Posts

roads in Zimbabwe

In developing countries like Zimbabwe where more than 67 percent of the population lives in rural areas, adequate roadways are essential for communities in the countryside to have access to education, jobs and health care. However, even those city roads in Zimbabwe that are paved, are filled with potholes while others have totally washed away. Rural areas have largely remained unlinked by asphalt roads, and the Zimbabwean government has historically lacked the necessary funds to launch an infrastructure overhaul that would not only maintain urban roads but also expand the transportation network to rural areas as well.

Road Improvements

However, improvements for roads in Zimbabwe are now underway. Extensive infrastructure developments have begun as of February 2019 to create more adequate highways to facilitate increases in traffic and create a safer environment for drivers. These developments will help ensure the quicker movement of goods and people across the region and are expected to help spur further economic development in the country. Regional connectivity will also improve, as the project has been planned in conjunction with Mozambique and South Africa. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already opened the newly-refurbished Tanganda-Ngundu Highway that connects the eastern part of Zimbabwe to South Africa.

The revamping of these roads is in line with Vision 2030 — a development initiative launched by the Zimbabwean government to upgrade the country to an upper-middle-class economy by 2030. The project has already created a spike in employment due to the rapid infrastructure overhaul construction operations, reflected in the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) minister’s statement calling everyone who wants money to come help build the roads, “Those who are ready to work on the roads come and get your money.”

While the renovation of highways and other essential roads in Zimbabwe is of utmost importance, rural communities are seeing significantly less attention. But that does not mean they are forgotten. In January 2019, the Zimbabwean government expressed interest with local officials of Kanyemba to expand updated roads to the rural province. Kanyemba is a largely underdeveloped province in northern Zimbabwe, and under the new infrastructure developments, the province officially received township status.

Looking Forward

With the expected economic growth after the road infrastructure improvements have been completed, rural areas are likely to develop as well. Once the government has more capital to put into its infrastructure services, it will be able to implement more extensive road network programs to reach beyond its main cities and highways to regions like Kanyemba. Zimbabwe’s future development, once rural roads are improved and/or created, will likely bring adequate jobs, health care and education to the more remote corners of the country. If all these expectations come to light, Zimbabwe has a great chance at realizing its goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2030 in accordance with Vision 2030.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

youth, education, morocco
Morocco is a North African country that has seen great improvements in the education sector in recent years.

Thanks to an increase in public spending, and several programs currently in place helping to improve youth education in Morocco, the country has drastically improved the populations’ literacy rates and education system as a whole.

Decade of Education

Morocco had the largest increase in youth literacy in the world between 2000 and 2015. The increase in this time span was 24.6 percent. The result of these efforts was the youth literacy that was vastly improved and that was at 95.1 percent in 2015.

This increase can largely be attributed to the Moroccan government’s Decade of Education. This program was established in 2000, with the goal of increasing enrollment rates and closing the gender gap in education. The program has been more than successful, closing the gender gap to 3.5 percent, and benefiting the 735,000 Moroccan youth with literacy and educational programs in 2012 alone.

The United States Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded Morocco with an honorable mention in the 2012 UNESCO Confucius prize, a prize that is awarded to the nations who show great improvement in literacy rates.

Partnering of USAID and Morrocan Government

Despite the vast improvement in literacy rates, there is still work to be done in the educational sector in the country. Drop-out rates are still high, with only 53 percent of students moving on from middle to high school and less than 15 percent of first-grade students likely to graduate from high school.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with the Moroccan government to improve education on a number of levels including reading, hiring more teachers and administrators and distributing reading materials.

The results of the partnership have been successful, to say the least. More than 12,000 students have been helped by the new reading method, over 340 teachers have been instructed on new reading material, an educational program to help deaf students through sign language is now offered by 10 schools across Morocco.

In 2017, a nationwide program was established to implement a phonics-based educational reading method in grades 1 and 2 in order to further develop youth education in Morocco.

Through the collaboration of the government and different nongovernmental organizations, tens of thousands of new teachers were trained every year and primary education rates rose from 53.4 percent to 98.2 percent between 2000 and 2009.

Vision 2030

Public spending on education has risen considerably in recent years. Over 21 percent of total government spending was used for education in 2014, which accounted for 5.9 percent of GDP that year. Public spending on education has risen by 5 percent per year almost every year since 2002.

The Moroccan Minister of National Education and Vocational Training unveiled a new educational project known as Vision 2030 during the presentation of national education budget projection in 2015.

The project will put emphasis on several levels of educational improvement, including mastering the Arabic language, a working knowledge of foreign languages and integrating general education with vocational training.

Youth Education in Morocco has been steadily improving thanks to government programs and nonprofits donating time and money to help the cause. The country continues to explore future ideas to continue to improve the quality of education in the country.

