Kenyan School Pilots Mobile Technology in the Classroom

NtugiGroup 91The newly developed Power of M-Learning Project aims to improve academic performance in Kenyan primary schools by using 3G enabled tablets to deliver the newly digitized Kenyan curriculum. The project is currently being piloted by 250 students and 35 teachers in Nairobi’s Embakasi Garrison Primary School.

The pilot program was developed collaboratively to address the specific challenges facing Kenyan schools. Students and teachers are using solar powered tablets, making the program sustainable for many schools with limited or no access to electricity. 3G wireless technology provides access to the eLimu platform, which was developed by two Kenyan women to specifically support youth in Kenya. The eLimu application contains content from all 6 Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) subject areas and uses games, songs, 3D animations, and quizzes to encourage student engagement.

The Power of M-Learning Project aims to address the challenge of teacher shortages in the area, where the teacher to student ratio has grown to 1:56. The tablets will make learning more personalized and will allow for more individual feedback for students.

Limited access to resources has traditionally made learning difficult in Kenya.  Typically, three pupils share a Kiswahili, English, and Mathematics textbook. The project aims to create a sustainable solution by using digital resources.  Attendance has also traditionally been a problem. In many districts, 4 out of 10 students miss school daily. The new  digital platform for learning is designed to increase student engagement and improve attendance rates.

The project was developed in partnership with Bboxx Kenya, eLimu, iHub Research, Safaricom, and Motorolla in collaboration with the Kenya Ministry of Education. It is expected to be replicated in other public schools to complement the controversial laptop program being instituted by the government.

Nivi Mukherjee, co-founder of eLimu, explained the rationale behind their approach. “When you’re showing children examples that they can’t easily relate to, part of their brain is distracted. So when we’re talking about fractions, we don’t use a pizza as an example, we use a chapatti. We also follow the national curriculum, so this content is specifically geared towards Kenyan youth.”

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Deworming Campaign to Benefit 700,000 Schoolchildren in Haiti

Lunch @HAC This month the Haitian government will launch a national deworming campaign for schoolchildren, in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Ministry of National Education, and the Foundation for Development and the Framework of the Haitian Family (FONDEFH).

The campaign will  benefit about 700,000 students who currently participate in WFP’s school feeding program. Children will receive tablets to deter intestinal worms, which rob undernourished children of necessary nutrients and inhibit their growth. Deworming involves providing each child with one deworming tablet per year to eradicate an active infection or prevent eggs from turning into an active infection.

In addition to deworming tablets, children will receive a vitamin nutritional supplement to improve overall health. The campaign will also attempt to raise awareness among students and teachers of the 2,000 participating schools to promote health, nutrition, and good eating habits.

WFP has helped provide a hot meal each day to 685,000 children in Haiti during 2012-2013 the school year. They currently serve school meals in 60 countries to around 22 million children.  WFP school meals are usually provided at breakfast or lunch, or as a high-energy snack. Some students also receive take-home rations to compensate families for the cost of sending children to school. In 2012, 1.3 million girls and 500,000 boys recieved take-home rations from WFP.

School feeding has been shown to improve students’ concentration and attendance rates while supporting local farmers and tackling malnutrition and family food insecurity. The program also benefits girls, who are often typically excluded from schooling, by providing an incentive for families to send their daughters to school.

“We have a proverb in Haiti”, explains Danielle Selicour, the headmistress of the Joseph et Bertha Wigfall School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, “‘Sak vid pa kanpe’, which means an empty sack cannot stand up. By this we mean that when your stomach is empty you are not able to do anything. I have worked at this school for over 36 years and we have been receiving WFP school meals for as long as I can remember.  But it is not just the food that is important; it is also the health of the school children. The parents here are really happy because for the first time since the earthquake we are also giving deworming medications. This improves the children’s health as well as providing them with a hot meal at school.”

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Free Education Program in Somalia Halted Amid Teacher Strikes

Hawa Abdi Centre for Internally Displaced SomalisThis past September, Somalia launched its Go 2 School Initiative, designed to provide a free education to  one million children in Somalia, where only four out of every ten children currently attend school and, of those attending, only 36% are girls.

The program was abruptly halted when teachers went on strike in January after not being paid, leaving children without schools once again. The teachers were promised a salary of $200 a month but had only received $300 since the program first launched in September, resulting in a strike impacting 50,000 primary school children at the 12 new schools established through the campaign.

