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Energy Use in Sub-Saharan AfricaEnergy demand is estimated to increase by 85 percent in Africa between 2010 and 2040. To compensate for growing infrastructure and population, the cheapest and most environmentally-friendly energy sources are in high demand as well. Countries within sub-Saharan Africa have taken numerous measures to improve affordable living through receiving aid and implementing programs to promote efficient energy use. However, challenges hinder the implementation of efficient energy use in these countries. For example, the trained workforce that could take on massive energy projects is very small. There is also very minimal awareness of the benefits of efficient energy use so many people prefer to stick to traditional sources. Governments and global organizations are combating these challenges as they work to advance energy efficiency and indirectly reduce poverty and over-spending in sub-Saharan Africa.

Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies Training Week

The International Energy Agency and the Department of Energy of South Africa hosted the very first Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies (E4) Training Week for sub-Saharan Africa in Pretoria, South Africa from October 14 to October 17, 2019. The trainings’s objective was to educate junior policymakers from all over sub-Saharan Africa to model future politicians into environmental activists. The week included courses on the ability of energy-efficient sources to reduce extra expenses and, therefore, improve living conditions. The courses taught participants about energy efficiency policy in buildings, appliances, equipment, industry, cities and indicators and evaluation. E4 Training Week also made a key point to encourage women to apply for the program.

Numerous organizations supported the E4 Training Week, including Global Environment Fund (GEF), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EACREEE) and SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE).

The Domestic Energy and Rural Access to Basic Sources Project

The World Bank’s Domestic Energy and Rural Access to Basic Sources Project (PEDASB) worked to install a 52-kilowatt plant in Zantiébougou, south of Bamako in the Sikasso region. The plant has provided electricity to 765 people and allows women to carry out other economic activities and trades as they are no longer concerned about gathering fuel, such as wood. PEDASB also implemented a hybrid electricity system that combines solar photovoltaic and diesel power in Niena. The system improved the quality of health care in local clinics and increased school performance in students. This energy sector as a whole is contributing to the economy of sub-Saharan Africa and increasing the wealth of its people.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Ethiopia’s government is taking the initiative to improve efficient energy use. Through a collaboration with the World Bank Project, the Ethiopian government introduced compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which help rural families save money. 80 fewer megawatts of electricity is used by distributing 2.5 million CFL bulbs, which quantifies as $100 million saved. Through a $4 million investment, 5 million CFL bulbs were distributed all over the country. Households under the poverty line were able to reduce their energy usage by 55 percent which significantly cut utility costs for families. Beyond lightbulbs, 2.5 million efficient cookstoves were distributed in Ethiopia, reducing 40 to 60 percent of wood fuel. This not only helps the environment but also boosts families’ lifestyles all over the country.

The Electrify Africa Act

In 2016, President Barack Obama signed the Electrify Africa Act (S.2152) into law. The Electrify Africa Act ensures that the Obama Administration’s Power Africa initiative remains in effect, providing millions of sub-Saharan Africans with access to electricity which in turn, increases economic growth and development.

So far, the Electrify Africa Act is a great success. As of January 2019, Power Africa, with the support of the Electrify Africa Act, achieved the following results in sub-Saharan Africa:

  • 20.5 billion invested in Power Africa transactions
  • 58,552,435 beneficiaries gaining access to electricity
  • 10,095 megawatts (MW) reaching financial close
  • 2,652 MW moved from financial close to operation

In conclusion, sub-Saharan countries are breaking the cycle of poverty through creatively implementing efficient energy sources. From educating young policymakers to governments distributing free equipment and implementing laws, numerous countries are able to benefit from efficient energy use in sub-Saharan Africa.

Haarika Gurivireddygari
Photo: Flickr

 

Oral Health and Poverty
Dental health is a topic that people often forget in discussions of global poverty as other health issues can overshadow it. However, oral health and poverty have a link. Maintaining proper dental health is essential for individuals to stay healthy and out of poverty. Listed below are four ways in which improving individuals’ oral health can help fight global poverty.

