Iraqi Refugees put Increasing Strain on Host Countries

2013 proved to be the bloodiest year in Iraq since 2008. In addition to devastation inside the country, the violence has also driven thousands of Iraqis to neighboring Jordan and Syria, where they, along with refugees from the conflict in Syria, are putting increasing strains on their neighbors’ infrastructure.

IraqMore than 3,000 Iraqis have fled to Turkey since the beginning of this month. “This is the largest influx of Iraqis we have seen in three years,” said John Young, a representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNHCR registered 1,302 Iraqi refugees in Jordan in December, compared to about 4,200 all of last year.

The influx of Iraqi refugees has placed a greater burden on the already strained resources of the nations hosting the refugees. Funding for the estimated 29,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan has been increasingly hard to come by. “It has been very difficult to get the international community and donors’ attention in recent years as the Syrian crisis has deepended,” said Salaam Kanaan, country director for CARE Jordan.

Officials now say that funding once earmarked for education and support of Iraqi refugees has been diverted to assist with the greater numbers of Syrians pouring into Jordan. “All international funding now goes straight to Syrian families,” said Dr. Khaled Shammas, director of an Iraqi healthcare program at the Italian Hospital in Amman.

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UNESCO Still Struggling From Lack of Funding

UNESCO headquarters in Paris UNESCO, the cultural agency most known for its promotion and protection of world heritage sites, has suspended American membership after the US has withheld funds from the agency for three successive years. Having provided 22  of the UNESCO budget prior to the cuts, America’s decision to withhold funding has led to the slashing of key components of UNESCO programs, including initiatives to increase education for young women around the world.

The decision to withhold funds was in protest to UNESCO’s recognition of Palestine as a country in 2011. Now entering its third year without US funding, which approximated an annual 70 million dollars, the agency has been forced to cut costs and frantically look for ways to make up for the loss by freezing hiring, cancelling new programs, and renegotiating contracts.

UNESCO sponsors key education initiatives, including Education for All and UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment, programs that promote early childhood education in countries including Iraq and Pakistan as well as 35 other countries with low literacy rates. Education for All, which goals include achieving gender equality in education and improving adult literacy rates by 50 % by the year 2015, has urgently called for more funding as the deadline approaches.

Though some countries, such as Norway, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, have pledged to increase their annual contributions to make up for the lack of US funding, the agency’s budget continues to suffer. This has prompted UNESCO to turn to the private sector for additional funding. UNESCO’s education programs have suffered the most from budget cuts partly due to the meagre private donations that education programs receive in comparison to other fields; only 8% f US foundations’ grants are allocated to education compared to the 53 per cent of US foundations’ grants that are allocated to health.

In 2012, UNESCO claimed to be in its “worst financial situation ever”.  The Education for All website claims that an additional 16 billion dollars will need to be raised annually in order to achieve some of its goals in low-income countries by the 2015 deadline.

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Vietnam: $96 Million to Train Students Abroad

The Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung recently approved a VND 2.070 trillion (US $96 million) plan that will send state officials and specially selected students to train abroad for the next seven years.

A dentist performs a root canal.Per the plan, the country aims to increase the number of Master’s degrees earned by college lecturers at higher education institutions, research center employees, and ministry and other state officials.

The teaching profession will receive 60 percent of the funding; the remainder will be allocated among research institutions and government agencies.

Students demonstrating exceptional talents in science, as well as other technically specialized fields, will be hand-picked to enroll in “high-quality programs” at undergraduate universities in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia.

According to reports, Vietnam’s long-ranging goal is to have 1,650 people graduate with Master’s degrees and another 150 achieve university degrees by 2020.

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Nigerian Union of Teachers Demands Implementation of UNESCO’s Suggestion

Teachers Without Borders' One Laptop Per Teacher Campaign Begins in Makurdi, Nigeria As the world celebrated Labor Day, Nigeria’s capital city Abuja became the arena for the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), as they called on every tier of their government in an attempt to ensure allocation of 26 per cent annual budget to education.

NUT is blaming the longstanding problems of the nation’s education sector on years of neglect and poor funding. Determined to succeed, the union has testified the imperative nature of the issue. They have asked for all the three tiers of government in Nigeria to begin the  implementation of United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO’s recommendation of 26 per cent budget to education.

NUT President and comrade Michael Alogba Olukoya, said there would be no going back on the proposed strike declared in 18 States of the federation on the non-implementation of the 27.5 per cent Teachers’ Enhanced Salary and N18, 000 minimum wage. The effective date for the strike remains June 1, listing affected states to include Benue, Cross River, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Ekiti, Osun, Ogun, Oyo, Edo, Nassarawa, Zamfara, Plateau, Taraba, Borno, Kogi, Niger and Sokoto.

