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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
– Nelson Mandela
At the beginning of March, UNESCO released its 2011 Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report to evaluate the current climate of global education. The report reveals that despite some individual country gains, we are still way off track to reaching universal primary education by 2015.
Although the number of out-of-school children in 2008 reduced to 67 million, down from 72 million the previous year, we still have a long way to go in just 4 years if we want to meet the second millennium development goal of universal primary education.
This short video and the report describe how one of the biggest barriers currently keeping 42% of those children out of school is violent conflict. The video focuses on the struggles of the education systems in Colombia, Jordan, and the Congo, describing how displacement, violence, and intimidation keep many children out of the classroom.
Twelve years is the average duration of violent conflict episodes in low-income countries, forcing some children to miss their entire primary education and many to have only sporadic schooling.
It’s easy to think there’s nothing we can do to support education in conflict-affected regions, but the EFA report proves that there are many things we can do, and that we should start immediately.
Aid for Education
Education currently only accounts for 2% of all humanitarian aid. That leaves twenty-one developing countries spending more on arms than on primary schools, which is unacceptable if we claim to value education.
According to the EFA Highlights of the report, it would take just six days of military spending by rich countries to close the USD$16 billion Education for All external financing gap. Despite claims by OECD countries that achieving universal primary education by 2015 is a major priority, just 38% of aid requests for education are met, which is around half the average for all sectors.
Speak up for Education
We need to get more good aid into the education sector in conflict-affected countries if we want to help the 28 million children currently out of school to obtain the education they so desperately desire.
You can join people like the Global Campaign for Education to help put pressure on governments to keep their promise to support education for all.
We’ve already had some major wins, seeing 52 million children enrolled in primary school from 1999 to 2008, but we need to pick up the pace if we want to reach the remaining 67 million by 2015.
This short clip describes how the World Bank has created a competition calling on ordinary people to create Apps for Development that will promote and help achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. They asked for innovative designs that use World Bank data to improve peoples’ lives and end poverty, offering USD$45,000 worth of prizes for winning apps.
The application period closed a few weeks ago and after accepting submissions for 3 months, they received over 100 apps from 36 different countries. The apps cover the issues of hunger, health, education, the environment and global partnerships in a variety of exciting, interactive new ways.
One of the unique apps we found was Better World Flux, which is an interactive visualisation of information communicating the state of the world in terms of standards of living and quality of life. The focal point of the app is to see the fluctuation of life indicators throughout the world, such as universal education, the presence of HIV/AIDS, or gender equality, over the course of 50 years.
For example, the image below shows the status of the spread of HIV in 1987, only a few years after the disease was first detected, and how that indicates whether we were moving towards a “Bad” or “Better World” at that time.
In contrast to the above, the below image shows the status of the spread of HIV as of 2010. Notice that according to the figures, we have moved more towards “A Bad World” over the past 20+ years instead of moving closer to “A Better World” in this aspect because of the increased spread of HIV over the years.
MDG 6 strives to halt and reverse the spread of the virus by 2015. However, the most recent data suggests that despite making great progress in increased access to medication and prevention, 1.8 million people died from HIV/AIDS and another 2.6 million were infected in 2009. That's why increased aid is urgently needed if we want to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and start to see the number of people on treatment outpace the number of people becoming infected.
But this app shows that progress on other MDGs is actually being seen. The two images below show how we’re actually moving towards “A Better World” in the area of universal education, which is MDG 2.
This first image is the access to universal education in the world in 1960 and the second image is the access as of 2010.
Better World Flux can be a great tool to see the progress we’re making and the failures we’re seeing around the world in relation to the MDGs. You can even choose specific countries and track their progress over time to get a clearer picture of where each country stands in achieving the MDGs by 2015. With only a few more years to go, we still have much to accomplish if we want to meet our goals and help end extreme poverty.
A policy question from Taneshia House, who this week asks,
“What do you say when people - economic justice activists - say formal education doesn't solve poverty? What if they say that job training and job creation is more important? Is that true?”
They both matter. It’s not possible to create jobs that reduce poverty without an educated population, but education doesn’t solve poverty by itself. To unpack this, it’s worth thinking a bit about the role that each of these things – jobs and education – play in reducing poverty.
