Archives for Sub-Saharan Africa
This originally appeared on the Global Partnership for Education Blog.
Newton G. Teeweh is one of Liberia’s deeply committed teachers. He is proud to be doing the critical but unglamorous work of teaching the nation’s children how to read so they can read to learn. He once had been a struggling reader himself, so it wasn’t always obvious that he would become a teacher.
In Maryland, Newton’s home county on Liberia’s eastern border with Côte d’Ivoire, teachers and students alike frequently struggle with reading English or using English for classroom instruction. When Newton crossed the border into Côte d’Ivoire in 1991 to escape the civil conflict in his home country, it was as a senior in high school who still felt uncomfortable reading.
He started working as a public school teacher when he returned to Liberia a year later, and throughout his 18 years in the profession the discomfort with reading did not abate. “I still found it difficult to read an article fluently until I moved to the Reading Program of USAID’s Liberia Teacher Training Program (LTTP) in 2011,” he said. “That’s when I began to see a great change.”
Teachers need training
Newton now trains teachers, principals and reading coaches around the country in reading pedagogy – the same training that transformed him. Many of them – like Newton himself – became schoolteachers immediately upon graduating from high school without having ever received formal pedagogical training of any kind.
With his improved reading skills, Newton has been able to go back to university part-time. He is now working toward a Bachelor’s degree in education at a teacher’s college in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. “Reading has helped me to quickly and accurately gather information. It has given me self-confidence. When I’m sitting in an exam, I can feel relaxed because I don’t depend on someone else to help me understand what I’m reading.”
While Newton already serves as a role model for the teachers he trains, he has set his ambitions even higher. “I am interested in becoming a policymaker,” he says. “What we have started in Liberia must continue. We need to have people in relevant positions that will continue the focus on reading, even if donors leave Liberia.”
Liberia’s first national reading campaign
Newton is just one of many champions of Liberia’s first national reading campaign, which kicked off this last weekend. The campaign will help raising awareness across all groups of society about the importance of reading. President Johnson Sirleaf and other prominent figures have pledged their support to the campaign’s central message: When we Learn to Read, we can then Read to Learn. The campaign’s motto – Reading Brightens Your Life – has held true in Newton’s experience and in the experiences of many politicians and government officials.
Spearheaded by the Ministry of Education and USAID’s Liberia Teacher Training Program (LTTP), the campaign combines efforts of several ministries, international and local civil society organizations and corporations. The President declared September 9 – 14 to be National Reading Week, with the aim of inspiring schools and communities to come together to improve literacy among students of all ages. Following an opening week in Monrovia with reading competitions, book fairs, and read-ins, activities will spread throughout the country. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will then hold their own events in various communities reinforcing the campaign’s messages and momentum.
Reading is the basis for future learning
Followers of this blog probably already know that reading is a critical skill and the foundation for future learning. Children who do not learn how to read in the early grades face an increasingly uphill battle in later years as more and more of the material to be learned is presented in written form. Difficulty with reading makes students more likely to drop out of school, which contributes to illiteracy. This in turn imposes substantial economic costs at the national level. The good news is that the situation can be changed. Countries that have found a way to boost literacy rates by 20-30% have seen simultaneous increases in GDP of 8-16%. That’s not peanuts – and it is one of the reason why Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Ministry of Education are so committed to the goal of improving reading skills in Liberia.
GPE’s Education For All Blog will follow Liberia’s National Reading Campaign with a series of guest posts highlighting the work underway to improve reading in the country. Teachers who have recently been trained explain how a new, intense focus on reading has transformed their student’s classroom performance. Parents who are themselves preliterate will discuss how learning simple ways to support their children’s reading development has changed how they engage with schools and the larger education system. Students whose self-confidence and love of learning has blossomed along with their reading skills will describe some of the aspirations that are coming steadily closer to realization.
Stay tuned for more stories coming out of Liberia’s National Reading Campaign and hear how reading brightens the lives of so many Liberians.
Learn more about USAID’s education programs.
Land tenure, or helping people in developing countries establish clear rights to their property, is a little-known issue that is nonetheless essential to the global fight on poverty. This podcast, based on an interview with USAID’s land tenure division chief Gregory Myers, explains the issue and how the U.S. Government is helping secure property rights around the globe. Follow our work on land tenure this month on Twitter by following #landmatters.