In order to highlight the issue further, he stated his continuous disappointment that education did not always command the priority attention it deserves by decades of Nigerian leaders. On top of this, he stated that the constant flimsy nature of policy promises were severely damaging the nations chances of progression.

He said: “Various governments have not taken education very serious. It has been a sort of policy summersault. Today is 6-5-4; tomorrow 6-3-3-4; day after, talking of scrapping of UTME and so and so forth. For me education should be seen as a vehicle of survival.”

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Malaysia: Wheels in Motion for School Bus Insurance Policy

In two-parent working families, children must rely on school buses to bring them to and from school. With 16,663 registered school buses in Malaysia, school bus safety is a main concerns raised by parents.

MA_0069_CIMG2115However, parents may find comfort knowing that the School Children Insurance Coverage Scheme is now in place. Under the policy, around 1.5 million students in primary and secondary students (up to Form 5) who travel by school bus will be protected in cases personal accident, permanent disability, and death up to RM 100,000.

Extra coverage for medical expenses is limited to RM 3,000, with in-hospital benefits up to RM 100 daily for a maximum of 30 days.

The policy applies to students from all types of schools registered under the Education of Ministry, including private and international schools.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the insurance scheme when tabling the 2013 national budget in September 2012. The government has since allocated RM 40 million in insurance coverage for a period of two years.

While the National Union of Teaching Profession (NUTP) said it welcomed the government’s move to pay for the insurance, more needs to be done to improve bus facilities and driver safety standards.

“It’s certainly a good move to implement the insurance scheme. For instance, if an untoward incident occurs to a child, the insurance coverage will at least ease the burden of the family. However, the school buses have to be upgraded to ensure students’ safety,” stated President Hashim Adnan.

Secretary General Loke Yim Peng added, “Most buses look old and should have seat belts, especially in the back row.”

“Insurance coverage is not going to reduce accidents. It is up to every individual bus driver to change their attitude.”

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Australia: Giving a ‘Gonski’ For Public Education

A new budget analysis released by the Australian Education Union (AEU) shows that public schools risk receiving $390 million less in funding in 2014 if the federal and state governments fail to establish the Gonski school funding reforms by the start of next year. The cut would equate to the loss of over 3,000 teacher positions, according to the author of the analysis, Dr. Jim McMorrow.

Gonski infographicConducted in 2011, the Gonski Review has been the most comprehensive review of Australian school funding in the last 40 years. It was commissioned by the federal government and carried out by panel of experts lead by senior businessman David Gonski.

Analysis results indicated that the current funding system was not investing enough in schools nor distributing its spending fairly, catering mostly to the private education sector.

The review also showed large gaps in student achievement. Students from disadvantaged areas were three years behind in schooling than those living in wealthy areas. One in seven 15-year-olds were found to lack basic reading abilities.

As a response, the Gonski review recommended that every student be given a base level of funding from state and federal governments, with additional means delivered to disadvantaged students. In contrast, the amount received by private schools would vary depending on the revenue gained from tuition fees.

This Friday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and state officials will meet to establish the terms for next years’ education funding budget. Ahead of the meeting, Gillard is negotiating an agreement to have a $6.5 billion increase in state and federal spending by 2019.

Meanwhile, AEU has been campaigning to encourage legislation of the Gonski-inspired funding system. “The weeks ahead are critical to achieving our long-time political objective of full, fair, and equitable funding for education,” said AEU Federal President, Angelo Gavrielatos.

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World Bank Funds Two Nigerian Projects to Improve Education and Employment Opportunities

NG018S13 World BankRecently it was announced that the World Bank will be financing two major projects in Nigeria. They are the Nigeria Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO), and the Nigeria State Education Program Investment Project (SEPIP). The projects aim to provide more job opportunities in 10 Nigerian states, while also improving the quality of education for millions of students. It was reported that the World Bank approved $450 million in funding.

$300 million will finance YESSO, allowing them to focus on providing the poorest 10 percent of households in 10 states, with job opportunities. People between the ages of 18 and up to 35 will have a chance to get skills training. There will also be an improved access to social services.

SEPIP, with the remaining $150 million, will be targeting three Nigerian states: Anambra, Bauchi, and Ekiti. They hope to serve millions of children in these states that don’t have access to quality education. Particularly students in government’s primary and secondary schools. In order to achieve this goal, the project will focus on better teacher deployment and school management.

