Author: Thi Nguyen
Source: Letaba Herald
Sylvie*, a 21-year-old high school graduate in Kigali, Rwanda, has been managing a clothing shop for almost a year, where she hopes to create more manufacturing jobs for low-income youth. As a young woman who grew up among the rural poor, she struggled with finding stable employment. Now, she attributes her breadwinning career to nothing other than having access to the Internet. Sylvie said, “Since the government expanded Internet connectivity to rural communities, schoolgirls have been able to learn professional skills online, build our networks, and make a difference in their community. I wish I had the Internet when I was in high school”.
Sylvie is among many success stories that illustrate how Internet access, supported by the United Nations’ Fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), can provide lifelong learning and advancement opportunities to underprivileged youth in Africa (The Internet Society, 2017; Mancharia, 2014). However, to upper secondary school students in Burundi, a neighboring country of Rwanda, the Internet remains an unfamiliar concept. According to UNESCO’s Education Progress Report, all upper secondary schools in Burundi provide electricity, but only 7% provide Internet access, which is the widest gap among all surveyed countries. This datum demonstrates a trend of Internet use consistent with that of the entire Burundi’s population: currently, only around 10% of Burundians have access to the Internet (CIPESA, 2016).
The Impact of Post-War Economic Challenges
The lack of Internet access is among many shortcomings in Burundi post-Civil War. The ethnic violence between the Tutsi and Hutu factions between 1993 and 2003 also left the Burundian school system in shambles for most of the 2000s. In 2004, upon receiving foreign aid to rebuild school infrastructure in the country, the Burundian government adopted the national “Information and Communications Technology” (ICT) as a part of its developmental policy, with expectations that ICT could catalyze the improvement of both access to and quality of education (Hare, 2007).
Despite having this policy in place, ICT uptake in Burundi is severely low, with most of ICT facilities concentrated in the capital city of Bujumbura, where wealthy groups and multinational companies are located. The rural population, which accounts for 87% of the total population (IndexMundi, 2018), have almost zero access, which shows that the digital divide in Burundi is extremely large.
While recognizing ICT as an enabler in access and quality in education, Burundi does not provide a specific policy or documentation method to support ICT use in the education sector (Hare, 2007). Government officials claim that this problem is due to the lack of funding, coupled with the fact that schools’ priorities still rest on stabilizing the language of instruction, recruiting teachers, and providing minimal facilities to sustain an acceptable quality of education (Harerimana, 2019; Stamm, 2019). Not to mention, Burundi’s heavy dependence on subsistence agriculture poses barriers to its participation in the 21st-century global economy (Nkurunziza, 2005). This condition makes the Internet, a pathway to the global knowledge society and job market, become unthought-of to a majority of Burundi’s population.
Burundi’s history of conflict and ongoing resistance against the government have made the idea of providing Internet access to students deeply controversial. In the midst of an authoritarian crackdown, Internet blockages are extremely common, and Burundian media workers are constantly subjected to censorship. State surveillance has also resulted in imprisonments and executions of many Internet users who were suspected to be political dissidents (Hare, 2007). Meanwhile, regional unrest has also reignited ethnic tensions and homicide, which contributes to waves of vulnerable Burundians fleeing their homes to seek refuge every year (Steers, 2019).
Because the right to information is not explicitly protected in Burundi’s Constitution (Hare, 2007), and widespread political conversations under an authoritarian leadership can jeopardize lives, not much about Burundi’s current crisis is discussed within the nation’s public or shared with the world (Graham-Harrison, 2016). The limited ICT engagement reflects this condition. As a result, Internet connectivity, while internationally recognized as an indicator of access to quality education (ITCU-UNESCO Broadband Commission, 2013), remains absent from Burundi’s school curriculum.
Internet Access as a Tool for Development
City of Bujumbura, Burundi. Source: WikiCommons
In a resource-poor and unstable country, adolescents should be introduced to lifelong learning through the Internet so that they can live up to their full potential and contribute to the motherland. Internet skills can translate to access to a much wider range of information and resources as well as new ways of teaching and learning. Both can enhance educational welfare, helping to achieve Education for All and other SDG goals (The Internet Society, 2017).