This is not the first time the new program has faced challenges. The initiative, which aimed to enroll one million children in its first year, got off to a slow start after a lackluster marketing campaign. It also faced criticism from teachers after the government failed to deliver a national curriculum to be used as a basis for instruction. In addition, parents and teachers voiced safety concerns after the country’s al-Qaida militant group warned that the schools were legitimate targets for attack.

Despite the challenges, many agreed that the program was providing hope for the many Somali families that could not afford private school tuition. In June of 2013, the first national education conference was held in Mogadishu where the Somali prime minister, Abdi Farah Shirdon, promised that the government would give education the same priority as defense, asserting that  it was the constitutional right of each child to receive education free of charge.

The Go 2 School program was launched in September with much excitement at public ceremonies in Mogadishu, Garowe and Hargeisa. UNICEF continues to urge funders to support the Go 2 School campaign, while Maryan Qasim, former Minister for Human Services and Public Services in Somalia, urged teachers to have patience with the government and commence their teaching duties.

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A Creative Approach to Counter Bullying in a School in Iran

School children in Bam

A teacher in Iran shaved his head to show solidarity to a student who was being bullied after losing hair due to an illness.

Ali Mohammadian, a teacher at Sheikh Shaltoot’s elementary school in the Kurdistan Province of Marivan in western Iran, noticed that his eight-year-old student, Mahan Rahimi “had become isolated after going bald.” Mohammadian stated, “ smiled had disappeared from his face and I was concerned about his class performance.” He decided to become bald, and posted a photo of himself with Mahan on Facebook, captioned, “our heads are sensitive to hair.” Not only did his post go viral, but soon after, his entire class of over 20 students also decided to shave their heads and show solidarity, rather than hostility, toward their classmate.

Since his gesture in early January, Mohammadian has not only become a hero amongst the Iranian public, he has also received praise from President Hassan Rouhani, and was invited by Education Minister Ali Ashar Fani for a formal thank-you. Moreover, the Iranian government has agreed to financially support Mahan’s treatment, which doctors say is due to an immune disorder.

In the United States, 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying in their school, and it is found that adults intervene 4 percent of the time according to the National Association of School Psychologists. Indeed, it is a struggle for any teacher, no matter the location, to effectively counter bullying given the demands of the job. Juggling large class sizes, achievement targets, and administrative responsibilities, addressing bullying is often at the bottom of the priority list. The case of Mohammadian, who has 23 years of teaching experience, shows how a small gesture can go a long way. It transformed the culture of his classroom, and “Mahan’s classmates have…become supportive of him and a smile is back on face.”

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Bangladesh’s Political Turmoil Takes a Toll on Test Scores

 バングラデシュのダッカのスラム街“Hartals,” or strikes, have been a common feature of Bangladesh’s political scene since its birth. Hartals often involve violence in the form of damaging private property such as cars, trains, or buses, and therefore result in a virtual shutdown of transportation and commerce. Although public schools remain open during strikes, attendance is low because many students are unwilling to take the risk of travelling. Private English-medium schools shut down during strikes, taking significant time away from the school year.

Not only do strikes take away valuable school hours, the uncertainty and constant reshuffling of exam schedules negatively impacts students’ ability to prepare. A student from Monipur High School and College stated, “our syllabus could not be completed because of the hartals and blockade programmes and now the political programmes are hampering our last minute preparations.” The impact can already be seen in the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) results in 2013, which have dropped more than five percentage points. The combined pass rate also decreased 4.37 percentage points.

International exams such as the O’ and A’ Levels, which follow a global schedule, have been rescheduled or postponed at least nine times since January 2013, often at unusual hours such as midnight. In certain cases, consecutive hartals have resulted in cancelled exam dates, meaning students would have to wait at least six months before the next exam date. Parents and guardians are frustrated and worried about their childrens’ performance, and their prospects of admissions to national and international universities. A group of parents recently submitted a memorandum to the opposition party, demanding them not to call hartals on exam days.

Recent years have seen a marked increase in the number of hartals, with 173 days of shutdown in the period between 2001 and 2006. 2013 also saw a record number of strikes as it was a pre-election year. The recent election has been marred with controversy, with a boycott from the opposition party and a record low turnout. It has resulted in declarations of indefinite blockades and continued strikes, which threaten to weaken not only the economy, but the education system.