BioReclam is a major activity being conducted with vulnerable women to provide them with access to land for producing food and earning income during the rainy season. The project works with Communities to allocate abandoned lands to vulnerable people, This land is being reclaimed using a package of innovative techniques and is used to produce lucrative, low maintenance crops rich in micronutrients such as Okra and Hibiscus (leaves and flowers). These crops/varieties are selected to be particularly rich in Iron and Zinc. Learn more about we are doing in Senegal.
September 8 was International Literacy Day. Below is a story of how USAID is advancing education in South Sudan.
At Ligi Primary School in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state, the majority of the school’s 11 teachers lack any formal teacher training. Only three have teaching certificates. Overall in South Sudan, only about half of teachers have professional qualifications and a third have only a primary school education. A quarter of those teaching students are volunteers.
The background of teacher Gaga Simon is typical. He completed high school in neighboring Uganda because South Sudan was immersed in war throughout his childhood. After returning to his homeland, he has taught for the past eight years without any formal teacher training.
According to UNESCO’s 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report on South Sudan, “South Sudan has some of the world’s worst indicators for education. Around 1 million children—half of the primary school age population—are out of school. The primary net enrollment rate is second to the bottom in world rankings, with a net enrollment rate for girls at just 37 percent. In a country with a population the size of Sweden, fewer than 400 girls make it to the last grade of secondary school. There are desperate shortages of classrooms and books—and just one qualified teacher for every 117 students.”
USAID supports the Ministry of Education’s efforts to deliver training to teachers like Mr. Simon through the South Sudan Teacher Education Project. The objective is to build and professionalize a South Sudanese teacher corps. The project is improving the quality of education in South Sudan’s schools by training teachers and providing children with a supportive environment in which to learn foundational literacy and numeracy skills.
As a result, Mr. Simon is now able to create a lesson plan and confidently apply a child-centered teaching approach that focuses on his students’ needs, abilities, interests and learning styles. He acts as a facilitator of his students’ learning, frequently requesting their input into classroom activities and even the assessment measures used.
“I intend to make the most of this training opportunity,” says Mr. Simon, who teaches mathematics and English to third and fifth graders.
After the training, Simon shared lessons learned with fellow teachers at his primary school and held mini teaching sessions throughout the school year where he taught teachers new skills he had learned. “I need to grow and support other teachers to grow along with me in the teaching profession,” he said. “I take my time with my fellow teachers and I explain to them what I learned so that we can all progress at the same level.” Together they are now more effective in helping the pupils learn by utilizing participatory teaching methodology, which encourages active learning through student participation instead of the traditional “chalk and talk” approach.
“We are now able to apply the child-centered learning [approach] and use any materials around us to demonstrate a lesson to the pupils … this helps the pupils to learn better,” says Peter Dara, one of the teachers who benefited from Simon’s experience and support. “This has made learning fun and interesting both for the teachers and learners.”
Headmaster Taban Philip Elema has noted a great change in Simon’s teaching style and class management since he completed the in-service training, including using local materials to explain key concepts. For example, Mr. Simon uses sticks and stones to teach basic numeracy concepts and to create fun math games. “It is a learning process,” says Elema, “and I am confident that by the time they complete the training, we will have all teachers in this school qualified and able to teach as professional teachers.”
This program is unique because teachers are receiving an accelerated certification. USAID is helping teachers get high-quality professional training quickly to alleviate the dire shortage of trained teachers in South Sudan. The certification includes an intensive focus on reading instruction, helping primary teachers learn to accomplish what is arguably their most important task in a country seeking to improve one of the world’s lowest rates of literacy.
Learn more about USAID’s education programs.
This originally appeared on the White House Blog.
Today (Aug. 28), President Obama appointed Ambassador Donald Booth as the new U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. A former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Zambia, and Liberia, Ambassador Booth is one of our most experienced diplomats and has extensive experience promoting peace and prosperity across the African continent. He is seasoned, determined, and deeply committed to pursuing peace between and within Sudan and South Sudan.
Ambassador Booth joins our Sudan and South Sudan team at a critical time. Working closely with the African Union and our other international partners, he will play a vital role in urging Sudan and South Sudan to make progress on resolving outstanding issues, including the status of the disputed region of Abyei. He will continue U.S. efforts to press for a peaceful and definitive end to the conflicts in Darfur, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile as part of a holistic solution to Sudan’s human rights, humanitarian, and governance crises. And he will urge South Sudan to stay focused on protecting its people, meeting their needs, and realizing their aspirations for a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future.
As the President told Ambassador Booth today during their meeting in the Oval Office, supporting peace between and within Sudan and South Sudan remains a priority for this Administration. As Ambassador Booth carries forward this important work on behalf of the United States, he does so with the President’s full support.