4 Connections Between Oral Health and Poverty

  1. There is a close link between poor oral health and malnutrition. This is largely because people who have inadequate nutrition may also have weaker teeth, which are then more prone to decay. The pain of tooth decay and inadequate chewing is often enough to keep many individuals from consuming an adequate amount of food. Individuals who have fewer than three functional molars have even more difficulty consuming food. These individuals have shown a 40 percent reduction in masticatory performance or the ability to chew.
  2. People with chronic dental pain struggle with productivity. As most anyone who has had a toothache can attest to, dental pain can affect one’s ability to focus. In addition to this, the FDI World Dental Federation claims that people miss millions of work or school days each year due to oral afflictions. Untreated dental pain prevents people from being able to learn and earn successfully. This is another way that oral health and poverty connect.
  3. Uncontrolled oral bacteria can cause larger health issues. Without regular oral hygiene measures like brushing and flossing, the mouth, and especially the gums, can build up bacteria that does not just cause tooth decay but is also harmful to the rest of the body. This bacteria can cause endocarditis and pneumonia, as well as pregnancy complications. In short, good oral hygiene can prevent other health conditions from occurring.
  4. Focusing on oral health requires habits that benefit overall wellness. The primary example of this is the reduction of tobacco use. Smoking and chewing tobacco have a number of negative side effects, including crippling tooth decay, gum disease and cancer. In addition to this, most experts estimate that smoking kills more than 8 million individuals annually across the globe. There are also economic consequences to smoking, as evidenced by the staggering economic damage that people can incur as a result of smoking. One can calculate the economic damage by adding up both medical costs and the loss of productivity that smoking causes. The World Bank estimates that this figure is more than $1.4 trillion annually. Everything said, maintaining good oral health can help individuals stay healthy and productive.

Efforts by NGOs to Improve Oral Health

Fortunately, many groups have already begun to respond to this pressing issue. Dental care-centered mission trips and humanitarian outreach programs have long been in effect. Now, other larger organizations are increasingly involving themselves in oral health. For example, the organization Shoulder to Shoulder conducted a 17-year-long effort to craft an oral health program that produced many benefits for the people of Honduras. The program helped many individuals improve their dental health and people considered it to be a great success. UNICEF implemented a similar program that focused on tooth-brushing in the Philippines. This program reached countless schoolchildren in the country.

All of the above reasons demonstrate why improving oral health is crucial for fighting poverty. All said, there is a lot of good work that NGOs are currently doing to help promote oral health education and practices. Oral health is essential to ensure individuals’ overall health as well as their financial security. It is important that the connection between oral health and poverty remains at the forefront of discussions surrounding global health care going forward.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

5 Causes of Poverty
Of the population of the world, over 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. This is a staggering number that begs the question, why? What are the causes of global poverty? There is a multitude of reasons as to why poverty devastates countries, but here are the top five causes of global poverty.

