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education around the world

| March 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

Testing times in Tanzania

In Tanzania, young pregnant girls continue to be caught in the crossfire of a political argument. In 2002, the government passed a bill which meant that pregnant schoolgirls were to be expelled from school. When John Pombe Magufuli became president in 2015, he made sure the law was enforced, saying at one point: ‘In my administration as the president, no pregnant girl will go back to school. She has chosen that kind of life, let her take care of the child.’ Those who oppose the law are many. The number of pregnancies in teenagers aged 15 to 19 increased from 23% in 2010 to 27% in 2015. Many Tanzanian girls and women are not aware of their own rights. Tanzania is among the African countries with the highest prevalence of sexual violence by non-partners after the age of 15 years. One third (29%) of adolescents report having forced sexual initiation, says PesaCheck, a pioneering verification initiative helping kickstart fact-checking across East Africa. Researchers Muzdalifat Abeid, Projestine Muganyizi, Pia Olsson, Elisabeth Darj and Pia Axemo report: ‘Women lack decision-making power in various matters including how, when and where to have sex. Culturally, it is accepted that girls and women must submit to men’s wishes.’ Official opposition leader, Zitto Kabwe, believes in the research findings and has stated that the separation of pregnant girls is unreasonable. Alongside many other anti-government activists, Kabwe is horrified that the World Bank has been debating whether or not to provide Tanzania with a US$500 million loan. He said the purpose of the reworked loan programme (a similar loan offer was discussed and declined in 2018) was to ‘enhance the quality and provision of education… the programme has been redesigned to ensure girls and boys who drop out, including pregnant girls, have alternate education options for themselves’. In plain language, says Kabwe: ‘The way the loan is been structured [means] the young girls who get pregnant for whatever reason will be put in separate schools. This is not right. I am wondering how can the World Bank allow this.’ An anonymous Tanzanian activist spoke out against the government, saying: ‘Girls at school are unsafe. They get beaten, sexually harassed, and sex for good grades or in lieu of school fees is a common thing.’ Anti-government protesters have suggested to the World Bank that it makes the loan conditional on legislation that affirms, inter alia, the rights of pregnant schoolgirls to education and the restoration of access to family planning. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which have documented the declining climate for activists under Magufuli, have called for the immediate release from prison of human rights lawyer Tito Elia Magoti and information technology expert Theodory Giyani. They are being held on ‘spurious charges’, say the human rights groups. As of 27 January 2020, the World Bank was allegedly planning to postpone the loan to the Tanzanian government. In Sierra Leone, pregnant schoolgirls will no longer be banned from attending class or writing examinations, after the justice system found that a 2015 directive barring pregnant girls from attending school amounted to discrimination and a violation of human rights. ‘This victory belongs to the girls in Sierra Leone who have been degraded and dehumanised because of their status since 2014,’ said Hannah Yambasu, executive director of Women Against Violence and Exploitation in Society (Waves), one of a number of organisations that filed the case against Sierra Leone in May 2018.

That’s a no for Nigeria

Many people think of Nigeria – Africa’s most densely populate country – as the continent’s largest economy and a country rich in resources. Over the next three decades, the population will double, making Nigeria the world’s third most populous country. By 2050, almost one in every 13 children born in the world will be Nigerian. This data dictates that the fate of Nigeria’s children will, in part, shape the world’s development. But it looks like the country will fail dismally when it comes to satisfying the United Nations’ key 2030 Sustainable Development Goals: to end preventable child and maternal deaths, eradicate malnutrition and give all children a quality education. Large non-governmental organisations such as Human Rights Watch report that of the two million Nigerian citizens under the age of 15, more than 800 000 die each year from malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea. UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, reports that roughly half of Nigeria’s children are stunted because of endemic malnutrition. Millions of young Nigerians do not receive vaccinations against killer diseases. UNICEF reports further that more than 10 million children aged five to 14 years do not attend school, and those in school (which is nominally free) receive a poor-quality education. As is the case all over the world, the poorest 20% of Nigerians will suffer the most. In the northern states, one in five girls will also be married with children by the age of 15. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that there must be increased, immediate and extensive public spending on health and education, created from a broad and deep tax base. Nigeria currently spends 0.6% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health. The international charity Save the Children says Nigeria must act immediately to empower girls and women, starting by banning child marriages. This alone will allow more girls to enrol at and stay in school.

Bad times for children in Burkina Faso

Not many of us ever spare a thought for children in Burkina Faso. Could your students find it on the map? Four hundred thousand people recently sought refuge in Dori, the capital of the Sahel region of northern Burkina Faso. They have been driven from their homes by extremist groups and the climate crisis, which manifests as increased heat and pockets of intense drought. In total, half a million people have been displaced from their homes all over the country. Over the last couple of years, in neighbouring Mali, citizens have been tortured by armed trafficking networks. Now the violence has spread to the northern and eastern border regions of Burkina Faso. The national army is not able to defend the people. Schools are perhaps suffering the most – about 1 800 have closed, according to humanitarian organisation Relief Web. Some radical Islamic insurgents forbid secular teaching, and have gone so far as to murder teachers and burn down schools. In the village of Gorgadji, local teacher Tidiane Koundaba says: ‘We were in class when suddenly we heard gunshots. It was coming from everywhere around. We laid on the floor. Then we evacuated the students to safety.’ Locals in the area fled to places such as Kaya, a city 60 miles north-east of the capital, Ouagadougou, which has become a refuge for many displaced families. Here, children receive a basic education outside and participate in group therapy offered by foreign aid workers, who report a high level of bitterness among refugees who feel abandoned by their government.

Category: Autumn 2020

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News posts added for Independent Education by Global Latitude DMA

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