Poverty holds back learning in Kenya

Margaret, a teacher in Nairobi, is the fifth participant in our 10-week #TeacherTuesday campaign. She works in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa, helping children find an escape route from poverty through their education. 

Margaret was born in a village in a poor area outside Kenya’s capital city. “I know what it means to be sleeping hungry,”  she said. Now, she wakes daily at 4am to make the two-hour journey to Kibera, most of whose residents lack access to basic services, including electricity and running water. She teaches until 6pm or 7pm, staying late to let children do their homework at school because they don’t have any electricity or space at home.

“There is a line between rich and poor,” Margaret says, explaining the challenges of her daily work. “A child whose parents are working means the child is fed, they are literate, and the parents are able to follow up on their child’s education and learning. Whereas the parents at the school where I teach believe the government should give everything for the child’s education and they don’t need to do anything extra.”

The majority of parents in the Kibera slum, she tells us, “did not go to school or if they did they did not have a very good education. They don’t see the value of education so they don’t follow up. Some children stay at home and are sick. They are used to the hard life”.

The latest EFA Global Monitoring Report, Teaching and Learning: Achieving quality for all shows that how much a child learns is strongly influenced by the inherited disadvantage that comes with poverty and extreme inequality.

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In all 20 sub-Saharan African countries analysed in the Report, children from richer households are more likely not only to complete school, but also to achieve a minimum level of learning once there. In 15 of these countries, no more than one in five poor children reach the last grade and learn the basics.

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Posted in Africa, Basic education, Literacy, Nutrition, Out-of-school children, Poverty, Primary school, Quality of education, Teachers | 3 Comments

How managing tax better could help fill the education finance gap

Better management of tax and prioritization of education in budgets could raise $153 billion for the sector in 2015, according to calculations in a new policy paper by the EFA Global Monitoring Report team.

Our new policy paper, ‘Increasing tax revenues to bridge the education financing gap’ shows that, if governments in low and middle income countries modestly increased their tax-raising efforts and devoted a fifth of their budget to education, they could fill over half of the annual funding gap for basic and lower secondary education.

Sustained economic growth in many of the world’s poorest countries has increased the resources that they can raise domestically to finance their education strategies. Many countries furthest from the Education for All goals, however, do not sufficiently tap their tax base and this economic growth, as a result, is not being fairly distributed. Currently only seven of 67 countries analysed for this policy paper generate 20% of GDP in taxes and allocate 20% of their budgets to education.14mar1

It is estimated that countries need to raise 20% of their GDP in taxes to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. At present, however, only seven out of the 67 countries analysed in our new paper reach the 20% threshold on both tax/GDP ratios and government spending on education. In addition, on current rates, only 4 of the 48 countries currently raising less than 20% of GDP in tax would reach the 20% threshold by 2015.

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Posted in Developed countries, Developing countries, Economic growth, Equality, Equity, Finance, Governance, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Post-secondary education, Poverty, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What questions should the 2015 EFA GMR answer?

The 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report will provide a definitive assessment of overall progress toward the six EFA goals. The assessment will establish whether the goals were achieved and, if not, whether progress accelerated since 2000.  This blog sums up some of the suggestions made at a recent consultation event in Paris for questions that the next EFA GMR should help answer.

2015_cover2.4Earlier this month, a meeting was held in Paris on the subject matter of the 2015 EFA GMR, ‘What did we achieve?. The meeting took place on the side of the EFA Steering Committee Meeting at UNESCO’s Headquarters. It brought together key representatives from the education community to look at the extended outline for the next Report.

The meeting complemented the online consultation which is still ongoing, and where we encourage all and anyone to share any additional comments they may have for us as we work on the Report.

During the meeting, suggestions and questions mainly focused on the EFA process and the mechanisms that helped bring about progress towards the EFA goals:

-       Overall approach: The GMR should focus on a summative evaluation of EFA especially with respect to the commitments and pledges made in the Dakar Framework for Action. By analysing education developments in this context, the Report will provide vital lessons for working on new global education goals after 2015.