5 Causes of Global Poverty

  1. War: A country that goes to war can impact poverty greatly. There are several factors to consider when looking at how war contributes to poverty. There is the destruction of the infrastructure wherever the conflict rages. Fierce fighting can destroy power facilities, buildings and roads and usually take years to rebuild. The disruption of trade can have a devastating impact on the goods that people rely on. The halt to production in factories, growing of crops and work in mines can bring a country’s economy to almost a complete stop. The human cost is the most devastating out of every impact that war can bring. Not only is there the number of dead to consider, but also the number of people fleeing the conflict zones. Large numbers of a country’s workforce are fleeing the conflict zones looking for peace in a different country. Today, 71 million people have been displaced because of war and violence in countries all over the world. Since the creation of organizations such as the United Nations, countries are more willing to talk to each other and keep the peace rather than fight.
  2. Little to No Education: Often, when a country is in poverty, there is very little to no education available for its citizens.  Nearly 1 billion people came into the 21st century not knowing how to write their names or read a book. When a nation lacks in education, they become an untrained workforce for an impoverished nation. Families in these countries often cannot afford to send their children to school, and frequently require them to work to support their families. By the year 2000, it was possible to send every child in the world to school and in order to do that, the world would have only had to spend less than 1 percent of what it does on weapons. However, this obviously did not happen. Even though 1 billion people or 18 percent of the population could not read or write at the start of the century, this statistic is still an improvement from 1980 when the world illiteracy rate was 30 percent.
  3. Corruption: One can blame poverty in a country on the leaders as well as any outside factors. A country with corrupt leadership can have a devastating impact on the well being of its people. Corruption can divert much-needed resources and funds away from those that need them. Every country may have some level of corruption, however, the most poverty-stricken countries often show the most corruption. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Index, out of the 177 nations it ranked, 118 had a score of 50 or less. A score of 100 means that the country is free of corruption. Meanwhile, the least developed nations in the world have a score of 28. Fortunately, many countries are creating offices to hold their leaders accountable. Cuba, for example, has started the Ministry for Auditing and Control that aims to fight corruption within the country.
  4. Inflation: Countries’ economies can fluctuate from extreme highs to lows. Venezuela is a current example of a country going through this type of hardship. The South American country was able to prosper from an economic boom from its oil industry. When that began to regress, the country’s economy began to take a turn for the worse. Inflation ruined the country, making goods almost impossible to afford. There was also a lack of necessary supplies such as food and medicine. The current poverty rate in Venezuela sits at 90 percent out of a population of 32 million. Because of the economic hardship, 4 million people have left Venezuela as refugees. Despite Venezuela’s struggles, there are examples of countries that have faced terrible economic times and turned things around. Norway had one of the worst economies at the turn of the 20th century, but through foreign aid and resources, it is now one of the richest nations in the world.
  5. Natural Disasters: A natural disaster can have an overwhelming impact on a country’s livelihood and the well-being of its people. There is very little that anyone can do to stop natural disasters from happening. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, landslides, volcanic eruptions and tornadoes can destroy areas and leave whole regions to pick up the pieces. Countries that are already in poverty struggle to recover and frequently sink deeper into poverty. According to the World Bank, over 26 million people enter poverty each year because of natural disasters. By the end of 2018, the world lost $225 billion as a result of natural disasters globally. As technology improves, countries become better prepared for natural disasters and have more warning.

No matter what the causes of global poverty are, there is always a solution to fix them. Whether it is through international aid or a change in legislation around the world, people can eliminate those causes, or at the very least, limit the devastation of poverty.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Pixabay

Eswatini, formerly called Swaziland, is a small, mountainous, landlocked country surrounded on all sides by South Africa and in close proximity to Mozambique. While Eswatini is classified as a lower-middle-income country, it is still plagued with severe poverty and high unemployment rates. One demonstration of this poverty can be seen by the approximately 900,000 individuals who were recorded to have no access to electricity in 2017. This is due in large part because Eswatini does not produce much of its own electricity. Rather, they get much of it, along with many other imports, from South Africa. In recent years, organizations like the World Bank have been working to improve Eswatini’s electricity supply, but there is still much work to be done.

Governmental Efforts

In Eswatini, The Eswatini Energy Regulatory Authority (ESERA) regulates the country’s electric supply industry, while The Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) acts as the national utility. The Eswatini Electricity Company is state-owned and controls hydropower stations in Maguga, Ezulwini, Edwaleni and Maguduza. Despite this, Eswatini is a net importer of electricity due to the fact that its domestic electricity generation is insufficient to meet national demand. This can be attributed in large part to a lack of water storage, which has led to severe variations in annual domestic generation output over the years.  However, the Eswatini Government is looking to become more energy independent in the near future and has implemented the Rural Electrification Program (REP), which has increased the percent of Eswatini residents with access to proper electricity from 5 percent in 2003 to 75 percent in 2017.

The World Bank’s Role in Eswatini’s Electrical Supply

In conjunction with the REP, the World Bank has also aided in improving Eswatini’s electricity supply. One of the World Bank’s most notable projects in Eswatini is called the Network Reinforcement and Access Project.  It contains four parts. The first two components focus on strengthening the transmission and distribution network in Shiselweni and building upon the REP program to finance additional household connections. The third component provides analytical support by financing technical aid, and the 4th component is designed to improve Eswatini’s ability to respond to major economic or social emergencies. These efforts by the World Bank have proved to be extraordinarily helpful in Eswatini’s efforts to become a nation that produces its own energy.