In Rwanda, Burundi’s neighbor with a similar history and developmental status, universal Internet access is used as a tool to help redistribute resources, mitigate ethnic polarization, and attract foreign investment (Herath, 2018; Howard, 2014). Young entrepreneurs and community leaders like Sylvie are indeed the by-product of Rwanda’s capacity-building and community healing efforts. Burundian students deserve the opportunity that Sylvie has received to venture beyond the boundaries of their upbringings. Limiting Internet access means restricting their ability to learn about the world and find innovative solutions to improve their lives and those around them, which can impede development and global integration.
The Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) has also highlighted the role of ICT in promoting human rights, which included the rights to educational attainment, freedom of expression, and social justice (IHRB, 2017). In other words, when all citizens are equipped with a tool to freely learn, grow, and make changes in governance, the country’s safety, institutional stability, and socioeconomic prosperity will significantly improve.
In Burundi, the idea of universal Internet service seems threatening to Pierre Nkurunziza’s leadership, since there have been public protests against what’s considered the administration’s abuse of power over the past decade. If Internet access in education were to be up for discussion, policymakers and advocates would need to envision Burundian citizens’ educational needs in relation to the country’s political circumstances. The goal and challenge would be to facilitate the transformation of individual lives, the economy, and the society while ensuring the overall domestic security.
CIPESA (2016) State of Internet Freedom in Burundi: Charting Patterns in the Strategies African Governments Use to Stifle Citizens’ Digital Rights. Retrieved from https://cipesa.org/?wpfb_dl=230
Harry Hare (2007) ICT in Education in Burundi. World Bank Survey of ICT and Education in Africa: Burundi Country Report. Retrieved from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/293721468222603883/pdf/464080BRI0Box31di010ICTed0Survey111.pdf
Herath, D. (2018, May 31). Post-conflict Reconstruction and Reconciliation in Rwanda and Sri Lanka. Retrieved from https://www.accord.org.za/conflict-trends/post-conflict-reconstruction-and-reconciliation-in-rwanda-and-sri-lanka/
Harerimana , É. (2019). Number of internet users in Burundi is low, says ARCT. Retrieved from https://www.iwacu-burundi.org/englishnews/number-of-internet-users-in-burundi-is-low-says-arct/
Howard, E. (2014, April 3). Rwanda, 20 years on: how a country is rebuilding itself. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/apr/03/rwanda-20-years-on-how-a-country-is-rebuilding-itself
IndexMundi (2018). Burundi – Rural population (% of total population). Retrieved from https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/burundi/indicator/SP.RUR.TOTL.ZS
Institute for Human Rights & Business (2017) Telecommunications and Human Rights. Retrieved from https://www.ihrb.org/uploads/reports/IHRB%2C_Telecommunications_and_Human_Rights_-_An_Export_Credit_Perspective%2C_Feb_2017.pdf
I. T. U. News (2018, October 10). In Rwanda, Broadband Internet connects rural communities to a bright future. Retrieved from https://etradeforall.org/in-rwanda-broadband-internet-connects-rural-communities-to-a-bright-future/
Stamm, V. (2019, June 11). The school situation in Burundi is difficult. Development + Cooperation. Retrieved from https://www.dandc.eu/en/article/school-situation-burundi-difficult
Steers, J. (2019, January 3). Why Burundi’s Ongoing Political Tensions Risk Devolving Into Ethnic Violence. World Politics Review. Retrieved from https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/insights/27087/ongoing-political-tensions-risk-devolving-into-an-ethnic-crisis-in-burundi
Technology, Broadband and Education Report (2013). ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000219687
UNESCO Education Progress (2016) Global Education Monitoring Report. Retrieved from https://www.education-progress.org/en/articles/quality/
UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report provides data related to out-of-school children around the world. While the global average of out-of-school children has been decreasing for both primary and secondary school children, some countries have experienced steep increases in the number of out-of-school children in recent years. The Marshall Islands reported that 24% of primary school children were out-of-school in 2016, nearly three times the global average of 8.2%. Furthermore, the Marshall Islands reported a higher than average out-of-school rate for children in secondary school (UNESCO, n.d.).
