Promoting quality education for all.

We need Global Fund for Education

September 15, 2010

Source: Deseret News

By Vanessa Johnson

This past spring, I had the rare opportunity to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, with Dr. Scott Leckman, another Utah native, for the Africa and Middle East Regional Microcredit Summit. The meeting was part of an ongoing movement to bring small loans to poor entrepreneurs throughout the world so they can start a business that can lift their families out of poverty. While in Kenya, we visited Jamii Bora, a microfinance organization working in Kenya. They have helped thousands of families lift themselves out of poverty.

Jami Bora is centered in the Kibera section of Nairobi. Kibera is the largest slum in Africa. I saw children running around with no shoes over mounds of garbage and tin shacks for homes. The deeper into the slum we went, the stronger the smell of human and animal waste became. I remember two little boys in particular. Their clothes were tattered, and they were covered in dust. Garbage was piled all around them. Shoeless, they walked beside what looked like a stream. They had sticks and were poking at the plastic bottles gathered in this small bed of water. Watching them, I hoped that there was a safe water sources somewhere in the slum. However, after much searching, I did not see any water sources other than this putrid little stream.

Despite these conditions, my hopes began to rise when I saw a large school within the slum. I thought to myself, that regardless of income, these children at least had access to a school. And with this education comes the hope that they can one day leave Kibera and create a better life for themselves and their families.

Believe it or not, the children of Kenya are relatively lucky compared to those living in many poor nations in Africa, where school fees pose an extreme barrier for children living in poverty. Kenya eliminated such fees in 2003, and in the weeks following the announcement, 1.3 million additional children showed up to school. The conditions may not be ideal with overcrowded classrooms, lack of supplies and few teachers, but the optimism is spreading to other countries where school fees are being lifted and access to education has become more attainable.

Still, an estimated 72 million children do not have access to school. And even in nations where fees have been lifted, the quality of education is extremely low. To break the cycle of poverty and help these nations reach the first rung of the ladder of economic opportunity, they need resources to build new classrooms, train more teachers, and buy more books.

That's why the world needs a Global Fund for Education that can distribute the resources necessary to give every child a quality education. President Barack Obama proposed such a fund during his campaign two years ago, but we've heard little about it since then. That's disappointing, because a similar mechanism — the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria (GFATM) — has enjoyed tremendous success since its inception, saving 5.7 million lives from three of the world's deadliest diseases. Modeled after the GFATM, a Global Fund for Education could enjoy similar success and help achieve the Millennium Development Goal of providing universal access to education for all children by 2015.

Some might say that creating a Global Fund for Education would be costly, and we need to spend our money elsewhere. The reality, however, is that the U.S. spends little more than 1 percent of its budget on all foreign aid. Money spent on education is an investment that will pay off big by building more stable societies and preventing nations from becoming the kind of failed states where we are compelled to intervene militarily.

Although millions of children remain out of school, I feel hopeful that one day soon they will all have access to an education, helping to make this world a safer and better place.

Vanessa Johnson is a recent University of Utah graduate in International Studies and group leader of the local RESULTS chapter.

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Education: The Best Way to Wage War on Terror

August 5, 2010

Source: The Alexandria Times

By Jennifer Gillyard

To the editor:

Globally there are more than 72 million children ages 5 to 11 not in school and more than 250,000 youth engaged in conflict, some of which are recruited into violent extremist groups as early as 10 years old. In a 2004 report by United States Agency for International Development on youth in conflict, researchers found that “when young people are uprooted, jobless, intolerant, alienated, and with few opportunities for positive engagement, they represent a ready pool of recruits for groups seeking to mobilize violence.”

As a local social worker and life skills specialist, I have seen how the lack of a quality education leads to a hopeless worldview, lack of opportunities and often incites a violent lifestyle. I have taught children who fled their country for lack of educational opportunities and fear of becoming influenced by violent extremist groups. And as a resident of Alexandria and a citizen of this country, which has been affected by acts of terrorism, I believe in the security and innate value of each human being. Therefore, offering a better quality education in a conflict-free environment extends to our global partners.