“Investing in people is an essential part of Nigeria’s strategy to reduce poverty and achieve steady economic growth,” said Marie-Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, “I am delighted that we are supporting better schooling and earning prospects for millions of children and young people, while also cushioning some of the poorest families through a stronger social safety net system.”

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Bulgarian President Emphasizes Need for Scientific Innovation

Science World “Education and innovation are the recipe of Bulgaria’s future success.” This is the new mantra championed by Bulgaria’s President, Rosen Plevneliev, in a meeting with the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia yesterday.

Bulgaria is a nation that demands that higher emphasis be placed on education, especially in the secondary vocational sector. Speaking with the Chairman of the Bulgarian Academy of sciences, academic Stefan Vodenicharn and 14 other colleagues expressed their desire to see their work on the future educational operation program continued.

Plevneliev continued by setting himself a set of development goals to be reached by the end of 2013. These include a careful plan and preparation for a new educational program with an emphasis on science.

The significance of the sciences in the President’s plans will culminate in the creation of a National Innovation Fund, designed to support fresh and innovative ideas found in businesses and high schools nationwide.

The board will be empowered to make “transparent decisions in favor of the development of innovations” in Bulgaria, since the country currently lags behind its European counterparts within the scientific fields.

The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences will be involved in drafting the specifics of the National Innovation Fund, with particular proposals. Scientists working within the academy have outlined their priorities, stating that they seek “a working model and program for adapted education of the Roma Community in Bulgaria, legislative changes regarding scientific ranks and encouragement of scientific research, with emphasis on mathematical and engineering specialties.”

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Philippines: ‘Early Learning for Life’ Program is Just the Beginning

The foundations of learning are built from the moment of birth. Could early childhood education be a key ingredient for closing the gaps that threaten global educational growth?

UNICEF, alongside the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Council, and the Department of Education (DepED) has launched a program to support early childhood education in disadvantaged areas throughout the Philippines.

I'm Smart Kent County Girls on the Run April 06, 20101Projected to reach 150,000 children ages 3 to 5 years old, “Early Learning for Life” will see to the construction of at least 100 schools and daycare centers in 36 of the most conflict-ridden, urbanized, and disaster-prone areas. The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) has allocated $18 million (P730 million) in order to fund the program.

Around 2,500 kindergarten teachers and daycare workers will attend intensive training courses focusing on early childhood care and development,  provision of learning materials and clean water services, and improvement of education policies and systems.

In addition, the program will support Supervised Neighborhood Play (SNP), an alternative learning mode to ECCD that includes outdoor community play for children with no access to daycare centers.

DSWD Secretary, Dinky Soliman, explains that the program supplements local and national government work with connections to state projects such as the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program. “This is not a dole-out but a wise investment that consequently translates to the strengthened platform for poverty reduction and economic growth,” she said.

Tornoo Hozumi, the UNICEF Philippines representative, notes, “We should continue to build on the work of the government and understand the many challenges that keep children from getting the right start to learning.”

He adds, “If we are able to address the challenges facing children who are most deprived, we will be in a better position to ensure their growth and success.”

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Papua New Guinea: Teacher’s Union Doubts Free Education Program

In Papua New Guinea, tuition fees hold many parents back from providing for their children’s education. As a result, nearly a quarter of school-aged children receive no formal education.

Addressing this issue, the government recently allocated 238 million kina (USD 112 million) to PNG’s free education program. Covering all student fees up to grade 10, the program is estimated to reach 11,000 schools and 1.3 million students.

Kabaira School kids While free education would seem to be a good thing, educationists worry that higher enrollment will only lead to higher retention. And without some kind of monetary component involved, parents’ could begin to feel less responsible for their children’s education.

All agree that the program will negatively impact student learning. Ugwalubu Mowana, the National Secretary of PNG’s Teacher’s Association, states: “We are concerned that free education may have a response where the high enrollments mean there will be crowded classrooms and teacher performance will be affected and learning will be affected…You need to increase significantly the number of teachers, and train them properly and provide the proper learning supports and facilities.”

Last year, around 2,000 teachers graduated from training but just as many teachers were suspected of leaving the education sector.

“That is not going to be different this year and next year unless the attitude of the government in terms of funding is changed. By 2018, the number of teachers is forecast to be around 165,000. Currently, we only have 42,000 teachers practicing in the classrooms.”

The Teacher’s Union is currently preparing submissions for the National Education Board, requesting an increase in the number of teacher’s attending training colleges. Will graduating more teachers help to compensate for the rising number of children in the classroom?

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