USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Education and Universities

The Role of Teachers and Textbooks in a Democracy

Submitted by: Diana Harper

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”

—James Madison, 1788

This month’s historic referendum will determine southern Sudan’s future, either as an independent country of part of a unified Sudan.  Voting ends on Saturday, January 15, and enormous efforts have been launched by U.S., Sudanese, and international agencies to support a credible process—that voters know how and where to vote, that the Sudanese referendum commission is equipped to carry out referendum logistics, that sufficient ballots and voting materials are available, and that poll workers and election observers are properly trained.

At the same time, the United States has continued to provide development assistance that strengthens democracy as well as demonstrates the benefits of peace.  These efforts include improving health care and access to clean water, building roads and transportation infrastructure, providing microcredit loans to spur economic growth,  and—of particular importance—increasing access to and the quality of education.

Formal education is not a prerequisite for wisdom, but it is a critical part of active participation in the democratic process.  Literacy is crucial for making informed voting decisions and lobbying representatives for change.  The public’s ability to effectively organize and work in groups provides protection against political abuses and dictatorships.  Research supports the intuition that investments in education pay returns in peace and democracy.  (See a related interactive graph.)

In 2005, when Sudan ended its 22-year civil war, only 37% of southern Sudanese men and 12% of women were literate.  Primary school enrollment was low, and girls in particular faced many obstacles to attending school.  These obstacles included high direct and indirect costs, discriminatory attitudes and school policies, and poor access to feminine hygiene products and lack of sanitation facilities.

USAID has worked closely with the Government of Southern Sudan Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology to improve its ability to plan and implement educational reforms, increase access to primary education especially among girls, train teachers, and foster community-wide support for education.

One example of USAID’s work is the opening of a school in the Blue Nile State—a region on the north-south border of Sudan that was a major site of conflict during the civil war.  The Granville-Abbas School serves 120 female students and serves as a model of girls’ education in the region, with three sets of classrooms, a library, theater, and a computer center with internet access.  Better education for girls leads to benefits for their families and communities including increased economic growth, reduced poverty, improved health and nutrition, and better HIV/AIDS control.

U.S. educational programs throughout Sudan helped to increase primary school enrollment from 1.1 million in 2007 to 1.4 million in 2009.  In addition, U.S. programs have trained over 2,300 teachers, including many female instructors who serve as critical role models to young girls.  Beyond bricks and mortar institutions, USAID has also supported radio education to help students study English, math, local languages, and life skills.  In 2009 alone, the radio programs reached over 350,000 youth and adults.

From the Field

In Lebanon, in order to improve student achievement in Lebanese Public Schools, we will improve learning environments through physical repairs and provision of equipment, increase learning opportunities through in-service teacher training and extra-curricular activities, and raise stakeholder engagement in public schools.  This effort is expected to benefit thousands of students and teachers in over 1,300 public schools. Ambassador Maura Connelly, USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Christopher Crowley and USAID/Lebanon Mission Director Dr. Jim Barnhart will announce the program with the Lebanese Minister of Education & Higher Education; Dr. Hassan Mneimneh.

In Afghanistan, we will hold our second Water Conference. In this Forum, key water sector stakeholders can develop a shared understanding of the opportunities and challenges of sustainable development and management of water resources in Afghanistan and set a road map for addressing the challenges.

In Cambodia, on December 10th in Phnom Penh, we will celebrate the 62nd Anniversary of International Human Rights Day.

Europe and Eurasia Celebrates Progress on Disability Rights and Addresses Continuing Challenges

Nver Mirzoyan, an 8-year old child in Hobartsi, Armenia, suffers from congenital cerebral palsy and was able to attend school for only a few months a year.  During winter he stopped going entirely because his mother—the sole breadwinner of the family—was busy earning money through odd jobs and Nver could not reach the school in his home-made wheelchair.  Through a USAID-funded program, Stepanavan ADP and their partner DPO, “Full Life” intervened on Nver’s behalf, and obtained the agreement of the Hobartsi school Principal to accept Nver in his school beginning in September 2009.  The school was also targeted for modifications to improve accessibility as part of the USAID program.  A ramp was constructed for the school which made the school entrance accessible for Nver.  “Full Life” is working with his school and providing them with an inclusive education toolkit, helping the staff and children to better integrate Nver and children like him into the school community.