Final Steps

Eswatini has taken major steps forward to address their issues with producing electricity.  However, the country is still struggling overall in this regard, and more work is necessary in order for the nation to become energy independent.  Funding from the World Bank, as well as from organizations like the UN, will be of great help to Eswatini as it seeks to improve access to electricity for its residents.

– Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

youth unemployment in jamaica

Jamaica has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 21.8 percent of youths unemployed as of January 2019. However, this rate represents a significant improvement after reaching a high of 37.5 percent in 2013. The World Bank and the Government of Jamaica are working to continue this progress in reducing youth unemployment in Jamaica by creating and supporting programs designed to increase opportunities for young Jamaicans.

Trends in Unemployment

Recent research has revealed that there is an even greater disparity when comparing young women and young men. In January 2019, the unemployment rate was 17.9 percent for young men and 26.5 percent for young women. The recent progress in reducing youth unemployment in Jamaica is still remarkable and has been highlighted by many, including Kemesha Kelly, a youth advocate and lecturer at The University of the West Indies, Mona

Kelly has stated that “everyone must participate in the progress. Putting job creation at the heart of economic policymaking and development plans will not only generate decent work opportunities, but also more robust, inclusive and poverty-reducing growth. It is a virtuous circle that is as good for the economy as it is for the people, and one which will lead to sustainable development.”

The Government of Jamaica seems committed to the work Kelly described, as Jamaica’s Minister of Education has proudly noted the progress that has been made and expressed a determination to keep this momentum going and reduce the rate even further in the coming years.

Government Initiatives

As a part of this commitment, the Ministry of Education hosted a youth career week in 2018, highlighting career and skill-training opportunities for young Jamaicans. This included a youth forum, an expo with displays on career paths, and a National Skills Competition for students in secondary and primary schools. Beyond this, the government is also working to strengthen the apprenticeship program to increase opportunities for young people and decrease youth unemployment in Jamaica.

Jamaica is using the Australian system as a potential model, which requires youth to go through an apprenticeship program in order to enter the formal economy. While Jamaica’s government has not noted any plans to make apprenticeship mandatory, they want to increase its availability and popularity among youth, developing it within the Jamaican context.

In addition to apprenticeships, the Director-General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Wayne Henry, also stated the need to ensure the programs offered at educational institutions could directly lead to meaningful employment. Specifically, programs in emerging fields, including robotics, criminology, entrepreneurship, engineering and mechanics, should be more widely offered.

This focus on apprenticeship has been in the works since 2017 and may be one of the reasons for the improvements to youth unemployment rates. In February 2014, a forum was hosted to discuss the goal of increased apprenticeship and open a dialogue between the government and the private sector.

World Bank Program

In 2014, the World Bank began its Sustainable Youth Employment in Digital and Animation Industries Project for Jamaica. The project has been working to help youth become more employable and will remain active until January 2020. This is a growing industry that significantly benefits from having young tech entrepreneurs who can bring new, innovative ideas. The project focuses on helping youth develop the critical thinking skills needed for entrepreneurship in this field, connecting youth entrepreneurs to each other and to industry leaders.

Moving Forward

Jamaica is not alone in facing the struggle of high youth unemployment, as the Latin American and the Caribbean regions have the third-highest youth unemployment rate in the world. If these efforts to reduce youth unemployment in Jamaica continue to be successful, other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America may be able to model their own initiatives off of Jamaica’s, learning how to focus on increasing youth employment as a way to improve livelihoods and the overall economy.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in UzbekistanUzbekistan is located in central Asia, and its citizens mostly live in rural areas with low housing, mostly congregated in the eastern half of the country. A big reason for this is the desertification of land in the western half of the country, particularly around the Aral Sea. The sea has also been polluted by pesticides and industrial waste, which has significantly impacted crop production in the immediate area.