Why are there such high rates of out-of-school children in the Marshall Islands? What factors impede access to education in the Marshall Islands?
The Marshall Islands, a chain of islands and atolls in the North Pacific with a population of just over 50,000 inhabitants, present unique challenges to providing primary and secondary education. Access to education remains a persistent challenge, not only in the Marshall Islands but several other Pacific Island nations, due to countries being made up of many islands spread across a vast geographic area.
In 1986, the Marshall Islands gained independence from the United States. Following independence, the Marshall Islands and the United States signed the Compact of Free Association agreement (Kormann, 2020). Under this agreement, the United States maintains a military base on one of the atolls. In turn, the United States provides the Marshall Islands with significant funding for education as well as several other areas of development (UNICEF, 2017).
When it comes to access to education, the Marshall Islands face a number of challenges. Poverty remains relatively high on the outer islands with no or limited access to basic resources such as drinking water and electricity. Fishing and farming are often the only jobs available on outer islands and these demanding jobs may require families to rely on their children for extra help or income, preventing them from attending school (Children of Marshall Islands, n.d.). Health and nutrition also impact the ability of children to attend school with stunting being a common affliction among children and other illnesses impacting their cognitive abilities (World Bank, 2019).
However, the greatest challenge impacting the Marshall Islands, contributing to several educational problems, is the geographic spread and range of development on the separate islands. The outer, sparsely populated islands provide unique challenges regarding access to education. At the beginning of the Education for All initiative, the Ministry of Education set access to all levels of education as a major priority. Transportation from outer islands to the urban centers, where most of the schools were located, was unreliable and expensive (UNESCO, 2015). To begin to address the access issue, it was determined that more schools would have to be built, focusing specifically on the outer islands (Ministry of Education, n.d.).
While a majority of the population lives in the urban centers located on Majuro and Kwajalein, there are only 15 public schools serving this large student population (UNICEF, 2017). This results in overcrowded urban schools, which decreases the quality of education and availability of resources such as books (UN Human Rights, 2018).
The Ministry of Education established 65 public schools on 20 of the outer islands to increase access to education for rural students. These schools are often serving very small student populations (Ministry of Education, 2008). They also bring a new set of challenges: multiple grades in one classroom; teachers teaching subjects in which they are not familiar; and limited classroom resources (UNESCO, 2015).
While discussions have proposed consolidating schools with small student populations on rural islands, this does not address or correct the issue of access and what that would mean for students who live on islands without schools. Consequently, the issue of students being out-of-school because they don’t have access to schools will continue.
Of course, there is only so much the Marshall Islands and international development organizations can do. New challenges have also arisen in recent years or become more dire to address.
Migration has become a popular option for Marshallese citizens. Under the Compact of Free Association agreement, Marshallese citizens can, without a visa, live and work in the United States. In Arkansas alone, there is an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 Marshallese citizens (Kormann, 2020). Those who choose to remain in the Marshall Islands rely heavily on remittances from their family abroad (Kormann, 2020). This is relevant to education on the Marshall Islands because as more families leave, schools on outer islands risk being closed, limiting access to families who stay.
Climate change has increasingly become a vital concern for many Pacific Island nations. The Marshall Islands sit a mere six feet above sea level, severely threatening life on the islands (Kormann, 2020). In 2013, major flooding closed schools for nearly 2 weeks to provide shelter to families who lost their homes. Droughts and severe storms have increased in frequency (Kormann, 2020). This continues to hinder access to education as classes can’t be held, because school buildings have become unsafe to be in and already limited resources are diverted to more pressing concerns (UNICEF 2017).
While information and data from this area of the world remains scarce, the Marshall Islands did begin addressing the education access issues by building more schools. However, compounding factors, such as the poor quality of education, enticing migration opportunities to the United States that are detrimental to students who remain in Marshall Islands, and the increased risks associated with climate change, have caught the Marshall Islands in a cycle it can’t seem to escape.
What the Marshall Islands may need now is a way to keep education afloat.