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Nigerian Health Officials Tackle Child Pneumonia Epidemic

EVA - 2012 Education Award Recipient: Africa- Middle EastThe Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) is calling for nation-wide action towards tackle the country’s growing pneumonia epidemic. The deadly disease accounts for 17 per cent of all deaths under the age of five, accumulating to the deaths of approximately 130,000 Nigerian children annually. This statement was released in lieu of World Pneumonia Day 2013 by the NMA President, Dr. Osahori Enabulele.

According to Enabulele, there are many causes of the startling figure, including “poor personal, household and environmental hygiene; poor nutrition including the unsatisfactory adherence to the globally hallowed exclusive breastfeeding practice in the first six months of life; and poor nutrition worsened by dwindling economic fortunes of families and communities in Nigeria.”

Additional factors include “the prevalence of household as well as environmental pollution; cigarette smoking by carefree adults, use of firewood in domestic cooking, unmitigated bush burning as well as other forms of air pollution; poor ventilation worsened by over-crowding and unwholesome building construction practices; and crass ignorance as the real cause of the disease, still hold sway.”

Dr Ado Muhammad, Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), is advocating for policy and program implementation to stem the number of child deaths. According to the NPHCDA, less than half of all Nigerian children displaying pneumonia related symptoms are treated, while only 23 per cent of all children receive antibiotics.

The agency is currently planning systematic immunization in eight states, while a new vaccine will be administered in 13 Nigerian states beginning in December.

Nigerian doctors are also calling for strict enforcement of the country’s ban that prevents smoking in public areas. The NWA explained that “enforcing the ban is a step toward protecting innocent children and non-smokers against the dangers of secondhand smoking.”

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Vietnam and Malaysia Solidify Bi-Lateral Commitments to Higher Education

School StudentsMalaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin visited Vietnam to solidify relations between the two countries in areas of higher education. A memorandum of understanding was signed between Yassin and Malaysia’s Ambassador to Vietnam Datuk Azmil Zabidi. The agreement highlights future teacher exchanges, potential reforms and new educational technologies, bilateral programs and confidence-building strategies for higher education in Malaysia and Vietnam.

Azmil explained to Malaysian press, “there are many Vietnamese students in Malaysia, especially in private institutions of higher learning. However, there are virtually no Malaysian students here, except for a few from the Defense Ministry who are here to learn the language. Last year, we received about 500 visa applications from Vietnamese students. At the moment, there are about 2,800 Vietnamese students in Malaysia.” The memorandum of understanding is aimed to increase the number of Vietnamese students in Malaysia’s private higher learning institutions.

Muhyidden’s three day visit to Vietnam also addressed strategies to boost trade and “provide an opportunity for the business representatives to share their views on enhancing Malaysia-Vietnam economic ties,” and “currently, investment is largely from Malaysia to Vietnam, mostly in property development, oil and gas, and manufacturing,” said Azmil. Defense and security, and manpower and agriculture was also discussed.

Bilateral trade increased from US $6.6 billion in 2010 to over US $9 billion last year. The visit was scheduled during the 40th anniversary of the established diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Vietnam. 

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Children in Bhutan Learn How To Organic Farm

Weighing scales, ThimphuA boarding school in Yurung, Bhutan, teaches children organic farming skills through the World Food Program’s (WFP) agricultural gardening classes. Everything in the garden – cabbage, peanuts, chili, cauliflower, spinach and carrots, to name a few – is grown by the children. All produce is provided to the students, alongside WFP and government supplemented meals.

The agricultural gardening classes impart modern ways of farming and how “to appreciate the value of producing nutritious food,” explained the school’s principal Ugyen Wangdi. The knowledge is brought home to the children’s families, who are then invited to learn proper farming techniques and gardening practices at the school. The parent’s harvests can be sold back for the school kitchen, which in turn stimulates the local market.

Karma Yangzom, student captain of the school’s agriculture program, said, “the vegetables here are organic and fresh, I can eat them confidently without worrying if there are any harmful chemicals” and “I know what we plant and how we grow them. I learn a lot from how to make a bed and move plants from one plot to another to ensure they have proper spacing.”

