Education

  • Study tours address school violence prevention in El Salvador

    Violence is one of the greatest challenges facing youth in El Salvador today. By 2011, gang activity and organized crime had entered more than 300 schools across the country, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). To prevent school violence, FHI 360 has conducted a series of week-long study tours as part of the USAID Education for Children and Youth Program, which has been working in El Salvador since 2013.

    To date, three tours have brought approximately 50 principals, Ministry of Education officials and other education stakeholders to Washington, DC, to explore best practices for improving the educational opportunities for Salvadoran youth living in areas with high rates of violence. The tours promote positive relations between the U.S. and El Salvador and specifically aim to strengthen Salvadoran society through secondary education reform. Participants have explored models for combating high education dropout rates, preventing school violence and creating safe spaces for youth.

    The large Salvadoran population in Washington, DC, provides a unique opportunity for the participants to learn how youth from El Salvador and of Salvadoran descent are faring in U.S. schools.

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  • Preparing students for health careers in Kenya

    Dominic-220x415If you were to ask 100 students in Kenya what their career ambitions are, there is a significant chance that at least 50 of them would say doctor or pharmacist. However, few understand what is really involved in achieving a health care career.

    Even if students gain admission to university, they are often unable to afford it. And, should they overcome those challenges, they often make ill-informed decisions about what to study, because they are not given adequate guidance and exposure to their desired profession. The few who successfully complete appropriate coursework may still struggle to get hired. In Kenya, there are far more college graduates than can be absorbed into the job market. Without meaningful work experience, recent graduates lack any competitive advantage.

    As co-founder and country director for the Kenya Education Fund, a scholarship organization that helps students living in poverty attend high school, I have learned firsthand the value of mentorship programs. Mentorships expose students to real-world professionals who provide the support necessary to help students realize their educational and professional aspirations.

    Today, the Kenya Education Fund coordinates with Johnson & Johnson’s Bridge to Employment (BTE) program to provide a mentoring program and regional workshops focused on problem solving and life skills. This program brings together Phillips Healthcare Services, a distribution partner of Johnson & Johnson, FHI 360, three institutions of higher education and two secondary schools. Fifty young men and women participate in BTE, and it has been an overwhelming success.

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  • An interconnected approach to improving handwashing behaviors

    Each year on Global Handwashing Day, hundreds of millions of people around the world gather to celebrate the power of handwashing with soap to save lives. This day also provides an opportunity to consider the current status of the hygiene sector and catalyze further action. As we look toward the future of hygiene behavior change, we need to ensure that we are maximizing the broader topic of integrated development and fully considering its relationship to hygiene.

    Integrated development, which can be defined in many different ways, is increasingly being discussed within the international development community, and FHI 360 plays an active role in convening this conversation. I recently had the opportunity, on behalf of the Global Public–Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW), to attend an event hosted by FHI 360 titled Does 1+1=3? Proving the Integration Hypothesis, which brought together expert panelists from academia, government, donors and nongovernmental organizations.

    I took away many key learnings from this event, but the one that stuck with me most is this: If we hope to move the needle on the most entrenched development challenges, we need to consider the benefits that could be offered by combining services or sectors.

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  • What challenges do girls in Kenya face in receiving a quality education?

    First, there is the barrier of poverty. The high cost of school fees often does not allow girls to enroll in school, because they cannot afford the books, supplies and uniforms. Even if they can pay their fees, they often cannot afford menstrual hygiene products, and without them, their learning is interrupted due to school absence. Next, discrimination in society and school makes it difficult for girls. Girls are only seen as future mothers, wives and caretakers. They are not seen as capable of tackling difficult subjects such as math and science. Because of this, girls often have low self-esteem and lose interest in school. They also fear sexual harassment and violence, which can make traveling to and from school dangerous. Finally, girls are expected to take on many more household duties than boys and often cannot devote adequate time to their studies, causing them to fall behind.

    How has the Four Pillars PLUS project made a difference to you?

    Four Pillars PLUS paid for my school fees at a boarding school, where I was able to get a quality of education that many girls could not. At boarding school, I had more time to study because I no longer had to do chores until late in the evening. I did not have to fear for my safety as I did when I walked long distances between school and my home each day. As a result, I studied hard and finished secondary school with a B+ average.

    Receiving mentoring helped me to deal with discrimination. It allowed me to see myself as a person with the same opportunities as boys.

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  • Tapping the potential of literacy for conflict mitigation

    Development organizations are increasingly being asked to provide education in places that have been torn apart by wars and other conflicts. Reading and writing instruction is often pushed to the forefront of education-in-conflict interventions, because literacy is a foundational skill for future education and success in the workforce. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) goal of improving the reading skills of 100 million children by 2015 emphasizes the value of literacy.

    Importantly, literacy also offers the potential to mitigate conflict. Instructional materials to develop literacy can include stories that model peaceful problem solving, value diversity (through characters who identify with various ethnic groups, for example) and communicate important information about safety and emergency measures.

