Over the past decade, there has been important progress in achieving the target of universal primary education. The total enrollment rate in developing regions reached 91 percent in 2015, and worldwide the number of children out of school has dropped by almost half. Still, disparities between children living in the poorest and wealthiest households and between those living in rural and urban areas remain high. How can these disparities be tackled to make education inclusive?
An Interview with
Mary Mittochi, Project Director, DREAMS: Malawi Communities Investing in Education for Child Health and Safety, FHI 360
In this Q&A, Mary Mittochi, the project director for DREAMS: Malawi Communities Investing in Education for Child Health and Safety, discusses how this new project will reduce the acquisition of HIV by adolescent girls and boys. The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) named FHI 360 as one of the winners of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge. The DREAMS partnership, led by PEPFAR with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare, is helping adolescent girls and young women become Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe.
As one of the 56 DREAMS Innovation Challenge winners, how will FHI 360 help adolescent girls and young women become Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe?
FHI 360’s DREAMS: Malawi Communities Investing in Education for Child Health and Safety project will focus on integrated, community-led efforts designed to ensure that education, health and economic drivers for staying in school and completing secondary education are simultaneously addressed and strengthened. Over time, this will reduce the incidence of HIV in adolescent girls and boys. By keeping girls in school and connecting them to a comprehensive range of services and supports, we aim to equip them and their communities with the knowledge and agency they need to make more informed choices about their health and their future.
In the beginning of September, Malala challenged girls around the world to show their support for refugee girls by sharing a #YesAllGirls photo — just like she did with her classmates.
Girls (and boys!) from all over posted picture after inspiring picture, with each group seemingly larger than the last. One of our favorite photos came from the students at JSS Government Secondary School Federal Housing Estate in Calabar, Nigeria.
Rachel, a 13-year-old student enrolled in the Cross River State school, shared her story.
“After my dad married my mum, they had my sister and I. My father did not care for my mum because he gave her only female children. He kept late nights and had other women. My mum left after she couldn’t take it anymore. She also left us at a tender age with our grandmother. My father married another woman, who had male children for him. My step mum told my dad to send us out of the house which he did. My sister was serious about writing her Senior Secondary Exams; but due to lack of parental guidance and care on the part of both my mum and dad, my sister failed her exams. This has made life more depressing for her. Anytime I see my sister I cry, because her education has ended from the lack of concern on the part of my father, it makes me sad. I pray for my sister and don’t want her life stagnated or her education ending just like that.
Nothing has inspired me more than the sacrifices I have seen African parents make to send their children to school. In Swaziland in the 1990s, I calculated that a typical rural family spent over 60 percent of its disposable income to pay for school fees, books and uniforms. The reason families are willing to devote so much to educate their children was summed up by the pioneering American educator Horace Mann in 1848, when he wrote, “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”
As our world has become more interconnected and technology-dependent, the role of education as the primary pathway to social and economic mobility has grown stronger. We now live in the most prosperous era in the history of mankind, but one where a quality education is the price of admission into the 21st century knowledge economy.
As more countries have prospered, the gap between the haves and the have nots — which, in most low- and lower-middle income countries, is the gap between the well-educated and the undereducated — has become a potentially destabilizing factor. Lack of education decreases life opportunities and increases political marginalization, perpetuating and exacerbating social and economic inequality. In an increasingly uncertain and volatile world, educational inequality not only is a main component of the poverty trap, but is also a tripwire for social strife and conflict.
What do Ethiopia, Nepal, Niger and the Philippines have in common? Each country had episodes of conflict in the 1990s, and each bucked the global trend of declining education inequalities in a subsequent time period. Researchers have long puzzled over the relationship between inequality and civil conflict: Do grievances over a lack of access to resources or social capital actually lead people to go to war? For some academics, the question is met with skepticism, as empirical research has often led to inconclusive results. Recent changes in the way inequality is conceptualized and measured have changed the way people think about this connection.