The Royal Government of Bhutan plans on taking over the school feeding program from WFP in 2018. Wangdon explained, “now is the best time for us to move towards self-sufficiency and produce food for ourselves… I believe the school agriculture program is an essential part of this.”

By 2018, WFP hopes the healthy food system will be deeply established in the local community, which will assist in healthy and sustainable living for following generations. The school continues to be a source of inspiration for many budding gardens within the country. 

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Rwanda’s Youth Receive College Opportunities Through Open Sourced Programs

Road to NyanzaCollege-aged Rwandan youth will now receive low cost and high quality learning thanks to Kepler, an education program offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) and competency-based degrees. Kepler launched their program from Kigali, the nation’s capital, and was established with Generation Rwanda, a scholarship program for Rwanda’s most vulnerable and gifted youth.

Kepler’s revolutionary project provides open sourced and online content from prestigious Western universities, on-site classroom instruction, and an associate degree from Southern New Hampshire University’s competency-based program, College for America. Kepler’s 10 year plan is intended to reach up to 100,000 students through a network of replicated programs in the developing world.

50 out of 2,696 students who applied were chosen to pilot the program. The program is currently free for all students and hopes to keep tuition below $1,000 after expending the anonymously donated start-up funding. The few universities in Rwanda require a tuition that runs between $1,500 and $2,000 a year – about three times the average annual income.

According to the World Bank, only 6.6% of college-aged Rwandans were enrolled in universities in 2011. Kepler’s website wrote, “progressive countries like Rwanda have achieved incredible growth by building knowledge rather than oil refineries or diamond mine. But without the institutions to train their home-grown talent, true knowledge economies remain out of reach. Kepler is specifically designed for this role: training a new generation of creators and builders for the developing world. Kepler’s pilot campus in Rwanda is built to deliver top academic and career outcomes at a price that is affordable to anyone with the talent and determination to take part.”

International audiences are optimistic, emphasizing the program’s potential to serve as an example for educators using MOOC based curriculum. Paul J. LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University, said their partnership with Kepler will allow the institution to “test the waters for what we think might grow, “and “the idea was to work with partners that could be part of the student’s individual learning ecosystem, and for many adults that might mean a range of community-based organizations. We see the Kepler pilot in that light, and we love their mission.”

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Ecuador’s Indigenous Communities Approve Oil Drilling in Exchange for Education Funding

YasuniThe Ecuadorian Indigenous community, the Waorani, nestled inside the Yasuni National Park in the Amazonian jungle, will allow international oil companies to drill into their land in exchange for government and international funding for education, healthcare, and recognition of ancestral lands.

President Rafael Correa signed the agreement with 500 members of the Waorani community who were representing the 48 tribes that form the indigenous group.

The decision settled long running protests implicating the government in conspiracies with international companies in violation of the constitution and Ecuadorian citizens. Local and international organizations also stress that the decision will devastate one of Ecuador’s most biodiverse areas. In response, Mr Correa explained that the country is in desperate need for the difficult investment and stringent environmental regulations will underlie the drilling.

According to the agreement, international donors would contribute $3.6 billion to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for education, health care, and other social programs in exchange for drilling in the park. The oil extraction is expected to generate over $7 billion in revenue over a ten year period.

Biodiversity Commission of the Ecuadorian National Assembly approved a report announcing Yasuni a national interest. It will be voted on by Congress this September.

Leaders from the Waorani community spoke with the President prior to the decision and agreed on the necessity of the investment. Jofre Poma, mayor of Lago Agrio, said “we want development, we want progress. We need healthcare, quality of life, schools, roads, drinking water.”

Anita Rivas, mayor of The Coca, requested that educational facilities be built from the oil revenue and said, “We lack basic services. More than 70 thousand people have no water. Hopefully, now that the President is looking at the Amazon, these works are built for the community.”

According to UNICEF’s 2011 annual report and Ecuador’s Observatory for the Rights of Children and Adolescents (ODNA), 33% of indigenous youth ages 15-17 drop out of schools, compared to 24% of the national average. In 2009, indigenous children between the ages 5 and 17 were reported three times more likely to be involved in the labor market than Ecuadorian children of mixed descent. The report stresses that additional efforts need to be made by training bilingual teachers and implementing education models based in indigenous cultures. 

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