Five things you need to know this week about global education

African Child Eating School Meal
39 African countries have school feeding programmes managed and financed by governments (World Food Programme)

Child marriage, Early childhood development, Girls' education

Global period poverty, child marriage in Lebanon and school meals across Africa are all featured our roundup

Early and basic education boosted in the Gambia

The Gambia has launched a major programme to promote early childhood development (ECD) and boost access to basic education.

The $35 million Education Sector Support Program aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning outcomes from lower and upper basic schools up through senior secondaries.

It will benefit 411,000 children, including 32,500 in ECD. The curriculum for all core subjects will be revised and new textbooks will be printed and distributed to every school in the country. 

The project, which will also see 40 new schools built in remote areas, is funded by a $30 million grant by the World Bank’s International Development Association and a $5 million grant by the Global Partnership for Education.

Campaign to tackle period poverty and keep girls in school

Britain launched a global “period poverty” fund and taskforce to help all women and girls access sanitary products by 2050 and to tackle the stigma around menstruation.

It is estimated that half of all women and girls in poor countries are forced to use rags, cloths, grass and paper during their periods since many can’t afford to buy sanitary products.

“Empowerment starts when you are young. Girls should be able to focus on their education and their future without being worried about or embarrassed by their periods,” said Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities.

The UK government pledged to give $2.64 million to organisations working to end period poverty globally.

One in 10 girls in Africa will miss school during their period and will eventually drop out of school as a result, according to United Nations estimates.

Child marriage protest in Lebanon

Hundreds of people have protested in Lebanon against child marriage, demanding politicians forbid it below the age of 18.

Organised by civil society groups, the rally attracted women of all ages – and some lawmakers – who marched on parliament in the capital Beirut. Some elements of the the Muslim and Christian communities in Lebanon allow girls to be wed at 14. 

Abir Abdel Razeq, a 22-year-old who carried her young daughter in her arms, said she married at 14. She added: “I hope that my daughter does not get married early and that she finishes school – I hope that she will not marry before she is 22.” 

Every year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 – meaning they often miss out on education and the opportunity to fulfil their potential 

African Day of School Feeding is celebrated

African Day of School Feeding was celebrated in the Ivory Coast – promoting home-grown school feeding programmes as a key strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Meals are served daily in 5,688 school canteens across the country – most of them sponsored by the government and the World Food Program. They contribute to children’s health and nutrition, as well as encouraging their families to send them to school.

Education minister Kandia Camara said the Ivory Coast aims to give every school student “a hot and balanced meal” every day by 2025.

This year’s African Day of School Feeding celebrated the theme “Investing in home-grown school feeding for achieving zero hunger and sustaining inclusive education for all, including refugees, returnees and internally-displaced persons in Africa”.

Across the continent, 39 countries have school feeding programmes managed and financed by governments. South Africa and Nigeria each feed more than nine million children every day of the school year, while Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Zimbabwe all feed over one million. 

Death sentence for teacher who beat student to death

A case that sparked a national debate on corporal punishment in Tanzania’s schools has ended with a teacher being sentenced to death.

Sperius Eradius, 13, died in August – days after being beaten by Respicius Mutazangira, who was found guilty of “voluntary homicide” this week.

The boy’s parents had refused to bury Sperious until authorities arrested the teacher and suspended the school principal. The case triggered an uproar, with condemnations from rights organisations.

Corporal punishment is allowed under a 1979 law but with restrictions. In a 2017 report, Human Rights Watch said: “Widespread corporal punishment… often takes brutal and humiliating forms in Tanzanian schools.” 

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