Armenian researcher conducting street poll on disability issues. Photo Credit: World Vision

Unfortunately, the stories of most people with disabilities (PWD) in Europe and Eurasia do not end as happily as Nver’s. In most countries in the region it is estimated that somewhere between 3% and 10% of the population is living with some form of disability.  Children with disabilities are typically relegated to “special schools” where they obtain an inferior education or they may be kept out of school altogether by parents who fear the stigma attached to their child’s disability. Very few schools in the region are able to offer inclusive education, although there are some efforts to improve this situation, including several funded by USAID. Also, adults with disabilities are very rarely employed. For example, estimates are that less than 10% of the adults with disabilities in Armenia have jobs. Due to the combination of high levels of unemployment and the meager disability benefits that are offered across the region, individuals with disabilities are at great risk of living in poverty. Given that social services for PWDs are also largely absent, the conditions under which they live are often dire.

USAID Missions in many countries in the region are funding programs designed to address the many barriers that keep PWDs from realizing their human rights and that make it difficult for them to be included in the social and economic life of their communities. For example, in Montenegro, USAID is helping to build a lodge in Durmitor National Park that is specially adapted to the needs of young people with disabilities so that by next summer as many as 160 disabled youth will be able to take advantage of outdoor activities available. Through the Equal Access for Equal Opportunities project in Macedonia, all 334 central primary schools were assessed to gauge the capacity of schools to be inclusive and to provide services to children with disabilities, especially through the use of assistive technology. The resulting statistics are able to quantify for the first time the needs of children and what must be done in the school system to meet these needs. USAID/Russia, USAID/Albania, and USAID/Serbia are all working on activities designed to increase the likelihood that PWDs will be able to obtain jobs by helping to amend laws and policies, providing vocational and skills building opportunities, organizing job fairs, and other innovative services.  While in Russia earlier this year, I met Denise Roza the Director of the Russian disability rights NGO, Perspektiva. She has amazing positive energy, and through Perspektiva, has been working to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities in Russia. Rosa pointed out that over the last decade they have been able to partner with disability organizations through 15 regions in Russia!

On Friday, our Missions joined the international community in celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  In Georgia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs (MoLHSA), USAID and its implementing partners held a conference designed to highlight the existing state policies related to PWDs, present the state programs that have been implemented in line with Georgia’s three-year national disability action plan, and describe government strategies/programs for 2011.

Having marked the 2010 International Day of Persons with Disabilities last week, we will now keep working every day to advance fundamental rights for people with disabilities so that they may live a more equitable life with greater opportunity.

From the Field

In Mali, we will hold a launch ceremony for a new Maternal and Newborn Health collaboration framework.  Mali has been selected as one of the countries for the implementation of the joint Organisation of The Islamic Conference (OIC)-US Government ”Reaching Every Mother and Baby in the OIC with Emergency Care” strategy. USAID has been designated to lead this effort for the US Government.

In Egypt, we will celebrate forty-five new scholarships for young Egyptian students to obtain degrees from Egyptian private universities in fields of studies that are important to Egypt’s current and future development. The Leadership Opportunities Transforming University Students (LOTUS) program aims at identifying and empowering young women and men who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership and involvement in their communities.  The program will help develop and nurture the recipients’ leadership potentials, skills and commitment to community and country so that they are prepared to become future leaders and advocates for development in local communities.

In Tanzania, it is Swahili Fashion Week.  On the last day of fashion week, USAID/COMPETE (East Africa Competitiveness and Trade Expansion Program) will organize a merchandising workshop to provide an element of training/guidance for what it takes to go commercial, and what the global market is looking for.

U.S.-India People to People Conference: Building the Foundation for a Strong Partnership

This originally appeared on Dipnote.

Tomorrow, the Department of State will host the U.S.-India People to People (P2P) Conference. Ahead of President Obama’s visit to India, this event will highlight the crucial role of Indian-Americans in the U.S.-India relationship. Secretary Clinton has been clear that connecting with all citizens, not just government officials, is essential to cultivating long-term relationships. While government cooperation remains essential, it is the myriad people-to-people connections that continue to define and further deepen the U.S.-India partnership.