-       Role of certain actors:

  • To what extent has civil society influenced education policy and practice since 2000?
  • What was the influence of international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF? What was their influence through the poverty reduction strategy initiative?

-       Governance: The GMR should analyse what the broader role of management and governance reforms have been in advancing EFA. This should include an assessment of the coordination between sub-sectors, accountability initiatives, and evolution in the use of data for planning and policy making.

-       Inter-sectoral links: Education impacts all of development, and cannot be seen as stand-alone from other sectors. As such, the existing links – or lack of links – between sectors should be assessed for their impact on education progress.

-       National perceptions: In assessing the role of EFA, the Report should also cover how EFA goals were perceived by those implementing policy in-country.

-       Data: Is there a need for better data post-2015? Could governments use already available data (such as household surveys) better than they currently do?

-       Emphasis on early childhood education: The next GMR should take a deeper look at the first EFA Goal and ensure that it covers adequately the youngest children.

This consultation is not yet over, and we are still keen to hear more of your thoughts and suggestions. Please comment on the suggestions we have already had on our online consultation, and/or give new guidance for areas of research the EFA GMR team could usefully analyse.

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Syrian refugees make the best of temporary schools

Mohammed, a teacher from Syria who lives in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, is the fourth participant in our 10-week #TeacherTuesday campaign. His daily struggle to help Syrian refugee children underlines the need to support teachers in difficult situations – and to make education a more central part of humanitarian efforts in conflict zones.

Photo_Mohammed_in_school1Mohammed arrived eight months ago in Zaatari, which has become the world’s second-largest refugee complex as more and more Syrians flee the civil war. “I was teaching in my school until it was completely destroyed, then I moved to another school. Once all schools in the area had been completely destroyed, then I left and came to Zaatari.”

Four months ago he got a job teaching. “Save the Children had a recruitment for schools and I applied for the job. They hired me because of my experience and because I have a university degree and have been teaching for 12 years.”

“My school is primary and secondary combined. Girls in the morning, boys in the afternoon. There are 800 students in primary and 400 students in secondary school.

“There are 25 to 40 in each class at my school, school 2. In school 1, there are from 80 to 120 in classes because it’s in one of the most densely populated areas of the camp. Zaatari is a massive, massive place. It takes a couple of hours to walk across the camp.”

“Our main problems are the shortage of text books, we need boards and markers,” Mohammed says, adding, “The school doesn’t look like a school. I want a yard where children can play. We want our school to look like other schools.”

Despite the difficulties, Mohammed says the majority of children in the camp are in school. “There are 50,000 children in the camp in total. Half of them are school-aged children and 20,000 are currently registered with a school. Some have missed up to three school years. It’s important they are enrolled into school.”

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Posted in Aid, Arab States, Basic education, Conflict, Disaster preparedness, Donors, Early childhood care and education, Equality, Equity, Governance, Marginalization, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Poverty, Pre-primary education, Primary school, Quality of education, Refugees and displaced people, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

PHOTO BLOG: The state of girls’ education around the world

To tie-in with the release of the Gender Summary of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/4 published by UNESCO to mark International Women’s Day, this photo blog tells the story of the state of education for girls and young women around the world. 

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The Gender Summary of the 2013/4 Education for All Global Monitoring Report highlights the serious gender imbalance in global education that has left over 100 million young women unable to read a single sentence. The summary, launched for International Women’s Day in partnership with the UN Girls’ Education Initiative, calls for equity to be at the heart of new global development goals after 2015 so that every child has an equal chance of learning through quality education.

Half of the 31 million girls out of school are expected never to enroll or have the chance to learn. Despite some progress, in 2011, only 60% of countries had achieved parity in primary education and only 38% of countries had achieved parity in secondary education. Among low income countries, just 20% had achieved gender parity at the primary level, 10% at the lower secondary level and 8% at the upper secondary level.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the largest number of countries with severe gender disparity in access to primary education, with girls making up 54% of the out-of-school population across the continent. In the Arab States the situation remains unchanged since 1999, with girls making up 60% of the out-of-school population. Despite some progress, girls still make up 57% of the out–of-school population in South and West Asia as well.

