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Nigeria @ 50: Partnership with USAID

USAID is helping farmers’ organizations, like this group in Kano, Nigeria, to plant and harvest higher-yielding crops. These women have boosted their incomes by producing more cowpeas than in previous years. Photo Credit:Ann Fleuret, USAID/Nigeria

In 1960, the face of Africa changed, as more than a dozen countries seized their futures and became independent nations. Nigeria was one of those countries, and the last half century has seen both successes and challenges. While the country’s economy is growing at a good clip, its healthcare and education still lag, and deeply entrenched poverty and unemployment remain two of the greatest obstacles to Nigeria reaching its full potential for development. USAID works in Nigeria to sustain development in the long term, especially in health, education, and economic growth.

Health

Nigeria is making much slower progress on improving health among mothers and children than most other African countries. A million Nigerian children die each year before their fifth birthday, and the maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world. Nigeria also has one of the highest tuberculosis burdens in the world, and although the HIV/AIDS infection rate is low compared to other parts of Africa, an estimated 3 million Nigerians are still infected. As a result, Nigeria’s life expectancy has declined significantly: in 1991 the average life expectancy was 54 years for women and 53 years for men; by 2009 these figures had fallen to 48 for women and 46 for men.

Strengthening the health sector and improving overall health for Nigerians are among the most important development issues facing Nigeria. USAID is supporting increased access to quality family planning and reproductive health services. Maternal and child health efforts focus on routine immunization, polio eradication, birth preparedness, maternity services, and obstetric fistula repairs. The United States is increasing access to proven preventive and curative interventions—insecticide-treated bednets and malaria treatment—for children and pregnant women. To reduce death and disability due to TB, especially in the vulnerable co-infected HIV/AIDS population, USAID is working to double the case detection rate and halve the incidence of tuberculosis by 2018.

Education

The state of education in Nigeria is poor. Of the 30 million primary school-aged children in the country, an estimated seven million are not enrolled in school. Of those currently in primary school, less than one in three will attend secondary school. Nigeria has a massive number of out-of-school children and young adults with limited literacy and numeracy skills who have little hope of ever joining the formal workforce.

USAID programs support equitable access to quality basic education through teacher training, support for girls’ learning, infrastructure improvement, and community involvement, focusing on public schools, as well as Islamiyyah schools, which provide both secular and religious education. U.S. assistance also fosters higher education partnerships between American and Nigerian universities, especially those in the north and the volatile Delta regions.

Economic Growth

Nigeria has enjoyed relatively strong economic growth following a series of economic reforms in 2003. Annual agricultural growth rose from 3.5 percent between 1990 and 1999 to nearly 6 percent between 2005 and 2009. Poverty has fallen, but only from 65 percent in 1996 to 60 percent today. Nigeria, once a major food exporter to the West African region, now imports around 15 percent of its basic food requirements. Its agricultural sector is the primary source of livelihood for 70 percent of Nigeria’s people, but the sector is not productive. Only half of Nigeria’s 79 million hectares of fertile land are under cultivation, and over 90 percent of agricultural output comes from farms smaller than five hectares.

USAID programs are accelerating the uptake of proven agricultural production, processing, and marketing technologies and stimulating job creation through agribusiness enterprises. USAID is also helping to develop a policy environment for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, and expand access to market-driven vocational and technical training linked with private sector employment opportunities. Customs regulations and policy reform will encourage internal and external trade, and the incentives offered by the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act develops private sector capacity to meet international trade and export standards.

African First Ladies Fellowship to Strengthen Leadership on Health and Social Ills

Today I participated in the first RAND African First Ladies Fellowship Program workshop, hosted in partnership with American University.  The fellowship program, together with Women’s Campaign International, is working to strengthen the capacity of Africa’s first ladies and their offices to address health and social problems across Africa.

Participants include chiefs of staff and other advisers to first ladies from Angola, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia.

Over a two-year period, first ladies and fellows will develop and implement a plan to address one of their nation’s top challenges, such as maternal and child health, women’s issues or education.

Drawing on experience with the African Leaders Malaria Alliance where 26 African Heads of State are positioning their countries to achieve universal net coverage and save millions of lives, I discussed the import policy and advocacy role first ladies can influence with focused participation. While not having statutory authority, African first ladies can raise the profile, funding and country commitment of key areas like improving the health status of women and removing barriers that could prevent women from accessing life-saving health services that are particular to women, such as assisted deliveries for her or her children and family planning for healthy timing and spacing of births.