All things considered, not only has the western half of Uzbekistan come to resemble a wasteland but the entire country continues to suffer water shortages to this day. Fortunately, agriculture in Uzbekistan is beginning to show signs of improvement in the eastern half of the country. Rural farming and agriculture accounts for more than one-third of employment, and is mostly focused on cotton. There is also a multitude of fruits and vegetables grown for at least local consumption and, in some cases, export. There is also a healthy silkworm cultivation sector.

Aid from The World Bank

In 2018, the World Bank launched the Additional Financing — Horticulture Development Project in Uzbekistan. The project focuses on improving horticulture, both in terms of productivity and marketability. Uzbekistan is currently transitioning from a state development focused economy to a private sector-focused economy, and the improvement of the agricultural sector can jumpstart economic growth in the country.

Hideki Mori, the World Bank’s Country Manager for Uzbekistan, said: “agriculture and rural development are at the heart of the transformation underway in Uzbekistan and the shift to horticulture is a big part of the Government’s investment strategy.” Indeed, most of the project is focused specifically on growing the horticulture sector commercially, with the diversification of crops cited as a major focus area. The overall goal is for rural areas to be able to cultivate better more produce than cotton. Fruits and vegetables will be the focus for exports, as they account for up to 50 percent of the value of crop output, as well as 35 percent of the sector’s trade value. Uzbekistan’s agriculture improvement begins with the diversification and increased marketability of its yields.

Rising Benefits

The shift toward diversified horticultural exports is already showing results. At least 45 Dutch trading companies are looking to partner with sellers in Uzbekistan, the first of many opportunities for increased profits. In addition to shifting the focus to diversified yields, there is also a focus on creating labor-intensive agricultural positions, providing regular work for many in rural communities.

With a solid agricultural base, Uzbekistan can both provide for citizens at home in terms of food and work, and with the trend toward export-driven growth, it can leverage that base to grow the new economy. If the country continues this way, there’s a lot of room for substantial growth, including into other sectors. Boosting agriculture in Uzbekistan can open doors for improvement in other sectors of the economy.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Pixabay

Credit Access in MoldovaThe Republic of Moldova, a small, post-Soviet landlocked country bordering Ukraine to the north and Romania to the south, currently grapples with issues of economic freedom. According to the Index of Economic Freedom, Moldova ranks as the 97th freest economy in the world with Russia at 98th and Burkina Faso at 96th. With 180 countries ranked, the Heritage Foundation categorizes Moldova as a mostly unfree economy. Credit access in Moldova suffers along with its corrupt economic and political culture, affecting the most at-risk individuals in the population.

A Shift Away From the Agricultural Sector

Farming and agriculture once made up the bulk of Moldova’s domestic economy with agriculture accounting for 42 percent of the Moldovan GPD in 2000, according to a multi-national case study including USAID. The CIA World Factbook cites that in 2017, Moldovan agriculture made up only 17.7 percent of the GDP while Services took up 62 percent. In just 19 years, the Moldovan economy has experienced a rapid change. Moldova is transferring from an agrarian economy into a service-based economy, but during this transition, farmers are being left behind and their credit access in Moldova is dismal.

Farmers face the unique challenge of navigating a banking system that is new for their country. Before the year 2000, the Moldovan state owned all agrarian land. A USAID report explains how 800,000 private farmers became landowners and suddenly needed additional financial resources, yet struggled to acquire them since the amounts requested were only a few hundred dollars each–unattractive investments for local banks. The banks refused to work with the burgeoning independent farmer sector, making credit access impossible for many who needed small loans to fund and improve their businesses.

No Access to Investment

Along with the difficulties of learning a new market system, Moldovan farmers also encounter immense corruption in both government and business. The World Bank reports in its Country Partnership Framework (CPF) that “a massive bank fraud in 2013-14 enabled by political interference…led to depreciation of the currency, inflation, financial destabilization and loss of investor confidence.” Those who have no credit access in Moldova also have lower chances of receiving investment from outside the country because the risk of investing in a corrupt country carries too much risk for international investors.

The World Bank CPF explains that “limited access, inefficiency and poor quality have contributed to social exclusion, persistent poverty and vulnerability to shocks, especially in rural areas.” Rural farmers cannot rely on either the state or the banks to offer much-needed investment, and therefore are left without a critical resource essential to operating a thriving business.