    Despite the possible benefits, building literacy in conflict situations is complex. Common challenges, such as limited materials and infrastructure, militarized populations and psychosocial trauma, require substantial creativity and innovation in literacy programming. FHI 360 is addressing these challenges in three key ways:

    First, we are gaining knowledge to inform practice. Education in conflict is an understudied field, and very little is known about best practices for literacy instruction in conflict contexts. In 2014, JBS International commissioned an important research report by Lesley Bartlett and Zeena Zakharia, which provided “the first steps in developing a framework for literacy education in conflict- and crisis-affected contexts.”

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  • Too young to wed: The high price of early marriage

    Today, we celebrate Malala Day, a commemoration of girls’ empowerment and gender equality across all areas of human development. Like Malala Yousafzai, thousands of girls around the globe are dedicated to pursuing their education and choosing their life path yet are prevented from realizing their full potential. For the vast majority of these girls, the greatest barrier to schooling is not the bullets of terrorists — it is the day-to-day economic pressures and the unequal social expectations they face as they enter adolescence and young adulthood. It is a sad reality that in the 21st century, many girls are forced into marriage and starting a family as early as age 14, which brings their educational aspirations to a halt.

    Teenage, Married, and Out of School, a new study by the FHI 360 Education Policy and Data Center, highlights the heavy toll early marriage inflicts on school participation among adolescent girls in nine countries of east and southern Africa. While the universally ratified 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), as well as national legislation in all nine countries, protect children against marriage before age 18, early marriage is still visibly present across the region. Some countries, such as Rwanda, have managed to bring this disturbing phenomenon down to a minimum, while marriage at age 14 through age 17 appears to be fairly commonplace in others (Figure 1).

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  • Diverse functions of the INEE Minimum Standards in education in emergencies

    The 360° response by FHI 360 offers an integrated approach in addressing challenges to human development. Can you provide some examples of how this philosophy is implemented in your educational initiatives in post-conflict and fragile areas within Africa?

    FHI 360 works in multiple sectors, including education, health, civil society, peacebuilding, the environment, economic development and livelihoods. We believe in a context-sensitive and strengths-based approach. Education that is context specific really tries to address the challenges that exist by understanding linguistic, cultural, political, economic and historical factors that have affected the education system. Our 360° approach enables us to address these challenges by bringing together experts across sectors.

    In South Sudan, where sadly there has just been a major civil conflict, our education team will work very closely with our peacebuilding team to develop strategies for promoting reconciliation and building peace in the context of our education work. Another example is in northern Nigeria where a major challenge is to provide options to integrate modern education in Koranic schools, which many children attend, and to improve hygiene, water and sanitation in these schools.

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  • The future of workforce development

    goldmark-lara-2015-200x220How has the definition of workforce development changed?

    Workforce development used to be considered the “poor cousin of education.” It was defined as providing training to produce more and better-prepared workers. Thought leaders have since pushed for a more expansive view. Workforce development is now considered to be more than a single program or initiative. It is an interconnected set of solutions to meet employment needs: It prepares workers with needed skills, emphasizes the value of workplace learning and addresses the hiring demands of employers from the outset. The goal is to place workers in jobs where there are career development opportunities.

    Why does workforce development matter globally?

    Unemployment is a major issue for countries at various stages of development. A rapid increase in the youth population combined with social and political challenges has exacerbated the unemployment crisis in some of these countries. Workforce development is a logical and important solution to these problems, but only if it is approached in an effective way.

    What are key elements of an effective approach to workforce development?

    At the national or regional level, there must be an alignment between skills development and public- and private-sector investments to ensure that job creation keeps pace with the preparation of the workforce. Also, program quality — especially demand responsiveness — should be emphasized over scale. Scale is important, but there have been too many large-scale supply-driven efforts in the past.

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  • Creating pathways to health careers through mentorship

    Mentors can make a huge difference in the lives of young people. I have learned that firsthand in the last five years as a volunteer mentor for students in the Bridge to Employment (BTE) program in Wilmington, Delaware.

    The BTE program, funded by Johnson & Johnson and managed by FHI 360, helps students from disadvantaged communities learn about health careers and what they need to do to enter these fields. Higher education, whether through a four-year college or a two-year technical degree, is often the outcome. A key element of the program is providing one-on-one mentoring to students to ensure college-bound students enroll and succeed.

    I usually meet my mentee, Kevin, once a week. We talk about school, homework, BTE activities and how he will achieve his goals. Kevin started out as an average student, doing only what he needed to do to get by in school. After more than two years in BTE, Kevin has learned public speaking skills, confidence and more about careers and the college education he will need to achieve his goals. Now, he is an honor roll student and president of his senior class. Lately, our conversations revolve around which college Kevin will attend and what financial supports he will need.

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  • Perspectives on global education: FHI 360 experts at the 2014 CIES conference

    This week, FHI 360’s experts on global education are joining other education researchers, practitioners, leaders and partners in Toronto, Canada, for the 2014 Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society. The conference, which will take place March 11–15, will explore the theme, “Revisioning Education for All.” FHI 360’s education team will present on six panels on topics such as the value of integrated approaches to education systems strengthening, technology, literacy and providing access to quality education with sensitivity to gender and fragility. Follow our live coverage throughout the conference! Check here for our blogs, videos and photographs.