Looking at education first, it’s important to note that it’s about more than preparing people for the world of work. In a review of research on the area, academics Emily Hannum and Claudia Buchmann noted that,
“Countries with better-educated citizens indeed have healthier populations, as educated individuals make more informed health choices, live longer, and have healthier children. The populations of countries with more educated citizens are likely to grow more slowly, as educated people tend to marry later and have fewer children.”
Beyond this, people who can read and write can participate more fully in social and political life, and have a greater opportunity to influence the world around them. Development economist Amartya Sen talks about education in terms of freedom, arguing that education gives individuals increased opportunity to pursue their dreams.
But, as many people argue, having a high school certificate or university degree doesn’t end poverty. You can be educated and hungry, smart and unemployed.
That’s where job creation comes in. As agricultural productivity increases, far fewer people are needed in primary production, meaning that huge amounts of labour are freed up for work in other industries like manufacturing and services. Or, as is often the case, freed up to be underemployed or unemployed.
Formal education creates people with skills to work, but doesn’t create jobs for these people (other than a few who are employed in the education sector). Good formal education, backed up with the right (and culturally appropriate) incentive structures can be an engine for enterprise and the flourishing of small businesses that create employment. Job training and informal education can foster skills for jobs that already exist, bridging the gap between formal academic skills and the needs of the workplace.
Spending time in places like Cambodia, Ghana and Rwanda, I’ve seen first hand the huge challenges facing high school and university graduates. Having worked hard in formal education, they’re often bewildered to find so few jobs available, and despite the ambitions of many, they often lack the skills to start their own enterprises. These countries desperately need the skills these young people have, but they don’t have the resources to put them to good use at the moment.
That’s where the role of things like outside investment, short-term migration overseas and aid can be so important. They can provide the employment opportunities, markets and resources needed to help educated citizens move out of poverty and become productive taxpayers, contributing to their own economy and creating opportunities for others.
At the Global Poverty Project, we’re committed to providing you the tools to take more and better action that will really see an end to extreme poverty, starting with the ability to ask questions like this. If you’d like to ask a question for future blogs, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, ask us on our Facebook discussion page or tweet at us using the hashtag #askGPP.
This guest blog is by Gori Olusina Daniel, a presenter for the Global Poverty Project, Associate Director at Adams and Moore Chartered Certified Accountants and Executive Director of the World Changers Foundation where he lives out his passion to support the development of the next generation of leaders. This post is an edited version of a speech he gave to the Nigerian National Assembly in one of a series of high profile events held in October 2010 to mark the 50th Independence Anniversary of Africa’s largest democracy.
It’s five years to the deadline set for the delivery of the Millennium Development Goals, and sub-Saharan Africa continues to prove our biggest challenge in the fight against extreme poverty. With Africa in focus, Nigeria, a nation of over 150 million people is too big to be ignored.
But it is not just the sheer size of its population that makes the ‘sleeping giant’ of Africa a strategic area of focus.
For instance, over the last 10 -15 years, Nigeria’s military has played a key role in resolving conflict and maintaining peace across the African sub-region.
The discerning realise that though it is running on one or perhaps two of twelve economic cylinders, with its GDP per annum fast approaching $400b, Nigeria is already an economic powerhouse, at least in Africa’s context.
Today, Nigeria is the world’s sixth largest oil producer, plays host to the Continent’s largest (and one of the world’s fastest growing) Telecoms market. With a GDP more than ten times the size of Ghana’s, it is second only to South Africa on the sub-continent in economic strength. It is no surprise, Nigeria earned a place in Goldman Sachs’ list of 11 countries that could overtake the G7 over time.
Yet today, over 65 million or 43% of Nigerians live on less than $1 a day. Every day, millions go to bed hungry, jobless, sick, a few days from falling sick or having to look after a family member who is either sick, malnourished or dying, while Nigeria has tens of millions of hectares of unfarmed arable land.
No, it doesn’t make sense! Nigeria has huge, complex problems that won’t be solved overnight; but this shouldn’t stop us from kick starting the process of change.
Having been given the opportunity to address the Nigerian National Assembly in one of a series of high profile events held in October 2010 to mark the 50th Independence Anniversary of Africa’s largest democracy, I turned to look at solutions.