During the four-day workshop, other presenters included Melanne Verveer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues; Jocelyn Frye, deputy assistant to President Obama for domestic policy and director of policy and projects for First Lady Michelle Obama; Anita McBride, chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush from 2005 to 2009 and currently executive in residence at American University’s School of Public Affairs; and Marjorie Margolies, president and founder of Women’s Campaign International.

From the Field

In Albania, we are promoting World Contraception Day (September 26th). USAID’s two maternal and child health programs have partnered with Albania’s Institute of Public Health to raise awareness of using modern contraception to mark World Contraception Day. USAID will send out 20,000 text messages to Albanian adults 18-35 years old with the message, “It’s your life, it’s your choice – Use modern contraceptive methods to avoid unplanned pregnancies”. According to the 2009 Demographic Health Survey, Albania has one of the lowest levels of modern contraceptive use in the world; with only one in nine married women age 15–49 using a modern method of family planning. Modern contraceptives not only prevent unwanted pregnancies but are better for women’s reproductive health.

In Paraguay, we will recognize 90 municipalities improved performance under a local government assistance program. Since 2006, around 100 municipalities in Paraguay have been participating in a performance improvement process developed with local NGOs and the support of USAID. The project, called MIDAMOS (Let’s Measure in Spanish) aims at having municipalities open their institutions to to evaluate their performance and identify areas that must be improved in order to offer better services to citizens.

In West Sumatra, Indonesia, we will commemorate the Padang Earthquake Anniversary on September 28th. We will hold a brick laying event as part of the first anniversary of the West Sumatra Earthquake reconstruction efforts in which we have partnered with both the Australian and Indonesian Governments to support a large education program. The event will be located in a primary school in Kota Padang. USAID/ AusAID have committed to rebuild 34 primary schools in the area.

Education + Health = Opportunity

Submitted by Wendy Coursen

This is Education Week at USAID. We work across the globe from Dhaka to Dakar; and Kabul to Kinshasa to promote development and save lives by helping people and societies recover from disaster, escape poverty, and improve health and education.  All efforts are conducted on behalf of the American people – reflecting the care and generosity of our nation that people across the globe admire and respect.

Throughout our nearly 50-year history, USAID has developed robust education programs that have increased literacy, built local capacity to deliver basic education services, encouraged workforce development, and developed generations of leaders through scholarships and access to higher education. On a fundamental level, education empowers societies: It leads to opportunities for economic growth, promotes civic engagement and good governance, and supports (PDF)sustainable democracy.  In the development community, we often say the same about the benefits of ; in fact, education and health not only complement, but depend on each other for maximum impact.

Community Health Worker

A community health worker in Nemba, Rwanda, teaches a health education class to women. USAID, with partner Jhpiego, has trained 800 community health workers in Rwanda. Credit: Jhpeigo

For disease prevention and treatment, the communities we serve often need access to commodities like bed nets , antiretroviral drugs, and safe water.  They also need the tools and access to information about critical health concerns and what to do about them. Women who participate in literacy programs have better knowledge of health and family planning and are more likely to adopt preventive health measures or seek medical help for themselves and their children. Family planning also enables women to stay in school longer, which contributes to improved maternal and child survival and increased ability for parents to raise healthy, well-nourished children.  Healthy children, we know, are more likely to learn, more likely to thrive throughout their lives and contribute to their communities as adults.  Early and sustained investments in health and education – for men, women, and children — are truly investments for life.

In the late 1990s, USAID was instrumental in bringing the educational children’s series Sesame Street to South Africa. The country has been significantly impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and in 2002, the show introduced Kami, the world’s first HIV-positive Muppet. Through Kami, age-appropriate HIV/AIDS messages reach millions of children, parents, caregivers, and educators. Her message is also helping to reduce the fear of stigma that prevents many from seeking treatment.

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Zimbabwe’s Students Get the Tools to Learn

Zimbabwe’s primary school students will soon be able to get a better education, thanks to an influx of new materials and support provided in part by USAID. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai launched the program on September 8.

Zimbabwe’s 5,300 primary schools will receive over 13 million new textbooks, dramatically improving the current situation of one textbook for every ten students to one textbook for every two students. Schools will also each get steel cabinets where they can safely store the books and other materials.

USAID is working in cooperation with the Government of Zimbabwe and several other international donors on this education fund, which will also help train teachers and school administrators and work to reform policies to allow more poor children to attend school.