Children of Marshall Islands. (n.d.) Humanium. Retrieved from https://www.humanium.org/en/marshall-islands-2/
Davenport, C. (2015, December 1). The Marshall Islands are disappearing. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/02/world/The-Marshall-Islands-Are-Disappearing.html
Kormann, C. (2020, January 10). The cost of fleeing climate change. The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/the-cost-of-fleeing-climate-change-marshall-islands-arkansas
Ministry of Education. (2008). The Republic of the Marshall Islands: education for all mid-decade assessment. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000221791
Ministry of Education. (n.d.). Republic of the Marshall Islands: education for all national action plan 2002-2005. Retrieved from http://www.paddle.usp.ac.fj/cgi-bin/paddle?e=d-010off-paddle–00-1–0—0-10-TX–4——-0-11l–11-en-50—20-home—00-3-1-000–0-0-11-0utfZz-8-00&a=file&d=rmi004
UN Human Rights. (2018, January 29). Committee on the rights of the child examines report of the Marshall Islands. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22615&LangID=E
UNESCO. (2015). Education for all 2015 national review report: Marshall Islands. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/in/documentViewer.xhtml?v=2.1.196&id=p::usmarcdef_0000229722&file=/in/rest/annotationSVC/DownloadWatermarkedAttachment/attach_import_04f01fa1-2c72-45f2-9266-fe233c276766%3F_%3D229722eng.pdf&locale=en&multi=true&ark=/ark:/48223/pf0000229722/PDF/229722eng.pdf#%5B%7B%22num%22%3A75%2C%22gen%22%3A0%7D%2C%7B%22name%22%3A%22XYZ%22%7D%2Cnull%2Cnull%2C0%5D
UNESCO. (n.d.). Global education monitoring report. Retrieved from https://www.education-progress.org/en/articles/access/
UNICEF. (2017). Situation analysis of children in the Marshall Islands. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/pacificislands/media/1146/file/Situation-Analysis-of-Children-Marshall-Islands.pdf
World Bank. (2019, November 7). Human capital in the Pacific Islands and Papua New Guinea. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/11/07/human-capital-in-the-pacific-islands-and-papua-new-guinea
L’union fait la force! Or unity equals power roughly translated from Creole. This is the national motto of Haiti, historically one of the first colonized countries to claim their independence in the Caribbean. Since then, the country has been fighting to improve their economy and establish a stable country. Political unrest and instability have been major issues throughout the country’s history. These issues affect nearly everything, from voting to the education system. As a country that rarely makes the news for anything outside of the political unrest, little is known about the education system. Below are three must-knows about the education system in Haiti.
1. Aging out of school is prevalent.
Education is highly valued in Haiti and seen as one of the most important determinants of poverty alleviation. This said, over 17% of 19-year-old Haitians are still attending primary schools, as seen in the UNESCO graph. These schools are considered the “Lekole bolet”. This essentially means “subpar education” in comparison to prestigious schools. Not many Haitians are fortunate to be able to attend school after “aging out”. These individuals often do not have the means to attend these schools and are instead taught vocational education training and hard skills.
2. Almost all schools in Haiti are private.
In 2003, 82% of all primary and secondary school students attended private, fee-based schools (MENJS, 2003). The Haitian government ranks very low in terms of public expenditure to education in comparison to the rest of the world. Nearly 90% of funding to schools are from private corporations. There has been political unrest for years in the country, making tangible educational policies and laws difficult to create and enforce. 85% of primary and secondary schools are privately owned, leaving only a few public-school options for students throughout the country (Roth, 2018). Education is considered one of the most common businesses in the country. Because of this, schools can be found on every corner in larger cities. As of 2010, Haiti had a total of 14,424 private schools and 1,240 public schools (Hoyt, 2010).
3. Haiti is a class-based society.
Class issues and struggles are prevalent in Haitian society and can be observed in the educational system. The aforementioned “Lekole bolet”, or “subpar” schools, exemplify the classist structure of wealth dictating the quality of education the Haitian student receives. The majority of these prestigious schools are owned by Haitians and can be broken down into three groups: the congregational catholic schools owned by religious congregations, the evangelical congressional schools owned by evangelical missions, and private schools owned by groups of middle class and bourgeois intellectuals. Those that are able, and fortunate enough, to afford the prestigious schools send their children to either Saint Louis de Gonzague or Mere Mariano, the two most elite schools in Haiti. Though these two schools produce the changemakers and leaders of Haitian society, most Haitians do not have the economic means to afford this educational luxury.