The World Bank’s Moldovan Engagement

The World Bank currently sees transparency, accountability and corruption as the most pressing issues to the Moldovan economy. In an effort to stabilize the region and bring economic prosperity, the World Bank has ten active projects in Moldova. The organization cites three objectives: “strengthening the rule of law and accountability, improving access and quality of public services and enhancing the quality and relevance of education and training for job-relevant skills”. The objectives of The World Bank CPF, while broad, would allow for Moldovan farmers to either gain the credit access needed to operate their farms or expand into other sectors of the economy.

Three projects from The World Bank in particular help to solve the issue of credit access in Moldova. To help rural community members that wish to expand their horizons past farming, the World Bank has instituted the Moldova Education Reform Project, which gives out result-based specific loans to certain sectors of Moldovan education to improve the efficiency of the education sector and improve “the ministry of education’s capacity to monitor the reform”.

To help squash corruption and inefficiency, the World Bank also created the Tax Administration Modernization Project which reviews the Moldovan tax code to ensure an equal and comprehensive tax policy that supports the development of small businesses.

In an effort to help all Moldovans, the World Bank’s Moldova Economic Development Policy Operation Project (DPO) helps “to support the government of Moldova in reducing fiscal risks and leveling of the playing field for private sector development [by] strengthening oversight [and supporting] private sector development in access to business opportunities and resources”.

Lessons Learned

While credit access in Moldova is a complex issue, institutions like the World Bank that specialize in economic reform and recovery are getting involved in the country. Supporting institutions such as the World Bank helps the World’s poor help themselves by improving local economies and the governmental and business practices around them.

– Spencer Julian
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Sierra Leone

Situated towards the bottom of the bulge on Africa’s west coast, Sierra Leone sits on top of one of the most concentrated gold and diamond deposits in the world. But the country’s history as a prime subject of colonialism’s horrors explains why it consistently ranks as one of the poorest in the world. Here are eight facts about education in Sierra Leone that help gage context for the country’s current state of affairs.

8 Facts About Education in Sierra Leone

  1. Poor Education Statistics- As is typical in low-income communities, the country, now with a population of more than 7.5 million people, yields unimpressive statistics when it comes to categories such as enrollment, completion and literacy. A 2016 UNESCO report found that only 47 percent of all primary school students progressed to their last year, which is the American equivalent of fifth-grade. However this social problem is well recognized, and the country’s most recent president-elect, Julius Maada Bio, even incorporated it as one of the pillars of his campaign.
  2. Recent Switch in the System- In 2017, Sierra Leone switched its education structure from a 3-6-3-4 system. The current Sierra Leonean educational system now operates under what is known as a 6-3-3-4 structure. This means that a student’s “complete” schooling is broken into four parts: six years of pre-primary school, three years of junior secondary school, three years of senior secondary school and four years at a college program.
  3. Testing into Higher Education- Students face obstacles along the way through their education, as after the first nine years, which are compulsory education, they must take a Basic Education Certificate Examination which determines who can proceed to senior secondary school. Students that pass this test must take an additional test following their completion of senior secondary school: the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination.
  4. The Difficult BECE- This exam carries extreme importance, as its passage is necessary to be granted a spot in the Sierra Leone university system. Moreover, in 2011, only 47 percent of test-takers passed. Although alternative routes, such as trade schools, have been set in place to provide pathways for students that fail to reach this point, a general lack of funding towards them has resulted in their deterioration.
  5. New President Dedicated to Improving Education Standards- Bio’s election in 2018 meant a leadership transition from the All People’s Congress (which had been in power for the previous 10 years and had been consistently accused of corruption) to the People’s Party. In an article, the online publication Theirworld described his campaign as “tumultuous,” insinuating that the turnover was far from smooth. Despite this, Bio has since lived up to his campaign promises regarding education and is paving the way for better academic opportunities for future Sierra Leoneans.
  6. Free Education for Primary and Secondary Students- Bio recently launched a program that grants free education to the more than 1.5 million primary and secondary students in Sierra Leone, a move that holds tremendous implications towards reducing the country’s socioeconomic bias towards education completion. He also nearly doubled the country’s education budget, raising it from 11 percent to 20 percent of public spending. With the implementation of affordable education, Bio hopes to combat the low school enrollment and completion levels that have traditionally plagued the country.
  7. Free Teacher Training- The new education plan also includes increased attention to teachers across the country. The teacher competency rate currently hovers below a mere 50 percent across the board for all levels of education. Bio addresses this in his program by making teacher-education free and by opening teacher training campuses which are fairly distributed across the country.
  8. World Bank’s Positive Involvement- The last of these eight facts about education in Sierra Leone is that the World Bank is actively involved in the establishment of new programs working to remedy the aforementioned institutional problems with education. Their recent program labeled the “Revitalizing Education Development in Sierra Leone Project” has funneled $31.37 million into the education system since 2016. The fruit of this is the Performance-Based Financing (PBF) plan, where schools receive higher government grants funded through the World Bank based on “key contributors to school effectiveness”. These include student attendance, reading proficiency and school management practices. The PBF program enforces good educational practices, which in turn benefits the entire learning environment.