At the core of my message to Nigerian Legislators lies the need to first get the basics of food security, job creation, universal primary and secondary education, health promotion and sanitation right, while recognising the important role women play in community and national development, and the need to intentionally invest in the development of the next generation of leaders.
This period of national reflection is the right time to act. And act we must, because with a little help and the political will, Nigeria can leverage its significant geo-political and economic strength to make significant improvements domestically, that could trigger a tidal wave of progress in living standards across the Continent that would see millions of Africans lifted out of extreme poverty for good.
The significant economic progress we have seen over the last 50 years in countries such as South Korea, Singapore, and more recently Ghana, suggests that political will encapsulated in a long term vision for change, coupled with a delivery framework that incorporates a sequence of small but meaningful interventions provides a sure template for National Re-invention.
This is achievable in Nigeria, but will require a fundamental shift that will see the ‘traditional’ business and responsibilities of government shared more broadly across the public, private and voluntary sectors.
There’s no need to re-invent the wheel; Nigeria’s vision 2020 provides a compelling vision for change. I suggested the Legislators consider the Millennium Development Goals as a useful framework for delivery.
The MDGs provide a useful framework to manage this process of collaborative nation building. Nigerian Legislators could play a leading role in this effort. I suggested six key policy interventions they should use their influence to implement over the next six months that will make a difference to the lives of the people within their constituencies. Namely;
Establish Food Security: Actively support a new generation of Farmers and Agricultural Entrepreneurs Policy Recommendation: Tackle the twin challenges of Food Security and Worklessness by providing the resources and infrastructure to support a new generation of women and young people to boost farming output and develop agro-allied industries.
Public Health: Train rural women to be Public Health Workers Policy Recommendation: Train, resource and mobilise local people, especially women, as health workers and sanitation facilitators within their communities.
Education: Get faith groups to rebuild and run schools Policy Recommendation: Develop an effective regulatory framework that enables government to contract churches and other Faith groups, civil society and private organisations to rebuild and run primary and secondary schools.
Partnerships: Get individuals, faith groups, civil society and private sector organisations to play a fair part in nation building Policy Recommendation: Challenge government contractors to demonstrate how they are contributing to the development of local communities.
Empower Women: Enable women to play a greater role in communities Policy Recommendation: Create and sponsor programmes that empower women to make a full contribution to society.
Leadership Development: Intentionally develop the next generation of leaders. Policy Recommendation: Support Youth Leadership Development Programmes that include elements of work-based training, within and outside government.
Nigerians will head to the polls in April 2011 to elect a new government. I am prepared to provide prospective candidates and their advisors with effective policy advice that will establish Nigeria on a path of progress.
The movement to end extreme poverty within a generation truly received a boost last night as the 1.4 Billion Reasons DVD was launched globally.
Premiered at red carpet events in London and New York, and in 30 countries around the world, from Malawi to Indonesia and New Zealand to The Netherlands. You can see a map of the locations of the where the events happened here. More than 3000 people saw the 1.4 Billion Reasons DVD last night and were inspired and motivated to take actions against extreme poverty across the globe.
The event in London attracted 500 people from all over the country. It was truly moving to see so many people attending the Premiere on the day of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
Elisha London, UK Country Manager of the Global Poverty Project thanked the British government for ring-fencing the aid budget. She said “The Comprehensive Spending Review cuts will hurt but we should be proud of the ring-fencing of the aid budget. We should be proud that we are still leaders on the world’s stage in the fight for human dignity and rights for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.”
Also attending the London Premiere was Todd Stitzer, retired CEO of Cadbury PLC, who said, “This is a great news story. The Global Poverty Project should be hugely congratulated for what it’s doing.” In relation to how businesses can benefit from thinking about the world’s poorest he talked of “principled capitalism” and said: “It’s incumbent on business to act in the interests of their shareholders
but also its important that as individuals they make a difference in the world”.
The Global Poverty Project now has supporters in over 100 countries and this DVD marks the new stage of our international outreach. To host a 1.4 Billion Reasons DVD in your community visit www.globalpovertyproject.com/dvd today.