history. Spanish influenza and H1N1 influenza pandemics infected and killed indigenous peoples in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States at high rates. The rates were higher than their non-indigenous counterparts. The same is true for the COVID-19 pandemic. Indigenous peoples’ increased vulnerability to infectious diseases stems from the legacy of colonialism, including poverty, poor physical and mental health, lack of access to housing, higher rates of domestic abuse and lower life expectancies. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic limits the ability of indigenous peoples to practice traditional customs, from formal greetings that involve touching to large gatherings marking important rites of passage, that are often the source of their resilience.

The rampant spread of misinformation and disinformation, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has called an “infodemic,” poses yet another challenge for indigenous communities fighting COVID-19. The same technology and social media enable the dissemination of false information about the coronavirus. This undermines the global response to the pandemic. People are then less willing to observe public health measures, such as mask-wearing and physical distancing. This makes public health information very important. WHO plans to make such information available in local indigenous languages in a culturally sensitive manner.

UNESCO

Utilizing feedback from indigenous peoples’ organizations and partners from the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, UNESCO has implemented multi-language initiatives to fight the infodemic in indigenous communities. One example is a community radio project in Ecuador that UNESCO created in collaboration with indigenous associations, the Ecuadorian government, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Community Radios Network (CORAPE). Radio is a particularly useful platform to share important information about the coronavirus with indigenous communities because many lack access to the internet. This community radio project secured 20 radio spots. It also produced and distributed a booklet of  COVID-19 information. The booklet also includes preventative measures in indigenous languages for the target populations of Afro-descendant and Montubio (mestizo coastal) communities.

Additionally, the website for the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages has a page dedicated to the importance of Indigenous languages during the COVID-19 pandemic that includes a collection of useful resources from United Nations agencies and other organizations about the coronavirus and its impacts in hundreds of different languages.

Cultural Survival

Noting the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on indigenous peoples and the strength they draw from their ancestors who lived through past pandemics, Cultural Survival acted quickly to provide resources. The nonprofit developed, distributed and translated critical information about COVID-19 prevention and response. Due to its multi-language initiative, it translated 417 public service announcements into 130 indigenous languages for preventative measures against COVID-19. It also helped distribute more than 1,200 radio stations around the world in addition to a prevention manual and emergency response toolkit, also available in many indigenous languages, to further support the activities of radio stations.

Cultural Survival is also using Google Maps technology to create the first global monitoring system for COVID-19 for indigenous communities. There are also programs through Cultural Survival to distribute financial resources to community-centered projects that help indigenous partners and local radio stations respond to the COVID-19 crisis in their local communities.

Indigenous Youth Bring COVID-19 Information to their Communities

Indigenous youth are mobilizing to protect their elders from COVID-19 through multi-language initiatives. In Brazil, many tribal elders have died from COVID-19. This is highly concerning for indigenous youth because the elders pass down important traditions and knowledge. Indigenous youth have noticed that the elders they lost to COVID-19 did not have enough information about the virus. They translated informative content only available in Portuguese into indigenous languages. They communicated the original meaning of technical words accurately.

For example, the Network of Young Communicators from the Upper Rio Negro uses WhatsApp to produce and broadcast podcast episodes in indigenous languages, in addition to circulating a written bulletin to residents in the region. Meanwhile, the group Mídia India created quarentenaindigena.info, which contains news and data about the spread of COVID-19 in Brazil’s indigenous communities.

Resilience

The COVID-19 pandemic has had many negative impacts on indigenous communities around the world. Multi-language initiatives created with the goal of sharing critical information about the coronavirus reflect the unshakeable resilience of Indigenous peoples.

Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Flickr

Education in MENA
MENA, which refers to Middle Eastern and North African countries, has long struggled with promoting the value of education. Many children begin their lives with an intellectual disadvantage. This creates difficulties compounded by a drop in oil prices and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, many depend on education reforms, particularly in developing technology, to increase employment rates and stabilize the economy.

Low Education Rates in MENA

While the average adult literacy rate is 86% globally, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) identified that only 75% of the population in Arabic regions can read and write. This is a 30% increase from the 1970s. However, when considering elderly individuals above the age of 65, UNESCO found that the global average literacy rate is 78%, but a mere 38% in Arabic regions.

There is a rising concern about the literacy rates of young children and their education in MENA. The onset of COVID-19 closed schools as a safety precaution. An estimated 100 million students between the age of five and 17 stopped attending school. Additionally, around 14.3 million children do not attend school due to conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen after the destruction of 8,850 of their institutions.

Girls’ Education in MENA

Around 67% of the Levant’s younger population think that they are not being taught enough. However, it is much worse for adolescent girls. Blatant gender discrimination controls the lives of many women, leading them to have an illiteracy rate of 42%, compared to 22% for their male counterparts.

Rates of women and girls acquiring education in MENA increased over the past half-century. The largest jump in registration was 7 million between 1950 and 1975. Nonetheless, a report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that women in Egypt, Jordan and Libya must still obtain permission from the dominant male figures in their life to work independently. With the help of the United States’ Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), programs to fund literacy campaigns, conferences and business training sessions have also expanded the support women and girls receive in relation to their education.

Education in MENA During COVID-19

To date, the pandemic closures affected more than 100 million tertiary school students and around 830,000 school staff. These students lack access to WIFI, computers, online courses and direct contact with teachers. There are increasing probabilities that less than half of students will meet the bare minimum requirements for math and language skills.

Luckily, some tertiary schools have reformed the education system. Through the Virtual University of Tunis (VUT) in Tunisia, nearly 110,000 students have started taking classes with the 18,000 professors that are aiding the initiative. In Morocco, 12 hours of daily lectures were also agreed to be broadcasted on sports channels that regularly play on television.

UNICEF updated its 2015 MENA Life Skills and Citizenship Education (LSCE) Initiative to match these unprecedented times. The organization strives to change the teaching methods presented through in-person and remote learning. Its methodology focuses on learning and teaching, promoting multiple pathways and enabling the environment. UNICEF wants to connect education to the labor market by becoming more skills-oriented. This initiative will also address the issue that the youth unemployment rate in MENA is 25%, the highest in the world.

These approaches and more can develop the future of children in MENA. Fostering a curiosity-filled environment will stimulate a productive generation and revolutionize the working sectors in the region. Transitioning to online courses and being more inclusive of gender and financial backgrounds will increase employment rates. With governments allocating 15% to 20% of total public funds on education, MENA can prosper.

– Sylvia Vivian Boguniecki
Photo: Flickr