The common denominator between youth who are forced into conflict and those who voluntarily join extremist groups is a lack of educational and economic opportunities, which in return changes an individual’s worldview from one of hope to despair. Research shows that an individual’s income level does not solely dictate whether they will join an extremist group; however, lack of a quality education coupled with extreme poverty is fertile ground for violence and exploitation.

In the Middle East, Central Asia and parts of Africa youth can receive a free education at unregistered madrasahs, some of which teach an extreme worldview of justice by violence. In Sub-Saharan Africa, not only can youth not afford an education, but when many return from being forced into conflict they are often denied the opportunity of continuing their education, which causes them to return to conflict and violence for survival. A report by Save the Children shows that every year of schooling a male receives decreases his chances of engaging in violent conflict by 20 percent. So what should our response be towards the lack of quality education for children in conflict?

Globally, a better quality education would include the elimination of school fees and establishing a community-based curriculum that includes teaching a worldview fostering respect and dignity, life skills, literacy and numeracy skills as well as entrepreneurship. This can be accomplished by supporting the Education for All Act of 2010 (H.R. 5117) that was recently introduced in the House of Representatives. Alexandria’s congressman, Rep. Jim Moran, an astute decision maker and champion of fighting crime with education reform, has co-sponsored this act and I encourage other representatives to follow his lead. By passing this act, America can become a global example of choosing education to nurture world peace.

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Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Education is the Key Missing Link

July 30, 2010

Source: Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution

By David Gartner

President Obama is releasing a plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 in advance of the largest gathering of world leaders in at least a decade at the United Nations. While the Administration’s outline includes useful ideas on tracking development outcomes and increasing transparency and accountability, it also represents a missed opportunity to deliver on Obama’s commitment to invest $2 billion in a Global Fund for Education to achieve universal primary education. For most of the MDGs, particularly those that are most off-track, success will be nearly impossible without the achievement of universal primary education, MDG 2. With 72 million children still not in primary school, achieving universal education would offer extraordinary leverage in the broader fight against global poverty. 

While there is some progress in poverty reduction for MDG 1: “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,” there is much less progress on the commitment to halve the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015.  Child malnutrition is a key dimension of world hunger and 137 million children under the age of 5 are still underweight globally. Educating women is an important tool for reducing child hunger, according to a cross-country analysis of 63 countries. The study found that educational gains in women’s education accounted for 43 percent of all progress in reducing child malnutrition.

MDG 3: “Eliminate gender disparity,” commits to closing the gender gap in all education levels and increasing female representation in the wage employment and national parliaments. The latest data indicate that 28 countries still have fewer than 9 girls in school for every 10 boys. Nearly two-thirds of these countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are fewer than 8 girls for every 10 boys enrolled in secondary school. A focus on educating girls, especially in Africa, is not only essential to achieving universal education, but it is also vital to achieving the nutrition and health MDGs.

The goal that is most off-track is MDG 4: “Reduce child mortality,” the commitment to cutting child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2010. A recent study published in the Lancet finds that despite progress in the last 20 years in all regions, child mortality will still need to be reduced by another 3.7 million over the next five years in order to meet that goal. Half of all child deaths now occur in Sub-Saharan Africa with rates as high as 180 deaths per 100,000 children in Equatorial Guinea; compare that to just 2.5 deaths per 100,000 children in Singapore.

An analysis some years ago by President Obama’s top economic adviser, Larry Summers, found that children in Africa born to mothers with just five years of education were 40 percent more likely to live to age 5. The children of educated mothers are much more likely to be immunized against killer diseases, their mothers are much more likely to have received antenatal care, and they provide better nutrition to their children. Achieving universal primary education and reaching gender parity in education could save millions of children’s lives and put MDG 4 within reach.

The next health commitment, MDG 5: “Improve maternal health”, calls for reducing maternal mortality by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. Despite some progress globally in reducing maternal deaths related to childbirth, there has been much less progress in Africa in recent decades. While medical interventions are critical to responding to this challenge, education is again one of the most leveraged investments according to recent studies. One recent study found that female education alone, both female literacy and the ratio of female enrollment, could explain 50 percent of the variance between countries in rates of maternal mortality. In Bangladesh, the significant fall in maternal mortality over recent decades can in part be explained by the dramatic expansion of education for girls.

