USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Youth

Celebrating Literacy in Liberia

Submitted by Justin Prudhomme – USAID/Liberia

How do you celebrate International Literacy Day in a country where half the population cannot read and literacy is often viewed with suspicion?

This was what the staff of USAID’s mission in Liberia wrestled with as we prepared to acknowledge International Literacy Day on September 8th.

Beneficiaries of the Ambassador's Girl's Scholarship Program in Liberia Photo Credit: USAID/Liberia

During the civil conflict years, Liberia’s education system quickly deteriorated as fighting erupted throughout the country. Rebel factions frequently targeted schools as places to recruit soldiers, taking children who should have been getting an education and plying them with drugs and guns, and conscripting them into combat units to fight in one of Africa’s most brutal conflicts.

Today substantial progress has been made in rebuilding the education system thanks in part to USAID’s Core Educational Skills for Liberian Youth (CESLY) project, implemented by Education Development Centers (EDC) and Research Triangle Institute (RTI).

Yet there is still work to be done and challenges to face, including limited resources, few qualified teachers, and a negative stigma attached to education, evidenced by a recent politician who announced his candidacy for president by promising to exclude ‘book people’ from his administration.

However, USAID/Liberia and our partners understand that in order to achieve real success, we need to change the way Liberians view education.  By ensuring that children have engaging materials to read and unlocking their passion for learning, we can teach the next generation the value of education so that they to can become advocates in their own communities. And so, to celebrate International Literacy Day CESLY is launching a writing contest across all 266 schools they support.

Students in the USAID Accelerated Learning Program Plus in Liberia Photo Credit: Creative Associates International Inc

Students will compete to write short, original stories about their lives, their communities, and the traditions of their elders.  CESLY is inviting students and guests to read stories aloud in schools, and will present each site with a new dictionary.  The winning stories will be published and distributed to students across the country to show the importance of literature by Liberian authors.

Literacy in Liberia can improve and involving young Liberians is the best way to do that.

A Word from Representative Lowey on Education

Submitted by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (NY-18)

As we recognize the vital role education plays worldwide during Education Week at USAID, we must commit to redouble our efforts to ensure a quality education for all children. Basic education is not a luxury we can afford to do without in tough times, but rather an essential part of the solution to the global recession, a core underpinning of long-term sustainable growth and increased stability.

No country has reached sustained economic growth without achieving near universal primary education.  The benefits of basic education have been proven time and again. Education lays the foundation for sound governance and strong institutions.  Investing in girls’ education, in particular, increases women’s incomes, delays the start of sexual activity, reduces infant mortality, increases women’s political participation and stabilizes societies.

Today more than ever, the potential exists to put every boy and girl into school and create a world that is more tolerant, peaceful and prepared to confront the challenges of the twenty-first century. However, we are still woefully short of achieving our goals, with 72 million children not enrolled in school and millions more dropping out each year.

I am confident USAID’s capable and dedicated staff will overcome many of these challenges to help developing countries improve their own education systems as we bolster our own programs around the world. Together, we will continue the hard word of laying this essential foundation for a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Focus on Literacy and Learning: The Global Community’s Failing Grade

Submitted by: Rebecca Winthrop
Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Universal Education, The Brookings Institution

On the occasion of International Literacy Day and USAID’s Education Week, I wanted to address the fact that so many school children in developing countries are not learning to read in the vital first few years of primary school.  Failing to acquire basic literacy skills in the early grades holds them back from staying at and succeeding in school. Tragically, there are even a number of children, who spend four, five, or even six years in school and cannot read simple sentences. While this is clearly a crisis for the families whose children are struggling to acquire even the most basic literacy skills in the classroom, collectively it also spells a major crisis for the ability of the world’s poorest countries to improve economically and provide a better quality of life for its citizens.

Conventional wisdom in international development held that increasing a population’s average years of schooling would spur economic growth.  We now know that increasing economic growth has much less to do with just the number of years spent in school and much more to do with the knowledge acquired and skills developed while in school.  And while it took the work of several skilled economists to develop the evidence base for this claim, we should not be surprised by their insight.  It is not rocket science to understand that a student who spends four years in school learning to read, calculate, and problem-solve is in the end going to be more valuable in the labor market than someone who spends six years in school not learning to do any of those things.