Attending school in Haiti is difficult due to these many access barriers. As of 2008, nearly 10% of a Haitian’s income went directly towards just textbook costs for school (Lunde, 2008). Many outside sources such as NGO’s and nonprofits subsidize the cost of attendance for students in an effort to improve access. Additionally, before a child can enter prestigious schooling, for both high and middle class, they must be tested. This testing is similar to most major country education systems, except they are school specific and pass or fail. Another barrier to education access is distance of travel. The majority of schools are several kilometers away from the rural and village areas in Port Au Prince and finding transportation to these areas is difficult. Though these schools are located in the nation’s capital, Haitian citizens are wary of sending their children to the politically unstable city.
What can we do?
Though the Haitian motto calls for unity to overcome challenges, the class-based society serves as a barrier to the education of young Haitians. It is apparent that the educational system needs to find ways to help students more easily access and navigate education. For the average individual wanting to help combat these barriers, researching education programs is a great start. Rooted in Haitian culture and modeling community-led change, Anseye Pou Ayiti (Teach for Haiti) is a program that aims to help alleviate the access barriers by recruiting and training education professionals to raise educational outcomes in underserved areas of the country. It is a company founded and operated by an all Haitian team to help students affected by these barriers. For more information about their cause visit https://anseyepouayiti.org/en/join-us/get-involved/.
Deroly, N. P. (2019). Haiti’s Education System Is Broken … By Design. Retrieved from https://brightthemag.com/haitis-education-system-is-broken-by-design-children-poverty-equity-1b97982f8a
Hoyt, B. (2010). Haiti’s Private Schools. Retrieved from https://blogs.worldbank.org/psd/haitis-private-schools
Lunde H. (2008). Youth and education in Haiti. Disincentives vulnerabilities and constraints. Retrieved from http://www.fafo.no/pub/rapp/10070/10070.pdf.
Luzincourt, K., Gulbrandson, J. (2010). Education and Conflict in Haiti. Retrieved from http:// www.usip.org/files/resources/sr245.pdf
MENJS, Direction de la Planification et de la Cooperation Externe. (2003). Recensement Scolaire. Government of Haiti.
Roth, K. (2018). World Report 2018: Rights Trends in Haiti. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/haiti
Good Intentions Gone Bad: How Hiring Unqualified Teachers Aggravated Ghana’s National Teacher Shortage
In Ghana, there are two main categories of teachers for primary and secondary schooling: teachers who received formal training in colleges for education or alternative training programs, and teachers who have no formal training (Acheampong & Gyasi 2019). Trained, or ‘qualified’ teachers are employed by the Ghanaian government and hold permanent positions. Conversely, untrained, or ‘unqualified’ teachers are recruited for temporal positions, with annually renewable contracts based on vacancies in the education service. UNESCO (2018) found that between 1999 and 2018, the percentage of qualified teachers in primary and secondary schools dropped from 72 percent to 60 percent, with the lowest figure falling in 2009 at 48 percent qualified teachers. Low percentages of qualified teachers pose a major problem for the Ghanaian education system and are symptomatic of a greater issue: a national teacher shortage.
To understand Ghana’s teacher shortage today, it is useful to look at its history. Akyeampong (2009) notes that school enrollment grew slowly but steadily from the country’s independence in 1957 until 1995 when the government passed Free and Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) (Akyeampong 2009). FCUBE quickly increased student enrollment but did little to improve the economic situation of schools. In fact, FCUBE abolished school fees altogether, leaving schools without one a major source of income.
With insufficient funds and schools flooded with students, Ghana’s educational infrastructure and facilities rapidly deteriorated. The country soon experienced a mass-exodus of trained teachers to neighboring Nigeria where they sought better opportunities (Akyeampong 2009). Nationally, the student to teacher ratio exploded from 43:1 in 1996 to 63:1 in 2005 (Akyeampong 2009).