The P2P conference will provide a grassroots discussion forum on four areas important to both countries: renewable energy, global health, education, and economic empowerment. By bringing together innovators and thinkers in these fields, this conference seeks to strengthen the personal networks that spark innovation. We aim to continue working with Indian Americans and others to strengthen and leverage such networks for the mutual benefit of both our countries. Tomorrow’s conference is only the start of our conversation, and we look forward to following up with all the conference attendees and participants.

You can stay connected to the conference by following the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs on Facebook and Twitter.

The People-To-People Conference will be hosted by the U.S. Department of State in cooperation with the Indian American Leadership Council (IALC) and the American India Foundation (AIF) in the Loy Henderson Auditorium from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on October 28, 2010. The program will consist of panel discussions related to the five pillars of the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, specifically Renewable Energy, Global Health, Education and Economic Empowerment. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert D. Hormats will provide opening remarks. USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah will give the keynote address and Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Meera Shankar has been invited to give closing remarks. Other senior U.S. government officials will also be in attendance and participating in the various conference sessions. Click here for more information.

Ethiopia Partners with the U.S. to Put Girls’ Education First

First Lady Azeb Mesfin has been steadfast in her determination to collaborate with USAID on the award of scholarships to meritorious girls who would otherwise have to drop out of school. So it gives me great pleasure to participate in the signing of this agreement on behalf of the American people, to provide FreAddis the means to benefit over 1,000 female students.

USAID Ethiopia Mission Director Thomas Staal, First Lady Azeb Mesfin, and US Ambassador Donald Booth participate in an event sponsored by FreAddis. Photo credit: USAID

Education is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty and all its trappings: hunger, disease, resource degradation, exploitation, and despair. Women are the caretakers and economic catalysts in our communities. No country can afford to ignore their potential. We all know women whose lives were transformed through education and who in turn transformed the lives of those around them.

I am pleased to welcome FreAddis as our newest partner in the education sector where we are working with the Ministry of Education to improve the quality of teaching and classroom materials for the greatly expanded numbers of children in primary schools all over the country. FreAddis hopes to eventually expand its reach and support to girls nationwide through funds donated by Ethiopians here and throughout the Diaspora.

In the future we hope to collaborate with more local institutions enabling them to carry out their missions and to make best use of the opportunities provided by the U.S. Government.

Food Security Month @ USAID: Expanding Our Toolkit in the Fight Against Global Hunger

This orginally appeared on DipNote.

I am halfway around the world from Washington, and on October 6, I participated in the Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum. I traveled to Malaysia and Indonesia this week to discuss trade, investment, entrepreneurship, energy, and of course, agriculture. I am proud to be part of President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s renewed commitment to political, economic, and educational engagement with dynamic emerging economies like Indonesia. I am especially pleased to be back in Indonesia after my successful visit this past spring, during which we discussed the issues of post-harvest loss and agricultural biotechnology.

The Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum builds on that work by including many distinguished participants to chart a course for the future. Dr. Bayu Krishnamurti, Indonesian Vice Minister of Agriculture, Ambassador Eric Bost of the Borlaug Institute, and many other luminaries in the field have come together to discuss new agricultural technologies, investment in post-harvest infrastructure, and expanded cooperation at research universities.

Ultimately, we are all here to reaffirm our commitment to fight global hunger. While there are no magic bullets in this battle, we must look to new technologies, including biotechnology, for the role that they can play in the “new green revolution.’ I believe that biotechnology, and the improved crops it can develop, will prove to be an important new element in our traditional package of tools to increase productivity and address head-on the challenges of hunger and climate change.

To that end, we are renewing several key partnerships in the area of biotechnology. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will work with the Indonesian government and the Program for Biosafety Systems to develop a new and fully functional biosafety framework in Indonesia.

We are also building on long-standing partnerships with international agriculture research centers. USAID will be supporting collaboration between the International Rice Research Institute and the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, and other partners to roll-out Golden Rice, an important food-based approach to alleviating Vitamin A deficiency and associated serious health issues in Indonesia.

In the face of one child dying of malnutrition every six seconds, our greatest tool is increased cooperation and collaboration to develop and share the best solutions possible.

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.


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.


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.

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