On current trends, by 2015 it is projected that only 70% of countries will have achieved parity in primary education, and 56% of countries will have achieved parity in lower secondary education. The new summary reiterates the need for progress in education to be more evenly spread between girls and boys if global education goals are to be achieved.

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Afghanistan: rebuilding girls’ education after decades of conflict

Nahida, a school principal in Kabul, is the third participant in our ten-week #TeacherTuesday campaign. In Afghanistan, conflict has raged for decades, cultural opposition to girls’ schooling is deep-seated, and education for girls was banned altogether under the Taliban. Nahida describes how she has struggled for 25 years to defend and improve girls’ education in the face of gender bias and conflict that still affect her work every day.

After graduating from Kabul University in the late 1980s, Nahida became a teacher. But then the Taliban came to power.

Under the Taliban: a secret school for girls
“It was their policy to close all the schools for females. For me, it was difficult to go to school to teach. When I went to my school, the principal was a mullah and he didn’t allow me to enter and asked me after that not to come to school.  But for the boys, school was open.

“When I understood the policy of Taliban was not to allow girls and female teachers to go to school, I started a home school for girls that was very secret and not official because families and their parents asked me to teach their daughters. It was a very strict time. Very difficult. I was afraid.”

Afghan students coats hung on the wall at a school in Kabul

Afghan students coats hung on the wall at a school in Kabul

When the Taliban fell, the way was open to restore education for girls. But first everything had to be rebuilt from scratch – there was literally nothing left.

The long process of rebuilding
“When I went to my school it was completely destroyed. The buildings had no windows, no doors. The surrounding wall was destroyed. Schools didn’t have any chairs, tables, blackboard, chalk – no school materials at all. First I cleaned the classes with the help of my teachers. I made the surrounding wall in mud and stones. I gave messages to families and, mosques and asked them to send their daughters to school.

“The girls came back slowly, slowly. I encouraged families, asked their parents to school, encouraged them, talked with them. Also I sent my female teachers to their homes. I announced it in different mosques.”

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Posted in Conflict, Gender, Out-of-school children, Teachers | 5 Comments

Gender Summary turns spotlight on girls’ education

gender-summary-coverOver 100 million young women in low and lower middle income countries are unable to read a single sentence. And 31 million girls are out of school, with half of them unlikely ever to set foot inside a classroom.

Those worrying findings of the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report are in the spotlight as we launch the Gender Summary of the report today, to mark International Women’s Day. The launch is taking place in New York in partnership with the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative. Keynote speakers include Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO; Pauline Rose, director of the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women; and Susan Hopgood, president of Education International.

As well as outlining the deficits in education for girls and young women, the Gender Summary focuses on four main recommendations to get girls’ education back on track:

1.  Equity must be at the forefront of new education goals after 2015. Every girl should have an equal chance of going to school and learning while there. New goals need clear, measurable targets with indicators that will track the progress of the most disadvantaged, and girls in particular.

2.  The best teachers must reach the learners who need them most. National education plans must include an explicit commitment to reach out to girls and the marginalized. Female teachers, in particular, should be recruited locally. Incentives must be provided to ensure the best teachers work in remote, under-served areas.

3. Teachers need gender-sensitive teacher education: Teachers, both female and male, need training to understand and recognize their own attitudes, perceptions and expectations regarding gender.

4.  Curricula must be inclusive. Teachers can only break down learning barriers effectively if they are supported by appropriate and inclusive curricula that pay particular attention to the needs of girls at risk of not learning.

The Gender Summary also demonstrates the importance of investing in girls’ and women’s education, not just for individuals but for the whole of society. Education reduces women’s poverty and boosts their chances of getting jobs that pay as well as men’s. It has enormous benefits for women’s health, as well as their children’s, saving millions of lives through better knowledge of disease prevention and treatment. Education also empowers women to make better life choices, helping to avert early marriage and childbirth.

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