June 07, 2019

Five things you need to know this week about global education

Kenya will make it compulsory for all children to attend primary and secondary school

Photo credit: UN Women

A pledge to get all Kenyan girls into school, education aid for Venezuelan refugees and a school with a novel way of tackling plastic waste are in our weekly news roundup.

We will educate every girl promises Kenyan president

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta promised to keep all girls in school, tackle child marriage and end female genital mutilation by 2022 at the opening of the world's biggest gender equality conference.

He told Women Deliver in Vancouver that Kenya will make it compulsory for parents to send all children to primary and secondary school, which would boost girls' opportunities and empower them to be future leaders.

Keeping girls in school would also prevent them being married off young, he said. More than one in five girls in Kenya is wed before the age of 18.

Ethiopia's first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, said it is crucial to get more girls into secondary and tertiary education and tackle high rates of child marriage in the country, where 40% of girls are wed before they reach 18.

"It's a fundamental problem for us. We would like to have ended it yesterday," she added. "This is something terrible. This has definitely to stop."

Aid to help Venezuelan refugees into school

Thousands of children affected by the crisis in Venezuela will be helped back into education through emergency grants in countries where their families have fled.

Education Cannot Wait - the fund for education in emergencies - announced a $7 million allocation to support emergency response grants in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

The grants will focus primarily on out-of-school children and adolescents from Venezuela and host communities to get them back in protective, quality learning environments. About 84,500 children and youth, including 42,600 girls, will benefit.

“Children and youth who are uprooted and forced to flee are haunted by fears and uncertainty," said Education Cannot Wait Director Yasmine Sherif. "Education provides a sense of stability, protection and hope to turn around their lives and positively impact the region."

The Venezuela crisis has displaced 3.7 million people, with an estimated 1.2 million children and youth affected in the four countries that will benefit from the grants. About half of the refugee and migrant children from Venezuela are not enrolled in formal schooling in these countries, where the influx of children is pushing local resources to breaking point.

Children 'pay' for school with plastic waste

A school in India has taken a novel approach to addressing the scourge of plastic waste by making its collection a condition of free attendance.

Every week the 110 pupils at the Akshar Forum school outside Dispur in Assam state must bring up to 20 items of plastic gathered from their homes and the local area.

"The use of plastics is rampant across Assam," said Parmita Sarma, who set up the project together with her New Yorker husband Mazin Mukhtar. "We tell (the parents) to send the plastics to the school as fees if you want your children to study here for free," Mukhtar told the AFP news agency.

The school makes good use of the plastic waste. Pupils stuff plastic bags inside plastic bottles to make "eco bricks" which can then be used to construct new school buildings, toilet buildings or pathways.

The students are also paid to do this, which ties in with another aim of the school - getting children out of working in local stone quarries and into education.

Gender-neutral school uniforms for Mexico City

Mayor Sheinbaum said children would be free to choose whether to wear skirts or trousers

Photo credit: Claudia Sheinbaum / Facebook

Children who go to state-run schools in Mexico City will no longer have to wear gender-specific school uniforms.

"The era when girls had to wear a skirt and boys had to wear trousers has been left behind, I think that's passed into history," said mayor Claudia Sheinbaum as she announced the policy. "It's a very simple thing but it creates a condition of equality, of equity."

She is only the second woman to govern the capital and campaigned on a platform promising improved rights for women and LGBT+ people.

While children at government-run schools in Mexico are not required to wear uniform by law, the education ministry recommends state schools adopt them. LGBT+ activists welcomed the move and said it could be particularly positive for trans or gender-nonconforming students who are struggling with their identity.

"It's going to help a lot for trans children," Diana Sanchez Barrios, a transgender activist and founder of Prodiana AC, a Mexican LGBT+ rights group, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Cameroon conflict is 'world's most neglected crisis'

The Cameroon conflict has been named as the most neglected displacement crisis in the world - with little intervention and scant media coverage.

More than 780,000 children have seen their schools close and over 500,000 people have fled from their homes in the country's English-speaking regions. 

“The international community is asleep at the wheel when it comes to the crisis in Cameroon. Brutal killings, burned-down villages and massive displacement have been met with deafening silence,” said Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Other countries in the NRC list of most neglected crises in 2018 are: Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Burundi, Ukraine, Venezuela, Mali, Libya, Ethiopia, Palestine.

Their News regularly reported on the Cameroon crisis during 2018, including this in-depth look at the effects on education, with schools attacked and children abducted. We also reported on attacks on education and other issues in each of the other countries named in the NRC list.

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