On the outskirts of Addis Ababa sits the engineering and production facility of one of the world’s most cutting edge high technology firms, the Ethiopian-American firm dVentus Technologies. This firm and its success could be a harbinger of change across the entire African continent.
It was here, one early morning this month, that America’s top foreign trade envoy, Michael Froman, huddled with two officials of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Assistant Administrator (Africa) Earl Gast, and Power Africa Coordinator Andrew Herscowitz, to hear a briefing by dVentus CEO Daniel Gizaw.
Gizaw, an Ethiopian-American, is fascinating realization of the American Dream. A graduate of the University of Gdansk in Poland, Daniel was able to transfer to the University of Wisconsin and work on his PhD there. With more than 20 years’ experience in the USA designing state-of-the art electric motors, generators and electronics drives and extensive expertise in management of technology, Daniel founded Danotek Motion Technologies in Ann Arbor, Michigan, about ten years ago to serve the specialized needs of the advanced transportation and renewable energy industries; by 2005, he formed an engineering team in Ethiopia to support the U.S. operation.
He also acquired expansive prior experience in the areas of research, product development, staff engineering, and operation management for General Electric, GM-Electric Vehicle, Cummins Power Generation, and Ford Motor Company. Gizaw’s success led into several patents and major commercial breakthrough including GE’s ECM motor, the Cummins variable speed generator, and Ford’s flexible fuel vehicles’ electronic brushless fuel pump and, most recently, Danotek’s high efficiency Generators for Wind Turbines and Cogenerations. Backed by venture capital and strategic investors, Danotek eventually became a world class manufacturer of large megawatt wind turbine generators. Gizaw was nominated entrepreneur of the year by the State of Michigan and Ernst & Young and served on Michigan Governor Granholm’s Committee for Renewable Energy.
It was then that Daniel Gizaw decided that it was time to return to the land of his forefathers and build out a major portion of his global business “dVentus” there to serve high growth and underserved market. Diaspora trade and investment linkages are often the strongest strands connecting developing countries to the wider global economy, but it is important to continually nurture them.
Interestingly, dVentus Technologies was not a major exporter or beneficiary under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the primary reason Ambassador Froman and other senior U.S. officials were in Ethiopia attending the annual AGOA Forum. But dVentus is a private sector partner in Power Africa, the initiative announced by President Obama during his recent trip to Africa.
“This is exactly the kind of story that fits into Power Africa,” said Ambassador Froman. “It’s cutting edge technology it will help both in the generation of electricity in terms of the wind power and generation capabilities here, but also energy efficiency and the smart grid and the meters that will make electricity more manageable for governments across sub Saharan Africa.”
Power Africa seeks to address one of the critical constraints to sustained economic growth and human development on the continent: more than two-thirds of Africans do not have access to reliable electricity. Companies like dVentus are a key part of the Power Africa strategy: harnessing the private sector, its expertise and resources, to jump-start African power sectors in multiple countries that have suffered decades of under-investment and mismanagement. In some cases, Power Africa will increase electricity generation by reducing the risks and therefore the costs associated with key power projects. In other cases, Power Africa works directly with African governments to improve their capacity to manage and expand their power infrastructure. In still other cases, Power Africa will work at the local level, providing grants to small developers to build out small scale clean energy solutions for rural communities that are too remote to connect with their national grids.
The dVentus story, and the U.S. Government’s role in it, is a unique one. Daniel Gizaw’s venture has contracted with the Ethiopian utility to develop and manufacture two million smart meters that will significantly improve the efficiency of energy use across the national grid. dVentus also has plans to develop its other two lines of business in Ethiopia and the broader region: wind turbines and propulsion systems for clean energy vehicles. In each case, the innovation and the manufacturing will take place in Ethiopia and the United States, strengthening the commercial ties between both.
dVentus already invested from its internal resources over $2.5 Million USD. Different streams of government and private sector support have come together to support the dVentus expanding operation. AfDB is looking into providing $1M assistance for renewable energy and energy efficiency project. USAID will be providing a credit guarantee through its Development Credit Authority Diaspora Facility for a $1 million working capital loan to support the smart meter development. OPIC is exploring longer-term financing for the manufacturing phase. At the same time, RENEW, a private firm that channels angel investment into emerging markets, has arranged investment into dVentus from several American Angel groups. The dVentus story exemplifies the public-private partnership approach of the Power Africa Initiative and how small, innovative firms are changing the landscape of the power sector in Sub-Saharan Africa.