Even with all these improvements, it must be noted that Sierra Leone still faces significant gender discrimination in its education system, as women are currently significantly underrepresented. For instance, in 2015, the male literacy rate almost doubled the female literacy rate for the population aged 15 or older.

However, hopefully, the trend of inclusion rooted in uniform equity being promoted by Bio will soon extend to all people, especially those historically excluded. His sentiment is echoed in his own words as he said during his campaign, “Education is a fundamental right for all Sierra Leoneans.”

– Liam Manion
Photo: Global Partnership

Africa Water Solutions
John Ochieng knew his people deserved better. After all, access to water, the world’s most basic need, should not be this difficult. Now, Ochieng has been with Africa Water Solutions (AWS) for eight years working as the Operations Director. The nonprofit organization focuses on helping communities have access to safe water in their homes. This year alone they have their sights set on nearly 200 villages.

John Ochieng

A native of eastern Uganda, Ochieng’s parents passed away when he was young resulting in the loss of their property. Through the experience with the legal system, Ochieng found “justice was not for the poor” which inspired him to pursue a law degree. Ochieng graduated from Makerere University with a law degree in 2007 and practiced as a judge for six months before resigning. Ochieng noted the justice system in Uganda is not as effective as it is in the United States. After returning to his hometown, Ochieng found a hole being utilized as a latrine behind several homes. This discovery is what led to his involvement with Africa Water Solutions, and how he ultimately found himself doing what he is doing today.

Uganda’s Struggles with Water

Despite recent steady economic growth, more than 23 million Ugandans still do not have clean water. Even though the small country is home to the world’s largest lake and longest river, the open water is undrinkable. The high demand for clean water and poor management of sanitation systems has led to these shortages. Uganda suffers from erratic rains, deforestation, environmental degradation and pollution. This water crisis affects education, health and poverty, as well as women and children.

A 2016 World Bank Poverty Assessment shows Uganda has reduced monetary poverty faster than any other sub-Saharan African country, decreasing from 31.1 percent in 2003 to 19.7 percent in 2013. However, Uganda lags behind on non-monetary areas like sanitation and education.

The United Nations found Ugandans lose nearly 40 billion hours a year fetching clean drinking water, leaving little time for other things throughout the day. Further, Oeching stated Ugandans walk between three to four hours a day for clean drinking water, “wasting time to fetch 20 liters of water.” Women and children carry the heaviest burden as they are responsible for retrieving water for the family. This responsibility then places them at increased risk for assault and injury.

Children often miss school because they are collecting water or are sick from a water-borne illness. Females are kept home when menstruating because there is no private place to attend to their hygiene needs. Because children are unable to attend school and get an education, the entire nation is affected as it becomes more difficult to emerge from the cycle of poverty.

In Uganda, 20 percent of the population lives in urban centers while the remaining 80 percent reside in rural areas. The 80 percent often lack clean water, washrooms and electricity. Africa Water Solutions helps these communities have those amenities by encouraging self-sustaining practices.