At the same time, to achieve universal education, Ghana’s government invested in expanding school buildings to meet the growth of the school-age population. However, only schools with qualified teachers could receive funding for construction projects (Akyeampong 2009). These stringent conditions for school construction projects under FCUBE disadvantaged schools in rural, low-density population areas that already struggled to attract qualified teachers due to poor infrastructure, pay, and quality of life. Head teachers in these schools had no way to secure valuable funding to develop their institutions in order to attract the teachers they would need to receive that funding in the first place. This meant schools inundated with children had little choice but to hire untrained teachers to deliver lessons, eventually doubling the number of unqualified teachers in the country (Akyeampong 2009). By 2009, just 48 percent of Ghana’s teachers held qualifications (UNESCO 2018).
Where are Ghana’s qualified teachers?
In Ghana today, qualified teachers are leaving positions at higher rates than new teachers are entering the field. Those teachers who do graduate from teaching colleges often choose to pursue further professional trainings shortly after starting teaching to seek higher salaries. On the surface, greater teacher training seems like a positive for the Ghanaian education system. However, Acheampong (2019) finds that upwards of 70 percent of teachers do not return to the classroom after additional trainings as they find more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. Consequently, untrained teachers are sought out to fill those empty posts. For example, in 2004 the country needed 40,000 teachers to fill positions. Unfortunately, due to low interest in these positions on the part of trained teachers, 24,000 positions were eventually filled with untrained teachers, leaving the remaining 16,000 classrooms empty (Cobbold 2015).
Qualified teachers say the presence of unqualified teachers in the workplace “devalues the status of the profession” (Ghana National Association of Teachers, p. 76, 2009). This means that schools that hire unqualified teachers to accommodate large student populations are even less likely to hire qualified ones in the future. Cobbold (2015) finds that the presence of untrained teachers in the profession “creates a cycle of poor teaching, low standard of education, poor public perception of teachers and increased attrition rates” (p. 76). In short, combatting a teacher shortage by hiring unqualified teachers not only risks lowering the quality of teaching and learning, but also perpetuates disinterest in the profession by those trained to do it.
The Ghana National Association of Teachers (2009) say the attraction and retention of teachers is imperative to achieve the country’s goal of education for all. Unfortunately, poor pay, working conditions, living standards, and the presence of untrained teachers continue to devalue the profession in the eyes of trained teachers.
Progress to reverse this trend is slow as qualified teachers are leaving positions quicker than new teachers are taking them (Acheampong 2019). However, slow progress cannot be passed off as no progress. Namit (2017) reports that Ghana’s Ministry of Education seeks to remedy the problem with the Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education, introduced in 2012. This program has trained upwards of 8,000 young teachers (Namit 2017). The program follows the same curriculum as a typical trained teachers’ pre-service program, and as an added benefit, costs significantly less than the typical training model at $2,130 per teacher as opposed to $3,409 per teacher (Namit 2017). Though Namit (2017) believes it is too early to assess if the skills gained in this program will be sustained over time and if there will eventually be positive learning outcomes for students, the Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education is a step in the right direction for Ghana’s education system.
In closing, to ensure that quality universal education is being delivered to Ghana’s children, the government should invest in the assessment of the Untrained Teachers Diploma of Basic Education to gain better understanding of its effectiveness. With that knowledge, the program can be adapted to achieve stronger learning outcomes for untrained teachers, and subsequently higher quality education for Ghana’s children. For the future, the Ghanaian government should connect with trained teachers who have left the profession or are considering leaving the profession to learn what might incentivize them to stay. Above all, Ghana should continue to focus resources towards educating young people to foster greater economic development for the nation.
