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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UNESCO Report Highlights Global Education Crisis

School Time, PeruUNESCO released the report Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All evaluating the progress being made towards the 2015 Education for All goals. The world will fall short of the goal to provide universal primary education to all children by 2015. Approximately 57 million children fail to attend school, and  250 million more attend schools  but fail to learn basic reading and math skills due to low quality education.

Approximately 10% of the money governments spend on primary education goes to waste because it is spent on substandard education that does little to benefit students. This equates to nearly $129 billion a year being squandered. Under these conditions, one-quarter of the world’s children (175 million)  are unable to read even a sentence after four years of primary education.

Children in poor and developing nations suffer the most from the failure of educational systems to deliver quality teaching. These countries have vastly improved attendance rates in primary schools, yet children are not getting the full benefit of the educational opportunities being provided.

This crisis in global education is largely due to severe shortages of teachers and a lack of proper training for those that are actively working in schools. There are not nearly enough qualified teachers available to staff schools and give children the attention they need. As a result, many schools struggle with high student to teacher ratios that make it impossible for teachers to give all students adequate attention.

Additionally, according to the UNESCO report “in a third of countries, less than 75% of primary school teachers are trained.” Many teachers lack appropriate formal training to national standards and are never adequately tested on their abilities to provide instruction before being placed in classrooms.

“Teachers have the future of this generation in their hands. We need 5.2 million teachers to be recruited by 2015, and we need to work harder to support them in providing children with their right to a universal, free and quality education. We must also make sure that there is an explicit commitment to equity in new global education goals…so that no one is left behind” explained Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General.

The UNESCO report recommended that governments focus upon four actions to improve the situation. Governments need to implement reforms to ensure teachers are properly trained and capable of supporting the neediest students. They must also select teachers who represent the same diversity as the children they teach, and ensure that underprivileged areas are being served by high quality teachers. Finally, the report called for governments to improve working conditions and provide incentives in order to attract and retain qualified teachers.

The Education for All Goals were established in 2000 as part of an effort to  provide all children, youth and adults with worldwide with a quality education. These goals focus on six goals which include: early childhood care and education, universal primary education, youth and adult skills, adult literacy, gender parity and equality, and quality of education. Although improvements have occurred, this report indicated that none of these global goals will be met by the initial target date of 2015.

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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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Does Your Math Teaching Have SMARTS?

Launch PadTeaching is never easy but it can definitely be fun! When you’re having fun in the classroom, kids will have fun too and learn something in the process! So ditch your worksheets and give your math teaching SMARTS!

SMARTS is an easy acronym to help identify fun ways to engage kids with math!

Songs–Who doesn’t like a good tune? Songs can help students remember the steps of long division or learn to count by 10s. Songs shouldn’t be complicated or difficult to remember and are often set to familiar tunes. Try skip counting by 4s to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat and you’ll see what I mean!

There are tons of free resources on the web but I love Songs for Teaching and TeacherTube. Other teachers are a great resource when trying to identify fun songs that work (and those that don’t) so turn to colleagues or online communities for teachers like Edutopia or Classroom 2.0. The key is to ditch boring drills and make learning catchy and fun! Research has shown that movement boosts academic performance so get your kids up and moving during songs to optimize fun and learning.

Manipulatives–Use whatever you have around you to make math meaningful! Count pencils to build one to one correspondence, cut sandwiches in quarters to demonstrate fractions and build various sized towers with blocks to teach measurement. Manipulatives help children “see” math and build meaning. Don’t fret if you don’t have access to fancy manipulatives from a learning store–pebbles work just as well as counting bears and you can create fraction tiles from sheets of paper.

Many teachers are afraid to introduce manipulatives because they fear children will fidget and lose focus. You can avoid this problem by establishing clear rules and expectations for Math Investigation and adhering to pre-established behavior plans. Most teachers are surprised to see that the children spend more time on task once manipulatives are introduced because they are engaged!

Art–Are you sensing a pattern of interdisciplinary connections here? Whenever possible, incorporate art projects into your math lessons. Have children create self portraits when studying symmetry, create beaded bracelets to reinforce patterns and draw pictures to illustrate word problems. My students only truly grasped the concept of area after creating pictures from paper mosaic “tiles”. We are trying to turn our children into budding mathematicians and encouraging them to create something always helps!

Recreation–We’re talking about games here! After you introduce a concept, give the children time to practice by playing games as an alternative to workbook practice. Students will have a blast while also getting the practice that they need! A card game of WAR can reinforce greater than/less than, Around the World with flash cards can reinforce math facts and a simple game of dice can reinforce probability. Try to incorporate games into your classroom whenever possible to increase engagement and promote learning!

Technology–Technology is a great tool to increase student engagement regardless of where your classroom is or what it looks like. For some, this may mean interactive white boards while for others this means access to a disposable camera. As more and more students are gaining access to technology in their classrooms, it is important for teachers to use these resources strategically, whether it be one tablet for an entire class or a classroom set of laptops.