The Reading Crisis among the World’s Poorest Schoolchildren

Crossposted from The Brookings Institution.

Written by: David Barth, Director of the Office of Education for the United States Agency for International Development, and Rebecca Winthrop, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Universal Education, The Brookings Institution

Editor’s note: On September 8, the Brookings Institution and International Reading Association co-sponsored an event entitled, “Early Reading: Igniting Education for All.”  Panelist David Barth and host and moderator Rebecca Winthrop offer comments on considerations going forward.

The International Literacy Day event at Brookings on the crisis in early reading should be a wake-up call to all who are concerned about the future of education in the developing world. Recent data on the literacy skills of students in the early grades are stark. Children around the world may be going to school, but many of them are not acquiring even the most basic of reading and writing skills. Many children find themselves passing through two, three, four or more years of education and are still unable to read even a single word in their native languages. These alarming findings are softened, if only a bit, by the potential range of solutions. Between special assessments, targeted teacher training, relevant and appropriate materials, and support for students, teachers and parents, this trend can be reversed. As a matter of fact, we can achieve dramatic gains in literacy when the proper package of interventions is implemented.

Among the most interesting findings discussed yesterday was the fact that transparency and accountability seem to have a powerful effect on learning outcomes. Rapid reading assessments in the early grades generate the kinds of data that can be highly influential in community and national policy level dialogue. The development of persuasive data sets is most valuable when that data is placed in the hands of demanding consumers (parents and care-givers), as well as concerned service providers (government, teachers unions and sometimes the private sector).

When the permanent secretary of education in the Gambia became aware of the low level of reading attained by students in his system, he was provoked to action. He partnered with international donors and NGOs to train teachers and to ensure that the right materials were made available to his students. In Liberia, the simple act of releasing assessment data to teachers, parents and administrators seems to have been the catalyst behind a 29 percent gain in words per minute over baseline in literacy after only three and half months. One interesting effect of a similar experiment in Kenya is that teachers who were part of the control group not being provided additional training sought out independently to learn “the tricks” of teaching reading that was being provided in other schools. Their hunger to excel at work and their desire to get the most current and effective methodologies in the classroom moved those teachers to extend themselves to acquire new tools. That’s a powerful thing.

Rapid assessments of reading and math in the early grades provide direct and nearly immediate measures of education quality. Results can be easily reported and interpreted by teachers, parents and school administrators — people who are in a position to change their behavior to achieve better results. This raised awareness and changed behavior in turn will contribute to improving institutional effectiveness and opportunities for multitudes of learners. Linking this type of information about school-level learning outcomes with how schools and education systems are financed through national education accounts would be one possible strategy for how to use education resources more effectively to ensure the children are learning.

Another important conclusion from yesterday’s event on early reading was that there is still more to learn. USAID will be looking to work with the Center for Universal Education at Brookings and other concerned actors to delve more deeply into the connection between transparency, accountability and educational achievement. For many years, educators have repeated the mantra, “knowledge is power.” In the case of the crisis in early grade reading, wide-spread knowledge of the quality of performance of a school system may be the most powerful tool for reform.

USAID Provides New Schools to Earthquake Affected Communities in Haiti

School children at the Leogane School Opening.

School children at the Leogane School opening. Photo credit: Janice Laurente

In Léogâne, the town that was the epicenter of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, you see signs of recovery and life resuming.  People have returned to markets to sell their crops and wares, rubble is being removed from key thorough fares, and schools are being rebuilt.

On August 25, USAID and the Digicel Foundation inaugurated École Louis de Borno, the first school built under a new public-private partnership to construct new schools for people affected by the earthquake.  Approximately 50 schools are planned that benefit up to 30,000 children.

“Immediately after the earthquake, 4,800 schools were damaged or destroyed.  USAID is proud to play a role in helping children return to school through a number of our projects,” said USAID Haiti Mission Director Carleene Dei.  “This new partnership with Digicel illustrates USAID’s commitment of exploring new and innovative approaches meet the educational, economic development and job-training needs of Haitian communities.”

Under the USAID partnership, some of the schools will be constructed with U.S. military shipping containers which are being converted into school campuses.  USAID procured about 100 shipping containers that had been used as part of the Joint Task Force-Haiti’s humanitarian mission in the aftermath of the earthquake.

The project is also employing youth for the construction of the schools through the USAID-funded IDEJEN livelihood initiative.  IDEJEN provides out-of-school youth ages 15-24 with basic, non-formal education and vocational training.  This effort, which will employ up to 100 people at a pre-fabrication plan in addition to those on site assembly will serve to get money to Haitian families in need, stimulate the economy and help develop a workforce able to participate in upcoming reconstruction efforts.