Education is also a crucial strategy for a leveraged response to AIDS. MDG 6: “Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.”  MDG 6 commits to halting and reversing the spread of these diseases by 2015. Yet, despite impressive progress in recent years in expanding access to AIDS treatment, the results on the prevention sides show that much work remains to be done to reverse the spread of the disease. Research on the last decade of the AIDS epidemic indicate that increased schooling is lowering the rate of AIDS infections and that expanded access to secondary education is especially significant in reducing female vulnerability to infection. Alongside other comprehensive prevention strategies, expanding educational opportunities in the most affected countries is critical to reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

MDG 7: “Ensure environmental sustainability” focuses on promoting a sustainable environment by protecting environmental resources, halving the number of people without water and sanitation, and achieving significant improvements in the lives of 100 million slum dwellers. Once again, education is critical when it comes to improving the lives of those living in slums. The overwhelming response to expanding free primary education to children living in Africa’s largest slum, in the Kibera division of Nairobi, Kenya demonstrates how universal education is an incredibly tangible improvement for millions of slum dwellers.

With just five years left before the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the world is running out of time. While many interventions will be needed, one of the best single levers we have to achieve these goals is to accelerate progress toward universal education. President Obama should join other world leaders at the upcoming MDG summit in announcing how together they will invest in multilateral mechanisms to deliver on their promise to give every child the chance to go to school. There is no other investment that will have as significant an impact when it comes to promoting health, gender equity, and nutrition in the fight against global poverty.

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Congress Leads on Global Education: Will Obama Follow?

July 2, 2010

Source: The Huffington Post

By Joanne Carter

Recent developments in the global movement to provide a quality education to the 72 million kids currently out of school present a study in contrast. While the administration has failed to deliver on President Barack Obama's pledge to create a new Global Fund for Education, Congress is increasingly showing support for the idea.

The recently concluded G8 summit, which has historically been an important platform for mobilizing global commitments to fighting poverty, was stunningly silent on expanding access to education. Despite the efforts of its Canadian hosts, the G8 fell far short of expectations and failed to mobilize significant new pledges even for its signature issue, maternal and child health. In the midst of the G8 summit the Obama Administration released "A New Approach to Advancing Development" outlining the President's views. The statement confirms that "development" -- it doesn't actually mention "poverty" -- is a "moral, strategic, and economic imperative for the United States and our partners." While the document restates a number of common-sense principles of effective foreign aid, there are striking omissions -- education among them.

It is astonishing that the administration could outline its approach to development without even name-checking education, widely understood to be perhaps the best investment we can make in fighting poverty and promoting security. In addition to fulfilling the fundamental right to learn, education contributes to healthier mothers and children, more empowered and less vulnerable women, and more prosperous and peaceful societies. Every additional year of schooling has been found to decrease a boy's chance of engaging in violent conflict by 20 percent. For a girl in a poor country, each additional year of school beyond grades three or four will lead to 20 percent higher wages on average, and educated mothers are 50 percent more likely to immunize their children. Education is so strongly associated with HIV/AIDS prevention that it's known as a "social vaccine." Despite the cross-cutting benefits of a basic education, it has not been prioritized in President Obama's approach to fighting global poverty and inequity.

Global education advocates had reason to expect better. As a candidate, Obama proposed a $2 billion global education fund, and spoke of the integral link between education and security. Secretary Hillary Clinton re-iterated this $2 billion promise in her confirmation hearing, and as a Senator was a leading voice on behalf of global education, especially for girls. Despite these early commitments, concrete proposals have not materialized. In fact, the President's budget proposal included an $85 million cut to global education programs.