Read the full blog.
Rising inequality is one of the greatest challenges facing the global community today – and equity is rightly at the heart of the new development agenda, reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration. Nowhere is the challenge of equity more salient than in education, with its potential to positively shape life outcomes – or further exacerbate societal disparities.
How prepared are we in the education community to address this challenge? Do we have the right tools, metrics, and interventions to track our progress in educational equity? While we have gathered gender-disaggregated data for decades, our collective practice in tracking equity across other dimensions has been far from deliberate. Just as quality proved a blind spot in the early years of the previous goals period, there is a risk that inequality in education outcomes and resources will go unmeasured, unreported, and unaddressed. Without attention to equity now, we may soon find ourselves scrambling to address the equity gap, just as we scrambled to address the learning gap that emerged under the focus on access.
Read the full blog here.
A disturbing trend has developed showing that decreasing numbers of girls and women are majoring and entering careers in science, mathematics, engineering, technology and computer science (STEM-CS). Some of this decline is attributed to how math is taught in schools. If students do not find math interesting, if the teaching of math is described as boring or not fun, and if students do not see the relevancy or application of math in their personal lives, then students and girls particularly are not going to be interested in or pursue careers in mathematics or any of the other STEM-CS fields.
Since math and science both suffer from teacher and student low self-efficacy, it is extremely important to make these subjects interesting and relevant. Thus, much of my role as a science teacher educator working with preservice and in-service elementary teachers is to begin building a foundation for them to become reacquainted with math and science and to excite an interest of learning these areas, so that they can do the same for their students. Below I outline a few ways teacher education can support the development of girls’ math identity. A first step is to encourage a math and science identity with teachers during their teacher preparation with the hope that they will foster math and science identity with their students.
One effective way of improving the quality of education in low- and middle-income countries is to invest in information and communications technology (ICT).
Providing schools with internet access and computer hardware opens doors to an abundance of information that teachers and students can use to make lessons more relevant and effective. Teachers can use online portals to connect with each other and to share lesson plans and best practices, while students can use ICT to access online libraries and to master new technologies.
Many of FHI 360’s education projects use ICT as a tool to enhance the quality of teaching and learning, encourage community participation in education and increase school access. Bringing ICT to middle school classrooms in Senegal was a critical part of FHI 360’s Education de Base project. This project, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and reached more than 93,000 students and 4,500 teachers in Senegal, won the Innovating Secondary Education Skills Enhancement Prize from the group Results for Development. The prize was awarded, in large part, because of its effective use of ICT.
Girls get the message — from the toys they play with, the TV shows they watch and the attitudes of their parents, teachers and peers — that math is NOT for them! From an early age, girls are taught that math success is about an innate ability that they lack and that being feminine and being good at math are mutually exclusive.
As a result, girls do not develop a positive math identity — an identity that research tells us is key to their interest, participation and persistence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers. Without a solid background in math, girls will not develop the critical STEM skills that will be required for 60 percent of the new jobs that will become available in the 21st century.
There are two pillars of a positive math identity: the belief that you can do math and the belief that you belong. Identity is fluid and dynamic. It is developed through social practice, and it is through social practice that learners develop a sense of who they are. There is no such thing as a “math gene” or a “math brain,” but the myth is perpetuated, and it is particularly harmful to girls and students of color. Teachers and parents often unconsciously convey stereotyped messages that girls do not need to be good in math.
In most primary and secondary schools in sub-Saharan Africa, girls and boys learn math, science, language, art and history along with other subjects. Seldom do they receive the critical information they need to keep them safe, healthy and able to withstand the challenges that threaten their well-being and basic right to education. Completing a full cycle of education can become little more than a dream.
Turning the dream of education into a reality was the driving force behind the Four Pillars PLUS project. With funding from the GE Foundation, FHI 360 launched this robust girls’ education, mentoring and empowerment project in the counties of Kisumu and Siaya in Kenya.