Higher Engineering Education Program Announced

Submitted by Richard Nyberg – USAID/Vietnam

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has joined forces with American universities and the private sector in efforts to enhance the quality of engineering education at Vietnam’s top technical universities. In collaboration with the Government of Vietnam, USAID is working with Arizona State University, Portland State University, and Intel Corporation as part of the new Higher Engineering Education Alliance Program valued at $2.5 million. Intel’s anticipated contribution to the program totals $1.5 million.  “This program will result in a more highly educated and motivated faculty using cutting edge curricula,” said U.S. Ambassador Michael W. Michalak. “They will train bright and successful engineers who will help Vietnam reach its rightful place in the global economy.” The three-year public-private partnership will work closely with the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) and technical universities in Vietnam to advance their electrical and mechanical engineering curricula and instruction leading to a highly-skilled technical workforce to strengthen the emerging high-tech manufacturing sector in Vietnam.

 

The Importance of Mobile Literacy Programs

Anthony Bloome, Education Technology Specialist, for USAID’s Office of Education interviews Sara Chamberlain, Director of Interactive for BBC World Service Trust, and Matthew Kam, Director of Carnegie Mellon’s MILLEE Project about using mobile phones for literacy. This blog follows a USAID-organized International Literacy Day, September 8th, “virtual” conference with Sara and Matt on Using Mobile Phones for Literacy – Promising Practices and Research.

According to the ITU World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report 2010, the mobile cellular networks already cover close to 90 per cent of the world population and the number of mobile subscribers is likely to reach the 5 billion mark this year. The opportunity to utilize mobiles for development is enormously exciting for development practitioners, particularly for those of us looking at innovative ways to promote global literacy.

AB: With specific reference to your initiatives, BBC’s Janala and MILLEE, can you briefly tell us how mobile phones are being used in these literacy efforts?

SC: BBC Janala aims to provide millions of people in Bangladesh with access to low-cost English language tuition through mobile phones. By dialing 3000, audiences can choose from a menu of bi-lingual audio lessons. Lessons are organised into series, and according to level of difficulty.

MK:   It is challenging to deliver high quality literacy learning through public schools in underdeveloped rural areas, for reasons that include teacher training, teacher absenteeism and child labor that impact school attendance rates. MILLEE aims to use cellphones, which are increasingly prevalent in the developing world, even rural areas, as platforms that children can use to access high-quality literacy learning resources in places and times more convenient than schools.

AB: What key lessons have you learned that you would share with others considering similar programs?

MK: Content development is complex and requires careful attention. Pay attention to local practices and knowledge. For example, our current game designs draw on the rules and mechanics in traditional Indian village games. In our earliest pilots back in 2007, we observed that rural children struggled to understand the rules of the games we designed. Those games had subconsciously drawn on our video-gaming experiences, which were situated in Western cultural contexts. Those games also did not match rural children’s understanding or expectations of what constitute games. We subsequently studied 28 of their traditional games, took apart the rules and mechanics in these games, and analyzed how these mechanics differed systematically from the mechanics in Western video-games. Since then, we have drawn on this cross-cultural design knowledge to inform our game designs.

AB: Do you have a brief example that shows how your program has benefited its intended beneficiaries?

SC: Here is a case study of 26 year old Noor-e-Alam Siddiquione of BBC Janala’s regular users:

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Improving Access to Education for Girls in Sudan

Submitted by Angela Stephens, USAID/LPA

Following more than two decades of civil war, Southern Sudan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world.  The areas in Sudan’s north-south border zone also suffered greatly during the war, including Blue Nile state, bordering Ethiopia.  Girls have been disproportionately affected, with lower rates of literacy and school attendance than boys.  To help alleviate these challenges, USAID this year opened the Granville-Abbas Girls’ Secondary School in the Blue Nile town of Kurmuk.  The school is named in honor of John Granville, an American diplomat who worked on democracy programs for USAID in Sudan, and his Sudanese colleague Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama. They were assassinated in Khartoum on January 1, 2008.  The school, which can accommodate 120 female students, has three sets of classrooms, a library, theater, cafeteria, dormitories, and teachers’ offices.  A USAID-supported learning center attached to the school provides students with Internet access and computer training.  Watch this two-part video of the school dedication ceremony and tribute to Granville and Rahama.

To see PART TWO, click here.

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