– Casey Geier

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia, human rights are based off the Hanbali Islamic religious laws, which are under absolute rule of the Saudi royal family. Due to the strict regime of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, human rights in the nation have been ranked some of the worst in the world. However, due to a recent change of power, progress has been made in terms of human rights, especially for women. Here are 10 facts about human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Facts About Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

  1. On June 24, 2018, women gained the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman lifted the ban due to his 2030 Vision to have women ascend ranks in the workforce. Women 18 and older are able to now apply for a driver’s license, and driving lessons are offered by instructors that can even be women who obtained their license abroad.
  2. Male guardianship is a huge issue in Saudi Arabia. Every women has to have a “male guardian” that can be a husband, brother, father or son. These male figures have the authority to make decisions on the women’s behalf and decide if she can apply for a passport, get married, travel or leave prison. However, on April 2017, King Salman removed this restriction and gave women access to any government service without a “guardian” (unless it interferes with existing regulations). 
  3. Dress code is a strict part of the Islamic law, and women have traditionally been restricted against wearing makeup or clothes that show off their beauty. Instead, they have to wear some kind of opaque cloak to cover their body which does not prevent them from being harassed on the daily by religious police for being too “revealing”or wearing too much makeup.  
  4. Torture and other cruel treatments of detainees in Saudi Arabia are common practices. In fact, many human right defenders and critics of the system have been sent to prison or unfair treatment for their protestations, such as when authorities passed the “Counter-Terrorism” law.
  5. Competing freely in sports has been a struggle for women in Saudi Arabia. In 2015, Saudi Arabia proposed hosting the Olympics but without any women. When Saudi Arabia sent women to the Olympics in London in 2012, two of the women were labeled as “prostitutes,” had to cover their hair and be accompanied by a guardian. However, in September 2017, the national stadium in Saudi Arabia welcomed female spectators, but they were assigned their own section in the typically male-only venue.
  6. Discrimination exists for Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a minority. This Islamic sect faces prejudice that limits their right to express their belief, work and access state services. In fact, many of the Shi’a activists are continuously arrested, imprisoned and even killed.
  7.  Freedom of expression, association and assembly is a problem in Saudi Arabia as well. Authorities still continue to harass writers, online commentators, activists or anyone who express their views against government policies.
  8. Women still have restrictions on interacting with men. Women are required to limit the amount of time they spend with men who are not related to them. There are even separate entrances and exits for women and men in a majority of buildings, offices, universities and more. A person can be criminally charged if caught breaking this rule.
  9. Male and female swimming pools, spas and gyms are all separate. However, the Crown Prince aims to make Saudi Arabia more appealing for tourists and investors and is thus planning to create a resort that allows gender-mixing bathing, bikinis and alcoholic beverages.
  10. The death penalty in Saudi Arabia is still a major problem. The courts in Saudi Arabia still impose the death penalty for a variety of crimes. Many defendants that were sentenced to death were seen to have unfair trials, and cases have even occured where authorities fail to inform the families of their relatives’ executions.

Creating Change, One Supporter At a Time

Human rights in Saudi Arabia appear to be improving due to the 2030 Vision; however, there is still a long way to go. Continuous support from protestors and other countries is crucial for creating change in Saudi Arabia.

– Negin Nia
Photo: Flickr

development in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is steadily growing to be a formidable player in the 21st century on the world stage, especially with its massive oil industry, staunch relationship with the United States, and the crucial role it plays in middle eastern geopolitics and international affairs. Yet, at the same time, development in Saudi Arabia has been hindered over the decades due to its conservatism and hidebound ideals.

Saudi Arabia On the Global Stage

Although statistics and figures on the country’s poverty rate remain elusive, it is predicted that a quarter of the population may live under the threat of poverty, which is considered to be about $17 a day, or $530 a month. Income disparities also continue to be on the rise and the unemployment rate currently stands at about 12.7 percent.

Moreover, even though government-run welfare programs and spending systems like Zakat have helped aid development in Saudi Arabia in the past, the country still prioritizes the strength of its oil industry and its own self-image above all else.

Fortunately, Saudi Arabia now experiences a new wave of revolutionary change via the new crown-prince Salman’s reign. The prince’s new policies usher in a new period gradually shifting away from the traditional pivotal ideologies of Wahhabism, pan Arabism and conservatism that Saudi Arabia once stood for. The Saudi economy has great potential and capacity due to the country’s relatively young, and working-age population.

Vision 2030

In its new era of social and economic changes, the Kingdom hopes to achieve its Vision 2030 reform plan and focus on promoting greater social and political stability, sustainability and transparency. Vision 2030 also concentrates on important factors like improving standard of living and education reform so as to make future workers more skilled and competitive for the labor market.

Moreover, Prince Salman’s policies will hopefully lead to greater social progress and development in Saudi Arabia, owing to its focus on anti-corruption measures, gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Anti-Corruption and Empowerment Efforts

There has been a widespread crackdown on problems like the income gap and corruption as the country’s new anti-graft campaign to ‘clean up the economy’ goes into full swing. The anti-corruption campaigns have already yielded more than an estimated $106 billion in financial settlements from many corporates, executives, businesses, and high profile figures from both the government and the royal family.

Furthermore, with the country’s focus on socially and economically empowering women, notable social transformations will take place in Saudi society as women are given more places in the workforce and granted permits and licenses for investment and commercial activities. Consequently, the National Transformation Program 2020 also aims to boost employment opportunities among women and the youth population.

Saudi Arabia’s Continued Progress

The ban on female drivers is steadily being lifted and women will also be given more places in the municipalities in the future. In 2017, Saudi Arabia was given a place at the U.N. Women’s Rights Commission for a four- year term.

Due to recently falling oil prices, it is vital for the country to reduce its over-reliance and dependence on the oil industry. Development in Saudi Arabia can be stimulated by future growth in the country’s non-oil sectors and further economic and industrial diversification.

Fortunately, the country’s competitiveness is improving as is its growing independence and decline in the level of imports. The government also hopes to further open up the economy and interact with global markets.

Although social and economic changes in Saudi society will take time to materialize, the liberalization of the country is imperative for building a foundation for long-term sustainable growth in a fast-paced and dynamically changing world.

– Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr