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Malaria is a Marathon, Not a 50-yard Dash

Each year, World Malaria Day (April 25) commemorates the global fight toward zero malaria deaths and mobilizes action to combat malaria. This year’s theme is “Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria.”

I used to call them “disease du jour” bills. As a staffer on the U.S. Senate committee with jurisdiction over public health issues, every time a Senator’s nephew or cousin or college roommate’s daughter got a terrible diagnosis, it was my job to explain why passing a one-time bill wasn’t the answer for every disease. Washington’s attention span tends to wane after the galas end, the celebrities leave town, and the surge of early funding and enthusiasm dries up.  Without unglamorous vigilance, the disease remains after the politicians and paparazzi move on to the next disease du jour. Global health was no different.  After working on malaria policy for several years, I noticed the buzz starting to shift to tuberculosis. Malaria control was just so… 2006.

For children under five, malaria mortality rates have fallen dramatically with scale-up of malaria control efforts. Photo credit: USAID

Surely the private sector wouldn’t be so fickle, right? I joined MosquitoZone International, a U.S.-based firm that offers malaria prevention services to companies with operations in endemic areas. How exciting to work with clients who were absolutely committed to keeping their workers and communities safe from malaria! It turns out, of course, that companies can sometimes be a lot like governments. They invest in controlling malaria and they make so much progress that pressure builds to redirect scarce resources into one of the other health and safety threats facing their workers and their bottom line. But malaria doesn’t go quietly into the night.

One of our clients started off doing everything right. They committed to eliminating malaria at a sub-Saharan African project site. They hired us to run a comprehensive vector control program and we don’t play around. Our entomologists knew every mosquito on that jobsite by name and killed it. By 2011, our client had zero new cases among non-immune expatriate workers and zero complicated cases among semi-immune local workers. They bragged about their success on the company web site. Problem solved.

Inevitably, the urgency of the need for investment in sophisticated entomology was questioned. After all, there were plenty of other problems clamoring for their health and safety resources. Unfortunately, when you stop putting experienced entomological eyeballs on surveillance data, the bugs get the upper hand. After we left, the company failed to respond to entomological data suggesting a major spike in the mosquito population that should have prompted a five-alarm investigation. The company recognized the problem, recommitted to entomological excellence and their success continues with MosquitoZone’s entomologists driving their prevention program today.

Time and again, we see the same predictable cycle in public and private sector programs all over the world. Success turns the volume down on the alarm bells that drive the investments that produced that success in the first place, and when that happens, only failure raises the alarm again. But failure isn’t just a technical abstraction about budget line-items or resistance data. Failure means babies dying, workers downed, and human productivity and potential plummeting.

When it comes to the wily mosquito, every day has to be World Malaria Day.

Katy French is the Vice President for Corporate Affairs at MosquitoZone International.

Photo of the Week: Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria

Malaria kills more than 650,000 people each year; the majority of those deaths occurring on the African continent. Each year, World Malaria Day (April 25) commemorates the global fight toward zero malaria deaths and mobilizes action to combat malaria. This year’s theme is “Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria.” On this occasion, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), led by the U.S. Agency for International Development and implemented together with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will release its Seventh Annual Report to Congress, which describes the U.S. Government’s contributions to the global fight against malaria. Photo is from Jaclyn Wong, CDC.

USAID’s Global Health Bureau is working with United States Africa Command and partners all day on April 25 for a Twitter relay.  Join @USAfricaCommand from 6 – 10 a.m. EDT, then join @USAIDGH and partners starting at 9:30 a.m. EDT.  Medical experts and malaria prevention specialists will be standing by live to answer your questions. Additionally, Admiral Timothy Ziemer, U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator and leader of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), will join the chat from 9:30 – 10 a.m. EDT. View the full schedule.

Join the conversation with #malariabuzz on Twitter.

Learn more about World Malaria Day.

 

Education: The Most Powerful Weapon for Changing the World

School girls in Sana’a gather for their lesson.

School girls in Sana’a gather for their lesson / Clinton Doggett, USAID

As Nelson Mandela says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Education is the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace. And in a knowledge economy, education is the new currency by which nations maintain economic competitiveness and global prosperity.

Education is an investment, and one of the most critical investments we can make. This is true not only for the United States, but for countries around the world.

Arne Duncan serves as U.S. Secretary of Education

The UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of providing universal primary education to all and eliminating gender inequities, has propelled many nations and multi-governmental organizations to boost educational spending. But the work is not easy, and many countries are falling short of achieving these goals, particularly the 2015 target date that was set when the goals were adopted in 2000.

Today, around the globe, an estimated 61 million primary-aged children are out of school, almost half of them in conflict-affected poor countries. Too often, even those students who do go to school finish without basic literacy and numeracy skills: it is estimated that 250 million children cannot read, write or count well.

Expanding educational access for girls is not just an urgent economic and social need. In many cases, it is literally a matter of life and death. A mother who can read can better protect her children from chronic illnesses, from AIDS, and from dying young. A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past age five. And in Africa’s poorest states, UNESCO projects that the lives of 1.8 million children could have been saved if their mothers had at least a secondary education.

In announcing his Global Education First initiative, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded us that, “We cannot afford to waste the talents of a generation.” He related this to his own experience growing up in the Republic of Korea as it recovered from war. “People today often ask about my country’s transformation from poverty to prosperity. Without hesitation, I answer that education was the key.”

USAID supports the Haitian Government's plan to get 1.5 million students in school by 2016, improve curricula, train teachers, and set standards for schools. / Kendra Helmer, USAID

USAID supports the Haitian Government’s plan to get 1.5 million students in school by 2016, improve curricula, train teachers, and set standards for schools / Kendra Helmer, USAID

The Global Education First initiative, along with the Learning for All Ministerial event in Washington, D.C. last week with the UN, World Bank, the Global Partnership for Education, USAID and others, are building momentum around the global movement for education: to put every child in school, to improve the quality of learning, and to foster global citizenship. With roughly 1,000 days to the 2015 MDG deadline, the pressure is on to accelerate progress to expand access, improve equity and boost student achievement.

Education is the foundation of peace and prosperity. I can’t imagine a better world without a global commitment to providing better education for women and youth and I urge all of us to reinvigorate our efforts to accelerate progress in improving access, quality and student achievement worldwide.

Working Together to Feed the World and Protect the Planet

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog.

Today, nearly one in eight people in the world do not have enough food to eat.

And studies predict that as diets change and the world’s population grows to 9 billion people by 2050, we will need to increase food production by at least 60 percent to meet the global demand for food, all in the face of increasing pressures on natural resources.

Forty-three years ago, the first Earth Day celebration began a movement to create awareness about the need to protect the world’s natural resources so they can be enjoyed by generations to come. Since then, governments and civil society have worked together to address environmental challenges and improve our understanding of how we can help protect the world’s natural resources.

Farmers in Boti, a small community in the Eastern region of Ghana, take small tree seedlings to their farm to plant. The trees will provide soil stability, increase water quality, and provide a habitat for beekeeping. Photo credit: Kyndra Eide, Peace Corps

Today’s celebration of Earth Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves and our partners of the connection between our environment, agriculture, and food and nutrition security and how we can work together to end world hunger and undernutrition. Although we still face environmental challenges, our ability to apply scientific innovation and technology in agriculture and work in partnership across different sectors can help us protect our planet and end hunger and undernutrition at the same time.

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, is working with a variety of partners to meet the dual challenges of growing more while conserving natural resources.

  • We help smallholder farmers adopt improved technologies and management practices that can lead to more resilient crops, higher yields, and increased incomes while encouraging sustainable and equitable access to and use of natural resources like land and water.
  • We support scientific innovation and technology in agriculture and nutrition to help meet the challenge of growing more food with less water while helping farmers adapt to changes in climate and rainfall. As Secretary of State John Kerry has said, “We know that when managed well, water allows economies to thrive and children to grow up healthy.”
  • We also support partner governments to implement policy reforms and establish regulatory systems that promote open markets and science-based regulations, helping to increase agricultural productivity and reduce poverty.
  • We actively support policy coordination among major donors, strategic partners, and multilateral organizations through our food and nutrition security diplomacy efforts. For example, the U.S. Government helped guide the United Nations Committee on World Food Security process to develop and adopt Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests. And we are participating in the follow-on effort to develop voluntary principles of responsible agricultural investment. The U.S. Government is also the largest contributor to organizations like the UN World Food Program, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, which each work to combat food insecurity and undernutrition.

Feed the Future is doing all this in partnership with private sector, civil society, strategic partners and other U.S. Government initiatives that are working to build the resilience of communities vulnerable to hunger and the impacts of climate change.

Through our collaboration with Feed the Future strategic partners, like Brazil, India and South Africa, we leverage the expertise of emerging economic leaders and scale up joint efforts to achieve food and nutrition security goals. Our partnership with Brazil is helping increase the income of small holder farmers in rural areas of Honduras and providing renewable energy to 10,000 families in remote areas of the country…[continued]

Read the rest of this post.

Video of the Week: Education in Ghana

In Ghana, most children attend school but the quality of education is very poor. Many schools have no classroom buildings, so many classes are held under a tree or some other makeshift space. This is a problem in rainy season when children are sent home until the skies clear. Also, rain brings mud and mud brings illness.

Many teachers are poorly trained, if they have any training at all. Many students don’t have enough books, and children often walk long distances to the nearest school. Some children even bring their own desks and chair to school every day.

To address these issues, USAID’s education program is building 69 new latrines, 118 kindergarten, elementary and junior high schools and rehabilitating over 100 schools. Funding is also training teachers, supporting students with necessary school supplies, like pens, pencils and notebooks. The schools are also working with their communities to support the students and the school administration.

The impact of USAID’s investments is dramatic. For example, at the Suhyen school, three new classroom blocks are in place and the community is stepping up to support the teachers, the students and the administration.

Ghana is committed to cutting illiteracy in half in the next 5 years.

Kazakhstan: Preserving Asia’s Bread Basket

During Earth Week, we’re exploring the connections between climate change and the environment we depend on to sustain us. We start in Kazakhstan, the breadbasket of Central Asia and Afghanistan.

“Ас атасы – нан” – Bread is the head of all foods, Kazakh Proverb

Bread is the lifeblood of the Central Asian diet, so changes in the price and availability of wheat can have significant impacts on food security in the five Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan. In Tajikistan, for example, more than 50% of daily caloric intake comes from bread. While all the countries grow at least a little wheat, it is Kazakhstan—the world’s 7th largest wheat exporter—that occupies the central role in providing this critical staple crop to the entire region.

Bread is the centerpiece of the Central Asian diet. Photo credit: USAID

Yet, climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts in the wheat growing regions, increase extreme temperature events, and change seasonal precipitation patterns. These changes could significantly threaten Kazakhstan’s ability to serve as the region’s breadbasket. Climate change is expected to exacerbate challenges to food security by reducing water availability – critical for agriculture – and increasing natural disasters like droughts and floods. Harvests during drought years in Kazakhstan can be as much as six times smaller than harvests during normal years!

Despite these known trends, there is very little local awareness or concern about climate change in the region. While the Government of Kazakhstan has taken a progressive stance reducing the emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, adaptation to climate change is still a relatively new concept.

USAID is partnering with UNDP and a host of international experts and organizations to improve the climate resiliency of Kazakhstan wheat and Central Asian food security. The goal of our project is to catalyze the process of adaptation in Kazakhstan’s wheat sector, while also opening a regional dialogue around the challenges of climate change to Central Asian food security.

Flour has been a staple of food assistance to Kyrgyzstan, where over 700,000 people have been provided with humanitarian assistance from USAID since 2006. Photo credit: USAID

As the weather becomes more unpredictable and extreme in Kazakhstan’s wheat regions, climate information services that enable farmers, processors, and policymakers to take proactive measures are essential to lessening the harm of this increasing variability. USAID’s program is focusing on improving the understanding of expected climate impacts on wheat in Kazakhstan and developing the capability to provide critical information to key audiences. Our program is also working with the government, the private sector and the research community to mainstream resilience to climate change into their decision making processes, so the growth of the wheat sector in Kazakhstan happens in a way that withstands the changes climate change will bring.

The other Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan – the primary importers of Kazakh wheat – must also be prepared to respond to the impacts of climate change outside their own borders. We’re bringing these countries and Kazakhstan together to discuss risk mitigation strategies that can be taken at a national and regional level to buffer the region against the impacts of climate change on wheat production and food security.

Together with our partners inside and outside the region, USAID is working to ensure that the people of Central Asia and Afghanistan will have a stable, affordable supply of wheat far into the future. The respect accorded to bread and the role it plays in food security is too important to ignore.

Non-hormonal Methods of Contraception Meet Need in DRC

More than 26 percent of married women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) want to avoid pregnancy but aren’t using a modern method of family planning. Furthermore, meeting this demand for family planning is not an easy task in the DRC, where deep-seated traditional and religious views exist around family size, gender roles and the use of contraception.

USAID programs have worked to meet the needs of women in the DRC by expanding access to a wide range of family planning choices from short term to long acting reversible contraceptives and permanent methods. USAID has also identified the need to increase access to non-hormonal methods to increase options for women and couples. Since 2003, USAID and its partners have worked to incorporate fertility awareness-based methods into the DRC context, in particular, the Standard Days Method “SDM” (PDF), developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health with funding from USAID. Using SDM, women track their menstrual cycles with CycleBeads in order to avoid unprotected intercourse during their fertile days and by doing so can prevent pregnancy. Based on World Health Organization analyses (PDF), with perfect use, the SDM is effective 95% of the time, and 88% of the time with average use.

Christopher Hook with members of Maman An’Sar. Photo credit: USAID

CycleBeads have a particularly strong acceptance in the DRC’s religious communities. I recently visited the capital city of Kinshasa and was lucky enough to attend a community training of young women on use of CycleBeads. A local Catholic organization, La Conduite de la Fecondité, conducts these trainings twice per week in thirteen integrated maternal and child health clinics all across Kinshasa. It was a moving experience for me as a development professional (even though I did not speak a word of Lingale!). The training incorporated singing, dancing and call-and-response, which created a fun atmosphere where learning could happen.

Later that day I also met with representatives from Maman An’Sar, a Muslim organization who advocates to local Imams to incorporate family planning messages (PDF) into their weekly sermons. Following a sermon, Maman sends out teams of community health workers who follow up with individuals and couples from the congregations to talk about what they heard. Faith-based organizations like Maman and religious leaders have significant potential to influence positive behavior change within communities and disseminate reproductive health messages.

The use of CycleBeads continues to grow in the DRC. Today, SDM has been scaled-up in 278 of 515 health zones, and CycleBeads are available in more than 1800 sites with trained providers ready to assist potential users. Moreover, SDM has been included in all Ministry of Health norms and protocol documents, ensuring long-term host government support of fertility awareness-based contraception as a key component of the contraceptive method mix.

Access to family planning information and services is only one health challenge in the DRC, but it’s an important one. The DRC has one of the highest rates of child mortality in the world, and enabling couples to determine whether, when and how often to have children is vital to safe motherhood and child survival. Research has shown improving access to family planning and reproductive health services could prevent up to 40 percent of maternal deaths across the world, and save the lives of 1.6 million children (PDF) under the age of five annually. Increasing access not only to hormonal methods of family planning, but also to fertility awareness methods is one way in which USAID and its partners are seeking to meet unmet need in the DRC and across the world.

If you or someone else you know may be interested in using the SDM, please follow this link for the web-based service, and this for the iCycleBead smartphone app.

Educate Girls, Develop Nations

This blog is part of a series focused on USAID’s innovative approach to reaching Millennium Development Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education. The theme “Room to Learn” highlights programs and priority countries where access to education is now a reality.

As President Obama said, if a country is educating its girls, if women have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. Education is a silver bullet for empowering women and girls worldwide.

When girls are educated, their families are healthier, they have fewer children, they wed later, and they have more opportunities to generate income. One extra year of primary school boosts a girl’s future wage 10 to 20 percent and an extra year of secondary school increases that earning potential by 15 to 25 percent. Education also helps moms take better care of their kids.  According to the World Bank (PDF), each additional year of female education reduces child mortality by 18 per thousand births.

A young female student in Alma Village, southern Ethiopia. Photo credit: Susan Liebold

These are amazing statistics but I’ve also been fortunate enough to see for myself the high returns to investing in education. While in Kabul I met with an incredible group of young women who were educated entirely in post-Taliban Afghanistan. They reminded me how critically important education is to peace, prosperity and empowerment.

Those young women represent the future for a country that had virtually no girls in school less than 15 years ago.

Today, Afghan girls are more than a third of the students. I am proud that USAID is supporting community-based schools in Afghanistan and that our literacy effort is playing an instrumental role in ensuring these girls get an education; it is an investment that will pay dividends for generations to come.

Globally, enormous progress has been made in closing the gender gap in primary education over the last 20 years. In most of the world today, a similar percentage of girls and boys attend primary schools. Yet disparities endure—there are 3.6 million more girls out of school compared to boys around the world. Women still comprise the majority (two-thirds) of the illiterate. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, obtaining an education remains particularly tough for women and girls. The World Bank estimates that half of the out-of-school girls in the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa and one quarter of them live in South Asia.

But it’s not just about access. Compounding the problem is a lack of quality education. For example, in Malawi robust primary school enrollment and matriculation rates are reported. However, a closer inspection of the educational system reveals that many students finish their schooling without being able to read. Therefore, a focus on both the quality of education and enrollment rates is needed.

We know that educating women and girls has tremendous multiplying effects for families, communities, and societies.  That is why USAID launched five leadership partnerships involving universities in the U.S. and in Armenia, Paraguay, Rwanda and South Sudan to promote gender equality and women’s leadership. These programs will promote and develop curricula and opportunities for women in business, agriculture, and education in order to increase women’s access to higher education and advanced degrees, strengthen institutional capacity in research and education on women’s leadership, and promote women’s leadership through higher education extension and outreach to underserved communities.

We are very excited to be collaborating with academic institutions in the United States and abroad to advance women’s leadership. These partnerships offer a meaningful and important opportunity to ensure women are empowered, ultimately advancing economies and societies globally.

New Learn-to-Read Method in Yemen Shows Early Promise

This blog is part of a series focused on USAID’s innovative approach to reaching Millennium Development Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education. The theme “Room to Learn” highlights programs and priority countries where access to education is now a reality.

A teacher points to clearly-drawn Arabic characters on a blackboard and the third-grade girls at Aisha School gleefully make the corresponding sounds. A few minutes later the room grows quieter as the girls focus to simultaneously pronounce and write the letter corresponding to its sound. At a nearby school, first-grade boys stumble over themselves to get to the blackboard in time to point at the character that matches the sound their teacher just pronounced.

The students in schools in the Amran govenorate, just outside Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a, are learning to read using a phonics method developed by the Yemeni Ministry of Education with USAID support.  In less than one year, students, parents and teachers alike have embraced the Yemen Early Grade Reading Approach, or YEGRA. “It’s a miracle, the teaching of reading is suddently demystified,” said the principal of a school.

Students at the Aisha School. Photo credit: Emily Walker, USAID

YEGRA focuses on intensive teacher training in a method that teaches first- through third-graders to read using phonics. Each lesson is 70 minutes long, and follows a set procedure, which includes reviewing a familiar story, reading stories aloud, focusing on the sounds that make up words, and writing. The program has also produced brand-new grade-appropriate teaching materials, including readers that children can take home to practice with their parents, and handbooks that help both literate and illiterate parents to support their children’s learning.

Until last year, Yemeni children were taught to read using word recognition and corresponding pictures, but the technique was clearly not effective; when USAID tested young students in 2011, it found that fewer than one-third of third-graders were able to read.

After just eight weeks of the YEGRA method, which has been implemented in 380 of Yemen’s schools, first graders could decipher 10 words per minute – the goal in first grade is to identify 30 words per minute. And, an informal analysis in the governorate of Taizz found that first-grade students could read just six words per minute prior to YEGRA, but after nearly three months of YEGRA lessons, 97 percent of the first-grade students were able to read 20 words a minute.

Ministry of Education and USAID teams visited three Amran schools in March and saw YEGRA’s dynamism firsthand – students were eagerly answering questions and following along in the lessons. They also attended a teacher training, where teachers for grades one through three throughout the region learned interactive teaching techniques and methods for futher engaging students in reading. By next school year, at least an additional 3,000 to 5,000 teachers will be using the YEGRA method.

USAID, in partnership with Yemen’s Ministry of Education and local governments, is also making education more accessible to Yemeni children, and especially girls, by rehabilitating schools to  improve sanitary conditions and make it safer to go to school. USAID has rehabiliated more than 200 schools throughout the country since November 2011, with a particular focus on those in conflict-affected areas. An estimated 280,000 students were unable to go to school during the recent conflict in the southern governorate of Abyan and its aftermath. Together with the Ministry of Education and the Governor of Abyan, USAID completed a major rehabilitation of 10 schools in Abyan, and will rehabilitate and furnish a total of eighteen over the coming months. Next school year, students in Abyan will not only be back in school but they will for the first time learn how to read and write at grade level with YEGRA.

One-third of out-of-school girls in the entire Middle East and North Africa region reside in Yemen and only 53 percent of girls who begin primary school complete basic schooling. Our early education programs in Yemen target both boys and girls, and the Ministry of Education is convinced  that these educational improvements will not only ensure that students can read with comprehension and go on to learn other subjects, but will also increase enrollment and lower dropout rates, especially for girls.

After the success of the first year of YEGRA, the Ministry has initiated reforms to its educational curriculum and is committed to taking the program nationwide with the continued support of USAID and other donors. As this generation of boys and girls learns to read and goes on to master other subjects, the increase in girls’ enrollment should continue to grow. Better access to schools and higher literacy rates will provide greater opportunities for Yemen’s girls. Read more about our work to improve girls’ enrollment and educational opportunities in Yemen.

Improving Education in South Sudan

This blog is part of a series focused on USAID’s innovative approach to reaching Millennium Development Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education. The theme “Room to Learn” highlights programs and priority countries where access to education is now a reality.

After emerging from decades of conflict, South Sudan faces significant challenges in its education sector. Only 27 percent of South Sudanese adults today are literate, one of the lowest rates in the world. Other challenges include inadequate schools; teachers who have had insufficient training; a shortage of teachers, particularly women; lack of a standard curriculum; and a legislative and policy framework on education that is still in development.

Despite these many roadblocks, impressive gains in education have been achieved since 2005. With USAID assistance, primary school enrollment in South Sudan has increased from approximately 300,000 students in 2000 to 1.4 million in 2012. USAID has supported the construction or rehabilitation of 140 primary schools and five secondary schools. To improve teachers’ skills, the Agency helped to rehabilitate four regional teacher training institutes and is encouraging women to become teachers. To address lower literacy and school attendance among girls, USAID has awarded over 9,000 scholarships in the past five years to girls and disadvantaged boys who are unable to pay school fees to complete secondary school.

Sylvain Sumurye, a USAID scholarship recipient, now teaches at Kiri Primary School, Kajo-keji County, Central Equatoria state. Photo credit: Joseph Ayela, Winrock International

Sylvain Sumurye of Kajo-Keji County in Central Equatoria State received one of these scholarships. She had dropped out of school due to an early pregnancy and then was abandoned by her husband. With the USAID-funded scholarship Sylvain completed secondary school and attended Kajo-Keji Teacher Training College. After graduation she was hired as a fifth grade teacher and with the money she earns can support her family and pay her daughter’s school fees. More importantly, Sylvain is now one of the few qualified teachers in South Sudan. Only about 4,000 teachers out of a total of 26,000 teachers are qualified, a shortage that USAID’s South Sudan Teacher Education Program is helping to address through in-service training and development of core teacher professional development frameworks including a curriculum, teacher professional standards, an accreditation system and an affirmative action policy. It expected that this foundational work will support future teacher training activities to improve the quality of teaching in the country. Quality teaching is an important prerequisite for improved learning.

A group of students. Photo credit: Karl Grobl, Education Development Center

In early 2012, USAID embarked on efforts to further solidify improvements in education in South Sudan. The Agency provided technical assistance to the Government of the Republic of South Sudan to help with the drafting and passage of a General Education Bill that will establish a national framework for education. This assistance included the organization of expert panels and public hearings that have enabled citizens and specialists in the field of education to provide input to the drafts. Involving local citizens in the development of this legislation has proven invaluable. Public input has helped provide flexibility in the school calendar so that areas of South Sudan that face challenges remaining open during the rainy season can meet the requirement of being open nine months per year without having to adhere to fixed dates. Other issues discussed in the public hearings included community and parental involvement, the role of women in educational leadership, inclusion of all students, standardized exams, a teachers’ code of conduct, compulsory attendance, and the need to eliminate corporal punishment. USAID’s oversight in ensuring that international norms were being observed in the analysis was crucial to the attainment of a sound legislative framework. The bill was passed by the National Legislative Assembly in July and has become a frequent basis for progressive reform. In the words of Samson Ezekiel Ndukpo, a National Legislative Assembly member who is Chair of the Assembly’s Specialized Committee of Education, Research, Science and Technology, “The bill is very important – it concerns everybody. The bill provides for compulsory and free education for all citizens of the country through primary level, according to the constitution.”

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