Investing in Education at Home and Abroad Will Reap Big Returns for the U.S.
January 27, 2011
January 27, 2011
November 9, 2010
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September 13, 2010
What would the world look like if every child could go to school?
Imagine a world where new HIV infections are a rarity. Where children have clean water and adequate food. New mothers survive childbirth and go on to raise the next generation, and vulnerable communities cope with climate-related disasters and economic shocks. The poorest countries receive $80 billion each year for development, and parents earn enough to feed their families, build assets and save for the future.
Although it seems a pipe dream, this vision is possible through education. If every child could go to school, our world would be a dramatically changed place. In fact, the second Millennium Development Goal, universal primary education, is the key to achieving all of the MDGs.
The evidence shows that basic education is one of the most cost-effective development interventions and that its impact extends well beyond transforming the lives of individual children. It leads to measurable improvements in economic growth, HIV prevention, nutrition, child and maternal health, and conflict prevention. Consider:
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.
September 10, 2010
August 22, 2010
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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.