Africa Water Solution’s Impact

Africa Water Solutions aims to “trigger people’s minds to think they can solve their own problems.” Each village has between 100-150 homes. Ochieng said the process begins by mobilizing the leaders to mobilize their people. To do so, they first identify key brokers, government and kingships, and meet with local leaders who then call for a village meeting. At the village meeting, conversations are started as pictures of houses in that village are displayed. Africa Water Solutions is then able to share what they have done with other villages. Once the villagers begin to realize “they have been drinking feces,” people begin to ask, “how can we do this?” Ochieng commented they transform homes to show them they can have something different and do not have to wait for aid.

Africa Water Solutions provides a range of solutions. For areas with rainfall but few sources of water, they construct 6,000-liter tanks to reduce the time spent fetching water, which also decreases the risks faced by women and children. Africa Water Solutions also teaches communities how to build simple household infrastructure and how to clean up waste in and around their homes. Additionally, the nonprofit organization teaches Ugandans Solar Water Disinfection, a simple water purification technique using a water bottle and the sun’s UV rays.

The Results

In response to their efforts, Africa Water Solutions has seen a 23 percent increase in school attendance because children are not sick from waterborne illness or retrieving water. Through menstrual hygiene management training at schools, teachers are better equipped to help female students who are menstruating, so they do not have to miss out on their education.

Outside media presents the need of the nation, not the opportunity Ochieng mentioned. “As a country, we are blessed with so many resources,” said Ochieng. “There is life, happiness, and people doing great things, but the struggles are what is represented.” The country is on track to transformation and Africa Water Solutions is helping them get there.

– Gwen Schemm
Photo: Flickr

Eight Facts About Education in Tajikistan

Tajikistan, a country of 9 million people in Central Asia, recently created a new educational approach that will help address its ongoing struggles. The number of females enrolled in primary and secondary schools is significantly lower than males, and keeping children in school during economic or political crises is difficult for many families who rely on them for immediate financial returns. Despite gender and financial inequalities that still exist in educational institutions, however, many projects and investments are underway that will undoubtedly help reduce these discrepancies.

8 Facts About Education in Tajikistan

  1. Children are required to attend school between the ages of 7 to 15. Nonetheless, the number of out-of-school children in 2017 was 11,435, with girls accounting for more than 70 percent of this figure.
  2. Armed conflict during the 1990s meant that females in the region were 7.3 percent less likely to complete their education than females in non-affected areas. In the long-term, they also returned to school at a lower rate than males.
  3. The Global Partnership for Education, a funding platform that helps increase the attendance in schools in developing countries, works in conjunction with the Tajikistan government to increase access and quality of early childhood education. In fact, more than 18,000 children have benefitted from improved schooling conditions in 400-500 education centers.
  4. As of 2017, 5,400 primary teachers were trained and two million new learning materials were distributed to schools.
  5. Along with the addition of new materials, an enhanced curriculum that teaches practical applications and an interactive atmosphere are being used by 160,000 primary students.
  6. Location, gender and finances are the main obstacles to completing higher education. The proportion of students who complete higher education from the most well-off households is eight times higher than from the poorest families.
  7. Girls make up less than 30 percent of the overall number of students enrolled in universities. In fact, one in three women stops their education before completing secondary school.
  8. According to 19 percent of parents and out-of-school youth, the main reason for high dropout levels in females is marriage and avoiding “a bad reputation.”

As of 2017, the poverty rate in Tajikistan is 29 percent down from 37 percent in 2012 and education is one of the main factors that helped to reduce these levels. As described in these eight facts about education in Tajikistan, many new educational reforms are underway in Tajikistan that seek to alleviate the gender gap and create a system that benefits the community directly. Access to education will allow individuals to help lift themselves from poverty and contribute to the economy, which in turn will positively affect the global economy by reducing trade barriers and creating a more competitive global market. Investments in education have long-term payoffs that can make a tangible difference in the lives of people who live below the poverty line and create a more accessible and powerful global trade market.

– Tera Hofmann
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