As USAID’s Food for Peace Officer assigned to South Sudan since October 2011, I have seen firsthand how U.S. government food assistance programs are simultaneously supporting communities’ efforts to create assets that strengthen their food security while providing vital timely assistance to food insecure South Sudanese.
A little over two years since declaring independence following more than 20 years of civil war, South Sudan is still struggling to build infrastructure and institutions to function as a sovereign state. Pockets of continuing civil conflict and erratic weather patterns plus a massive influx of refugees from Sudan and the return of thousands of people of South Sudanese origin after years of living in Sudan have strained food security in this new nation struggling to find its footing. Disputes with Sudan continue to threaten landlocked South Sudan’s ability to export oil through Sudan’s pipeline—and generate revenue South Sudan needs to finance its development. All these factors contribute to a continued need for substantial food assistance in South Sudan.
Poor, vulnerable communities are often risk averse, but in areas of South Sudan where peace has taken hold, citizens have embraced an innovative approach called “Food-for-Assets.” They build a critically needed asset in their community and receive remuneration in sorghum, pulses and vegetable oil, in lieu of cash. This reduces their susceptibility to shocks to their food security and contributes to the development of the community. As these activities are undertaken during the year when such commodities are scarce, this approach frees participants from the daily worry about accessing food for their families. To ensure sustainability, the participants themselves identify their key community needs and the resources required to implement the asset-building projects.
So why is this innovative? As a result of chronic food insecurity and conflict, South Sudan has received widespread free food distributions for years. By focusing on a Food-for-Assets approach, we are fostering a shift from dependency on food aid to sustainable livelihoods. By empowering communities to build or improve local assets, we improve their resilience to shocks, such as floods, so that one day these communities will no longer need food assistance.
For example, in Warrap State, I visited a community benefiting from one of our food assistance programs supported by the UN World Food Program (WFP). The community had built a bridge over a marshland to connect 5,000 people in 24 isolated villages to main roads, thereby improving access to local markets, health centers and other services. The value of the bridge is incalculable as it not only drastically reduced transport costs for commercial produce and other goods, but also facilitated access to life-saving health care. More importantly, it brought the communities on either side of the bridge together to work on a common goal, become better neighbors and reduce tensions. Local authorities realized the powerful impact of this activity and provided the culverts needed for part of the construction, while USAID provided 48 metric tons of food through WFP to approximately 100 participants in return for their labor. Construction began in November 2012 and was completed in April 2013. When I visited in May 2013 to check on progress of the project, the pride of participants from the communities on each side of the bridge was palpable.
In Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, I visited an access road and cattle pond that a community built—more Food-for-Assets activities USAID implemented with WFP. Local participants provided labor for the road and water point, while WFP distributed 170 metric tons of food contributed by USAID in exchange for their work. WFP also provided hand tools, training and technical support. The road now connects 6,800 people in 48 rural villages to main roads as well as markets, health centers and social services, and the waterhole provides drinking water for their cattle. As I drove down the new road, I saw new development activities along the way, including the opening of new agricultural lands and building of new markets and classrooms.
Through Food-for-Assets, WFP assisted 445,000 residents in South Sudan between April and December 2012, and plans to reach about one million people in South Sudan through Food-for-Assets activities in 2013. USAID, through its partnership with WFP, provides commodities for Food-for-Assets programs which not only support the construction of roads and bridges, but also rehabilitate farmland, plant vegetable gardens to improve nutrition, dig irrigation ponds, and train farmers on practical skills to improve crop and vegetable production. USAID is the largest provider of food assistance to South Sudan, contributing 41 percent of WFP’s funding.
Learn more about the Office of Food for Peace‘s work to reduce hunger and malnutrition, and ensure that all people at all times have access to sufficient food for a healthy and productive life.
Driving human progress is at the core of USAID’s mission, but what do development results look like?
USAID is measuring our leadership in results — not dollars spent — implementing innovative, cost-effective strategies to save lives. Through investments in science, technology and innovation, USAID is harnessing new partners and young minds to transform more lives than ever before. Our new model for development embraces game-changing partnerships that leverage resources, expertise, and science and technology to maximize our impact and deliver real results.
Take a look at the Agency’s top recent and historical achievements in promoting better health; food security; democracy and good governance; education; economic growth, and in providing a helping hand to communities in need around the globe.
Read the stories behind the results in the special edition of FrontLines: Aid in Action: Delivering on Results.