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USAID Macedonia Education Week Highlights

Students participate in activity time at the Roma Education Center in Skopje. Photo Credit: Foundation for Open Society Institute Macedonia and USAID Macedonia

Submitted by  Lela Jakovlevski and Alexander Woods, USAID/Macedonia

Roma Education Project

The five Roma Education Centers in Skopje, Kumanovo, and Prilep are always buzzing with activity. Each day, four groups of children arrive for two hours at a time for after-school lessons, educational games, and important socializing. The younger children focus on literacy, numeracy, and Macedonian practice while the older groups get homework assistance, English lessons, and preparing for graduation exams.  All eagerly express their happiness for the help, fun environment, and how they feel much more confident when they go to school.

The overall condition and situation of the Roma community in Macedonia is considered better compared to other European countries, as there is a Minister for Roma issues in government and Roma MPs in Parliament, a Roma mayor, and Roma print and broadcast media in country. However, many of the chilling statistics remain: extremely high unemployment, low level of education participation and attainment, pervasive poverty and considerable community health risks. In education, achievement rates are low due to a number of factors such as household financial constraints, lack of community role models, and systemic exclusion from mainstream opportunities. The biggest problem these children face is discrimination and stigma simply based on where they are from.

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How do Moroccan Youth Make Change Happen?

Moroccan Youth in a dialogue with Moroccan NGO leaders on how they can be involved. Photo Credit: Matthew Johnson

Submitted by Matthew Johnson

On the final day of breakout sessions during Morocco’s Ramadan Youth Outreach event, the discussions focused on being involved in local government.  The morning started off with a round table discussion with seven youth leaders of NGOs.  The afternoon session was a discussion with elected officials on how young people can get involved.

Through the conference, there have been debates on how the youth can make an impact on Moroccan society.  Really the answer is simple – get involved.  If the youth in Morocco aren’t active in participating in society, change will never take place.

During the morning session with the NGO leaders, there was a very interesting discussion on reasons why youth don’t get involved.  Below are a few reasons I heard from the youth:

“I feel so behind educationally, that I don’t think I would know what to do if I got involved.”

“I want to be involved, but youth does not exist in this society.  Even if I get involved, no one will listen to me.”

“I feel ignorant of how government works.  I don’t know what I can do.”

As more and more students talked, I sensed a fear of getting involved – a fear of not knowing what to do, a fear of failure, and a fear of being inadequately prepared.

During this discussion, two young women stood up and shared their thoughts.  One young woman said, “We need to stop complaining and get involved.  We must be positive and not negative.  That is the only way we can make change happen.”

Another woman said that she never wanted to be involved in politics because she didn’t think she could ever make a difference.  But through encouragement of her friends, she decided to run for a local political office.  Much to her surprise she won the election and she’s been able to make a huge impact in her community! She told the youth that unless they get involved, they will never make a difference.  They can’t be afraid to get involved.

These two young women delivered a powerful message to the 160 youth participants.  It was so great to see two young women challenging their peers.  At the conclusion of this session, I talked to several youth that were encouraged and challenged to get involved and make a difference.

The following day during the closing ceremony, John Groarke, the USAID/Morocco Mission Director issued a perfect challenge to the participants saying, “change will only come if you make it happen.”

So how do Moroccan youth make change happen?  They get involved.

This Week at USAID – August 2, 2010

Administrator Shah will join President Obama at the White House for a town hall during the Presidential Young African Leaders Forum.  As a global leader in empowering and engaging youth, USAID works to ensure that young people have access to skills and opportunities to be active and effective citizens who contribute to their country’s overall stability and development.

Ambassador Garvelink, Deputy Coordinator of Feed the Future, will speak at two sessions during the International Food Aid and Development Conference in Kansas City.  His keynote address will underscore the U.S. commitment to addressing global hunger and food security, highlighting the whole-of-government approach and goals of Feed the Future.

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