Acheampong, P., & Gyasi, J. F. (2019). Teacher Retention: A Review of Policies for Motivating Rural Basic School Teachers in Ghana. Asian Journal of Education and Training, 5(1), 86–92. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1203657
Akyeampong, K. (2009). Revisiting Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE) in Ghana. Comparative Education, 45(2), 175–195. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1080/03050060902920534
Cobbold, C. (2015). Solving the Teacher Shortage Problem in Ghana: Critical Perspectives for Understanding the Issues. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(9), 71–79. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1082464.pdf
Ghana National Association of Teachers (2009) Teacher Attrition in Ghana. Teachers Task Force for Education 2030. Retrieved from: http://www.teachersforefa.unesco.org/en/Resources/All/GNAT_2010_TEACHER_ATTRITION__REPORT.pdf
UNESCO (2018). GEM Report Education Progress. Retrieved from https://www.education-progress.org/en/articles/quality/
Kabira, N. (2017). Lessons from Ghana: A Cost-Effective Way to Train Teachers. World Bank Blogs. Retrieved from:, https://blogs.worldbank.org/education/lessons-ghana-cost-effective-way-train-teachers.
Basic accommodations such as hot showers, access to flushing indoor toilets, and the availability of restrooms in schools can be easily taken for granted. Having intrinsic needs met reduces stress, worries and fears. Access to adequate water and sanitation facilities is crucial for school children to avoid the risks of illnesses which may cause them to be absent. Single sex facilities are especially important for girls who are at a higher risk of missing school if menstrual hygiene cannot be practiced.
The Data/the facts
According to the GEM Education Progress Report, fewer than half of primary schools in sub-Saharan Africa have access to single-sex sanitation facilities. Starting in 1996, legislative reforms brought substantial improvements in Senegal’s water supply and sanitation sector (“Senegal,” 2020). However, despite basic water access service now reaching 81 percent of the Senegalese population, still only 9% of primary schools, 48% of lower secondary and 29% of upper secondary schools have single-sex sanitation facilities.
The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 addresses the need to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Target 4.a and indicator 4.a.1 stresses the necessity to build and upgrade education facilities that are gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all. Indicator 4.a.1f more specifically addresses the need for single-sex basic sanitation facilities. (UN SDG, n.d)
Girls are particularly affected by limited access to single sex facilities in school because of the challenges they encounter when practicing menstrual hygiene, such as lack of privacy and safety, making them more vulnerable to dropping out from school (“GEM Report Education Progress,” n.d.).
In Senegalese society, menstruation is still a taboo subject with menstrual blood being considered “an impurity, a filth, an evil substance.” Due to this societal norm, menstruation must be handled with great discretion (“Statistics,”n.d.).
School aged menstruating girls, often labeled as impure or contaminated, suffer the most from limited or no access to private toilets. (“Menstrual Hygiene Management,” n.d.) Unlike their male classmates, they are often subjected to feelings of shame and embarrassment, discouraging them from attending school altogether. (“Changing Perceptions,” 2018).
A study of Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) in the Kedougou region, Senegal, undertaken by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and UN Women shows that “over 40% of the girls surveyed said that they missed school for at least one day per month” during their periods noting the absence of infrastructure as a reason for staying home. Indeed, the study revealed that none of the toilet facilities visited “had made provision for menstruating women to wash, clean themselves and change with privacy and dignity.” (“Menstrual Hygiene Management,” n.d.).
Young girls missing school due to a lack of appropriate infrastructure not only lowers self-esteem and perpetuates gender inequalities, but also translates into graver lifelong ramifications originating from dropping out of school leading to fewer opportunities that an education can offer (“Changing Perceptions,” 2018).
Actions taken today
As the WSSCC and UN Women study and statistics show, there is an urgent need to address the lack of single-sex sanitation facilities in Senegal. One important point to emphasize is that one cannot talk about single sex sanitation facilities without addressing the importance of menstrual hygiene management. However, despite its implications on young girls’ education and future, MHM is still a very low priority by many in the education and sanitation sector (“Changing Perceptions,” 2018).
Speak Up Africa is one organization based out of Dakar, Senegal that has introduced the importance of discussing menstrual hygiene management. One of their programs, the Africa Sanitation Policy and Advocacy Activator, supports sanitation initiatives that empower women (“Africa Sanitation,” 2018).
In 2013, WASH United, a German non-profit, started Menstrual Hygiene Day, a worldwide collaboration of 500 partners, from non profits, government agencies and the private sector, working together to bring awareness and advocacy about the importance of menstrual hygiene for all women and girls (“About Menstrual,” n.d.).