While the administration is stuck in neutral, there are encouraging signs of leadership in Congress. On Wednesday the House subcommittee responsible for foreign aid spending passed its annual funding bill. The subcommittee not only reversed the President's proposed cut, but included for the first time funding for a multilateral education effort -- $40 million for a strengthened and transformed Education for All Fast Track Initiative (FTI). The FTI is an initiative which helps poor countries close financing gaps in their national education plans. Over 15 countries contribute to the FTI, but so far the U.S. has not participated as a donor. Funding for a reinvigorated FTI can serve as an initial down payment on a new Global Fund for Education.

Subcommittee chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), unmatched in Congress as a leader on global education, has demonstrated her openness to new approaches to accelerate progress. At our current pace there will still be 56 million children out of school in 2015. Rep. Lowey's Education for All Act (HR 5117), introduced with Republican Dave Reichert (WA), provides a blueprint for U.S. leadership to reach universal access to basic education. The bill would make a Global Fund for Education a key element of our basic education strategy. This attention to multilateral cooperation is particularly important in a global economic slump. The U.S. needs a new way to leverage other donor nations to share in the effort, and to provide incentives for developing countries to develop strong national education plans for investment.

With Congress leading on global education, will Obama follow? He will have no better opportunity than the UN Millennium Development Goal Summit in September, where the world will gather to assess progress on eight overarching global anti-poverty goals, and create a plan of action to achieve them by 2015. Last year in his first address to the UN General Assembly, Obama said he would return to MDG Summit with a global plan to make these goals a reality. To fill in the missing plank of his MDG plan on education, Obama should call for the enactment of the Education for All Act, and propose a plan and budget for a $2 billion Global Fund for Education. 72 million kids are awaiting his leadership.

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All the World’s Children Need Education

June 23, 2010

Source: Hartford Courant

By Erin DeRoy

The World Cup, including the ringing of the vuvuzela horns in our ears, is here. And, off the playing fields of South Africa, organizers of the the 2010 FIFA World Cup are trying to use the attention and energy their event has generated to help put children in school. They have joined the 1GOAL initiative, a critical global campaign to make sure all of the world's children get an education.

The idea is to bring together the influence of soccer players and fans, as well as charities and organizations, to call on world leaders to make education a reality for all children by 2015.

A bill before Congress, The Education for All Act of 2010, would add a significant boost to this international campaign. The legislation urges the United States to provide the resources and leadership needed to ensure a successful international effort in providing all children with a basic quality education. I urge my congressman, Rep. John Larson, D-East Hartford — a man who understands the power and potential of education — to co-sponsor this important legislation.

I am an avid volunteer and advocate for children, and I know we all have an impact on educating our world's children. Two summers ago, I traveled to Ecuador and worked in an underprivileged and impoverished community. As a volunteer, I focused on the betterment of children through education — educating some children who had never been to school.

The tremendous effort each child made to attend class was powerful evidence that they valued education and wanted to learn — regardless of the distance to school, exhaustion due to malnutrition or poor school quality. Sadly, children's longing will not always give them the education they dream of receiving. Children need resources, support and, this year, implementation of the Education for All Act to get the assistance they need to pursue their dream of learning.

Globally, there are 72 million children between the ages 5 and 11 who are not in school. These children are faced with a vast array of unfortunate obstacles that inhibit their ability to receive a quality education. Nevertheless, every child needs and deserves an education to see a brighter future for themselves and their families. All villages, communities and countries need educated citizens to ensure a prosperous, healthy and vibrant future.

Education is one of the best ways of helping children grow up safe, healthy and prepared to lift their communities out of poverty. A quality education expands employment opportunities and gives people a chance to earn higher wages. Education, particularly for girls, also leads to better health outcomes for children, adults and families. In addition, education can lower the risk of conflict for a country, which creates a safer world for us all.

In the words of 1GOAL's co-chairman, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "Education is the engine through which development can be powered, both for the individual in opening up new opportunities as well as for countries seeking to move out of the fierce grip of poverty. This year's World Cup in South Africa provides a platform to deliver a lasting legacy that will last for generations."

Erin DeRoy, 21 of Cromwell, is a senior, majoring in international affairs at the George Washington University and is an intern at Global Action for Children in Washington.

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