Virtual manipulatives can be used to demonstrate place value, spreadsheets can be used to organize and display data and cameras can be used to photograph angles in the community. Incorporating technology helps prepare our students for success outside the classroom and opens the door to a growing library of open education resources available online.

Stories— Make math relatable for your students by placing problems in context through word problems, real life applications or picture books. Become a storyteller and encourage your students to tell stories about math through writing or illustration. Math read alouds can help introduce a math topic, math journals can be used to reflect on learning, and imaginative play can reinforce math in our everyday lives. Set up a grocery store in your classroom and watch math learning come to life!

The goal of teaching SMARTS is to keep math instruction captivating, lively and relevant in your classroom. What tricks do you use to keep math engaging and fun for your students?

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Students in South Sudan to Take Exams in Refugee Camps

The civil war in South Sudan has displaced over 400,000 people in just over a month since the conflict began last December. Refugees displaced within the country have limited access to food, water, and education. The U.N. has taken some steps to address the situation by setting up camps throughout the country to provide services to the refugees. Now the U.N. is assisting hundreds of primary school children complete their final exams in two camps in the capital city of Juba.

South Sudan: Growing violence deepens the humanitarian crisis across the country
The Primary School Leaving Examinations, required of students before they can advance to secondary school. More than 400 students are currently their exams in the camps. “The candidates in Juba County could not sit for their exams because of the clashes that begun on the eve of the examination date last month,” said Eustaz Wani Ladu, director of National Examinations at the State Ministry of Education. “We’re hoping the situation in Juba remains calm throughout the examination period,” he added.

While being able to sit the exam does offer students some normalcy, the situation is not ideal for test takers. “This will definitely affect my performance,” noted 19 year-old Gatluak Tung Gatluak. UNICEF representative Iyorluman Uhaa echoed his sentiments. “Taking a primary school leaving exam is a major milestone in education and we are impressed by the courage and determination of these young students to pursue their education under the most difficult of circumstances. We will do everything we can to help these young students through to secondary education and a chance at the future they so deserve.”


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Tunisia Partners with WFP to Provide Free School Meals

 With the new Tunisian government having recently affirmed the right to a free, public education in their draft constitution, officials are now turning to the logistics of running that school system. Among the issues is a new initiative for providing meals in Tunisian public schools. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has recently pledged its support to help implement the national school feeding program.

The Tunisian government signed a “memorandum of understanding” for the program after the government’s initial request. “It is important to stress that providing sufficient nutrition to all school children in Tunisia is not a luxury. Rather it is a necessity towards nurturing a healthy new generation of citizens who will be at the heart of building the country’s future,” WFP Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and Northern Africa Carlo Scaramella said.

French class at the Sogman primary school in SejnaneWFP will implement free school meals in all of Tunisia’s primary schools. The meals help act as a safety net for poor households that cannot afford meals for their children. The aim is increased food security for all families with children in the primary school system—a needed effort in the face of Tunisia’s increasing dropout rate. The agreement should provide some stability as the Tunisian Government negotiates its transition from President Ben Ali’s rule to a more open state since the 2011 revolution. The transitional government had hoped to ratify their draft constitution by January 14, but it is unclear how that timeline will be affected by the recent resignation of Prime Minister Ali Larayedh, who stepped down on January 9.

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Report Shows Africa Becoming a Better Place for Children

Ethiopian Tribes, SuriAccording to a new report released by the African Child Policy Forum, Africa has become a better place for children over the last five years. The ACPF’s 2013 African Report on Child Wellbeing shows a large reduction in the infant mortality rate and increased access to clean water and sanitation on the continent. However, researchers warn that further investments in health and education are needed to improve African children’s lives.

The Ethiopia-based ACPF investigated and reported on the trends of 52 African governments since 2008, focusing on 44 indicators measuring child protection, provision for children’s basic needs, and participation of children in decisions that affect them. South Africa, Tunisia, and Mauritius topped the list of most child-friendly countries, having put in place child protection laws that resulted in better outcomes for their young citizens. Chad, Eritrea, and the Central African Republic were last, and ranked among the worst places for children to grow up.

According to former Mozambican president Joaqim Chissano, one of the greatest gains for African children over the last five years has been in education. “Achievements on the education front- and particularly the dramatic increase in access to primary education, especially for girls- are commendable,” he said in the report. However, he noted that secondary school enrollment for girls remains low, limiting access to university education and many employment opportunities.

Additionally, researchers noted no clear association between a country’s wealth and its child-friendliness score. Several countries with a low GDP per capita, like Rwanda and Lesotho, outscored others with a higher GDP per capita, like Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

According to researchers a government’s commitment to enforcing child-friendly policy was more important for children’s wellbeing than a country’s wealth.

“It is a matter of political commitment, manifested primarily in a government’s willingness to put children at the top of the policy agenda and prioritize budgets accordingly,” the report said.

Moving forward, the report recommends that African governments to continue to invest in health, education, and child protection, as well as ensure their own accountability and good governance.

The 2013 African Report on Child Wellbeing can be found here.

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Can Project Phoenix Help Libya’s Children?