SIMAVI, PATH and WASH United and the social media campaign #menstruationmatters highlight how menstrual hygiene matters to achieve sustainable development goals, which do not specifically name and address MHM. An infographics they created in 2017 recommends several strategies to increase awareness and meet SDG4. One of them is to integrate education about MHM and puberty into school curricula. Another one is to build the capacity of teachers to teach about these issues with comfort (Menstruation matters, 2017). Women Deliver, another organization advocating for gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women around the world has made progress by bringing awareness to large international nonprofits during their 2016 conference. The International Committee of the Red Cross for example, facilitated a demonstration on how to make reusable sanitary pads (“2030 Agenda,” 2016.).
The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) of WHO and UNICEF has proposed the following definition and standards for women and adolescent girls to be able to manage menstruation hygienically and with dignity (“MHM,” n.d.) :
Based on this definition the addition of a few strategies would improve the SDG indicator 4a.1 to address menstrual hygiene management needs. I suggested adding:
- h) menstrual hygiene materials to absorb or collect menstrual blood,
- i) water and soap within a place that provides an adequate level of privacy for changing materials or washing stains from clothes and drying reusable menstrual materials
- j) disposal facilities for used menstrual materials (from collection point to final disposal)
- k) accurate and pragmatic information (for females and males) about menstruation and menstrual hygiene (“MHM,” n.d.).
Adding these points to SDG4 would truly be a catalyst for change, making MHM an official issue to solve to allow women to thrive in today’s world.
In their paper, “Making the Case for a Female-Friendly Toilet”, Schmitt et al. also propose an amazing a female-friendly toilet design which I hope will start conversations among designers and policy makers bringing comfort and safety to millions of girls and women (Schmitt et al., 2018, p.5).
The 2030 Agenda: What role does menstrual hygiene play? (2016). Global Citizen. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/menstruation-hygiene-day-girls/
About Menstrual Hygiene Day. (n.d.). MHDay | Global. https://menstrualhygieneday.org/about/about-mhday/
Africa Sanitation Policy and Advocacy Activator ⋆ Speak Up Africa. (2018, December 20). Speak Up Africa. https://www.speakupafrica.org/program/africa-sanitation-policy-and-advocacy-activator/?color=blue
Changing Perceptions Around Menstrual Hygiene Management and Why It’s Important ⋆ Speak Up Africa. (2018, November 13). Speak Up Africa. https://www.speakupafrica.org/changing-perceptions-around-menstrual-hygiene-management-and-why-its-important/
GEM Report Education Progress. (n.d.). GEM Report Education Progress. https://www.education-progress.org/en/articles/quality/
Integrated School Health Program for Child Survival. (n.d.). Amref Health Africa in the USA. https://www.amrefusa.org/where-we-work/senegal/integrated-school-health-program-for-child-survival/
MHM: Menstrual Hygiene Management. (n.d.). MHDay | Global. https://menstrualhygieneday.org/about/why-menstruationmatters/
Menstrual Hygiene Management: Behaviour and Practices in The Kedougou Region, Senegal. (n.d.). WSSCC UN WOMEN. https://www.wsscc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Briefing-Note-%E2%80%93-Menstrual-Hygiene-Management-Behaviour-and-Practices-in-the-Kedougou-Region-Senegal-WSSCC-UN-Women.pdf
Schmitt, M., Clatworthy, D., Ogello, T., & Sommer, M. (2018). Making the Case for a Female-Friendly Toilet. Water, 10(9), 1193. https://doi.org/10.3390/w10091193
Senegal. (2020, February 28). Globalwaters.org. https://www.globalwaters.org/WhereWeWork/Africa/Senegal
Statistics on Menstrual Hygiene in Senegal, Niger and Cameroon Are Now Available; Product of Action-research in the Joint WSSCC-UN Women Program. (n.d.). UN Women | Africa. https://africa.unwomen.org/en/news-and-events/stories/2018/02/des-statistiques-sur-lhygiene-menstruelle-au-senegal-au-niger-et-au-cameroun-disponibles
WASH United Simavi (2017). Menstruation matters to everyone, everywhere. https://menstrualhygieneday.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/MHDay_MHM-SDGs_2017_RGB_fin.pdf