Child with his mother inside a bombed Misrata buildingProject Phoenix promises to develop mobile classrooms in Libya as part of an initiative to provide educational resources to children throughout the country. Launched by American IT professional Tommy Jordan and Northumbria University professor Dr. Gill Gillespie, this program seeks to have an immediate impact on Libya’s children by providing students with a place to learn and the technological resources with which to do it.

Initially, Jordan and Gillespie planned to work with the Libyan government to rebuild schools. When this plan fell through, they developed the idea of using empty shipping containers as portable schools that could hold up to 12 students. These self-powered facilities will be outfitted with desks, lighting, electricity, air conditioning, and technology in the form of tablets.

According to Dr. Gillespie “what could be a better way of getting education without having to start from the bottom and rebuilding schools which would involve going through the government and would take a long time.” Project Phoenix will be implemented within a matter of months and will seek to avoid the complexities of bureaucracy.

In February 2013, a nationwide school assessment determined that the revolution damaged approximately 40 percent of the nation’s schools. Investigators also found that many schools experience overcrowding, a lack of basic facilities (bathrooms, running water, waste disposal, etc) and inadequate teaching materials.

In response to these findings, UNICEF and the Libyan government signed an agreement to work together to improve the country’s basic education system. This will involve the implementation of various policies to support the sustainable development of an effective educational system throughout Libya.

Tommy Jordan proclaims that “our plan was without politics,” but this statement raises several important questions about how best to provide developmental aid in a situation such as this. How can Project Phoenix succeed in improving basic education throughout Libya without integrating this work into other ongoing projects by collaborating with the Libyan government, local organizations and communities? Can Project Phoenix’s quick-fix approach support ongoing efforts to reform Libya’s educational system or will it hinder them? And what are the potential consequences of ignoring the realities of Libyan politics?

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Nigeria Promises Free Education to All

Supporting healthy, educated youth in NigeriaNiger State governor Dr Babangida Aliyu stated that Nigeria’s wealth of human and natural resources can afford free primary and secondary education with enough to subsidize tertiary education. The promise was made during the 3rd African Regional Centre of Expertise Meeting, where the country’s delegates and school principals met to discuss the most pressing issues of the country.

Aliyu placed education as a top priority and agreed to increase his administration’s investments in the education sector. Aliyu further emphasized that elected and public appointed officials must “reduce stealing” and eliminate corruption to provide free education for all in Nigeria. United States Consul General Jeffery Hawkins stated “corruption drains the federal treasury of funds that could do wonders in expanding and improving the education provided to millions of Nigerian children, which in turn would enhance Nigeria’s economic future.”

Aliyu also addressed that educated people are easier to govern than those uneducated and will avoid unprecedented problems for the future of the country.

Out of 30 million Nigerian children, less than half are currently in school and less than one-third will continue to senior secondary school.

According to Aliyu, “our policy initiative on free and compulsory basic education, abolition of school fees, provision of learning and teaching materials, and payment of WAEC or NECO examination fees as well as school infrastructural development among others, remain fully on course and shall continue to receive government support.”

Aliyu also urged university professors to support implementation for the new policies and research sustainable educational development, and said “people must depend on universities for knowledge. The days of universities cocooning themselves is over.” 

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Mozambique to Achieve Universal Primary Schooling Soon

No quadroMozambique’s Ministry of Education announced that the country is close to achieving universal primary schooling, which is one of the eight targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) endorsed by the United Nations (UN).

At a meeting held in the Ministry’s Coordinating Council located in Gondola District, the Senior Ministry staff reported that Mozambique’s enrollment rate includes up to 90 percent of the country’s school-aged children, both boys and girls. Eurico Banze, the spokesperson for the meeting commented, “In terms of access, we are positively advancing towards meeting the targets.”

The Ministry acknowledged that wide access to primary education does not equate to high retention rate of students. In some levels of primary education, the graduation rate is reported to be lower than 50 percent. “The finishing rates are low, and that’s why we need to make an effort to overcome the problems affecting the quality pf education and academic performance,” Banze added.

One of the major obstacles to increasing the retention rate is the inadequate number of schools for sixth and seventh graders. Mozambique’s primary education is divided into two levels: First Level Primary Education includes grades 1-5 and Second Level Primary Education includes grades 6-7. The number of Second Level primary schools is significantly lower than that of First Level primary schools, narrowing the gateway for student to continue their education. The discussion at the meeting particularly focused on education in rural areas where many students lack access to Second Level Primary Education.

As an expedient to improve the quality of primary education, Augusto Jone, the Minister of Education announced the re-introduction of preschool education starting next year.

The implementation of preschool education is a pilot project that will be launched in only seven or eight districts in the country.  The preparation for the project is well-advanced on its way under the Mozambican government’s Education Strategic Plan for 2012-2016.

The state-regulated preschool system vanished in time with the changes in the National Education System. As of today, private institutions concentrated in major cities are the only places to acquire preschool education. The pilot project will be monitored by the state and will aim to provide access to those in remote, rural areas “where mothers leave their children when they go to their fields or to work,” as noted by the Minister.

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