Broken Chalk’s Press Release on World Refugee Day 

Mamta Rao, Rieke Lahrsen

Every year on June 20th, the world comes together to commemorate World Refugee Day – a day to raise awareness about the plight of refugees and celebrate their courage, resilience, and contributions to societies around the globe. It is a day marked by various events hosted globally that are organized by or include participation of refugees, government officials and inclusive communities.

This year’s theme is “Hope away from home”, emphasizing the importance of enabling refugees to pursue education, employment and healthy living in their place of refuge. Inclusion stands at the forefront as the most effective way to help refugees not only rebuild their own lives, but also contribute to their new communities and place of safety.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently over 100 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced persons. These individuals have been uprooted from their homes due to conflict, violence, human rights violations, and increasingly, the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

The journey of a refugee is one marked by unimaginable hardship, loss, and trauma. They have fled their homelands in search of safety, leaving behind everything they once knew and loved. Yet, in the face of such adversity, refugees continue to demonstrate an extraordinary capacity for resilience and hope.

World Refugee Day is an opportunity to honor this resilience and to remind ourselves of our shared responsibility to support and protect those seeking refuge. It is a day to amplify the voices of refugees, to listen to their stories, and to recognize the immense contributions they make to host communities.

Refugees bring with them a wealth of skills, knowledge, and cultural diversity that enriches the societies in which they settle. They are entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, and community leaders, whose determination and perseverance inspire us all.

On this World Refugee Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to upholding the rights and dignity of refugees. Let us advocate for policies that promote their inclusion and integration, and work towards creating a more just and compassionate world where no one is forced to flee their home.

Here are a few ways you can make a difference this June 20th and beyond:

Educate yourself and others: read, listen and learn about the refugee crisis and how it impacted innocent lives worldwide

Support refugee organizations: donate or volunteer your time and energy to help refugees through organizations such as UNHCR, IOM, IRAP or local assistance groups

Advocate in your community: advocate for policy changes through local engagement, support refugee-owned businesses, participate in awareness campaigns or engage with schools to integrate refugee issues into their curricula

Spread positive stories: success stories and positive personal experiences of individuals can highlight the resilience of these strong individuals and fight the negative stereotypes portrayed in the media!

Remember, refugees are not just statistics; they are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters seeking a better life and a haven. Their stories remind us of our shared humanity and the power of hope in the face of adversity.

Together, we can build a world where refugees are welcomed, supported, and empowered to rebuild their lives and thrive.

References

International Day for Countering Hate Speech

Written by Astrid Euwe Wyss and Panashe Marie Louise Mlambo 

On 18 June, the world observes the International Day for Countering Hate Speech, established by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 75/309 on 21 July 2021.1 This day serves as a global call to action to combat hate speech in all its forms, fostering a culture of respect, tolerance, and understanding. 

The principles enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights emphasize that “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.” Broken Chalk stands firmly behind these ideals, advocating for educational environments where respect, tolerance, and mutual understanding are promoted. 

Educational institutions are critical arenas for fostering values of respect and tolerance. However, many regions around the world still struggle with the harmful effects of hate speech, which can create hostile learning environments and impede students’ educational progress.2 Broken Chalk’s efforts focus on raising awareness about these challenges and urging the international community to implement effective strategies to counter hate speech. As an international organization, Broken Chalk remains steadfast in its mission to achieve both local and global perspectives in its advocacy efforts. Through collaborative action and collective engagement, we strive to create a world where every individual has access to quality education in a peaceful, inclusive, and respectful environment. Our press releases, monitoring articles, and UN-UPR submissions are all the strides we have take to address the gaps in education and challenges affecting individuals in the educational sphere.  

“Our work is driven by a commitment to fostering respect and understanding in education. On this International Day for Countering Hate Speech, we urge governments and stakeholders to the UN to prioritize the fight against hate speech in education and to take decisive action to address systemic issues.” is a sentiment that is agreed by the Broken Chalk representatives.  

As an international organization, Broken Chalk remains steadfast in its mission to achieve both local and global perspectives in its advocacy efforts. Through collaborative action and collective engagement, we strive to create a world where every individual has access to quality education in a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment. 

Educational Challenges in Afghanistan

Written by Charlotte Lagadec-Jacob

Introduction 

The Taliban’s takeover in 2021 has had a devastating impact on the education system in Afghanistan. The declining quality of education and the promotion of gender inequality have become major concerns for the international community. Last year, UNESCO dedicated its International Day of Education to Afghan girls and women. 

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Although Afghanistan has signed multiple UN human rights treaties and conventions, which aim for access to education to all, gender equality and children’s rights, the new education system established by the Taliban restricts access to education for young women, allows the use of corporal punishment at school and has led to a deterioration of the overall quality of education for both boys and girls.

Impact on girls and women’s educational rights

The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan had a negative impact on access to education for girls and women. This issue has been raised by the United Nations as well as NGOs in several reports. Education is a fundamental right enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The restrictions imposed on girls and women violate several treaties signed by Afghanistan which prohibit gender-based discrimination. 

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Decrease of the school attendance rate among girls and women

The bans imposed by the Taliban on access to secondary and higher education for girls and women have resulted in a rising drop-out rate among female students in Afghanistan.  

Article 28.1 (e) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 states: 

Governments should “take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and the reduction of drop-out rates.”

Despite the ratification of this Convention by Afghanistan, 75% girls are currently out of school. This makes Afghanistan one of the countries with the highest out-of-school rates for girls in the world.

While the ban on access to secondary education for girls was introduced in 2021 as a temporary measure, it is still ongoing. Moreover, the ban on access to university for women violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that higher education should be ‘accessible to all on the basis of merit’ as opposed to gender. 

Low literacy rate among women 

Most women in Afghanistan are currently illiterate. Despite Afghanistan being a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which encourages the elimination of illiteracy, the literacy rate in Afghanistan is currently among the lowest in the world. This particularly applies to women as only 20.6% of Afghan women are literate. 

Being literate is important for daily tasks and cannot be neglected. In the long term, restricting access to education might worsen this situation and jeopardise Afghan girls and women’s independence and future, as it also makes accessing information about humanitarian support more difficult. 

Impact on boys’ educational rights 

Boys are also negatively affected by the new education system introduced under the Taliban. According to Human Rights Watch, boys and their parents have noticed a deterioration in boys’ access to education as well as the quality of their education.

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Corporal punishment 

The use of corporal punishment on boys is becoming more prevalent at school and constitutes a severe violation of human rights law. The Human Rights Watch has reported an increasing use of corporal punishment at school and interference of the “Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice” with the functioning of Afghan schools since the new education measures were put in place by the Taliban. 

Corporal punishment violates international law and the Convention of the Rights of the Child which was signed by Afghanistan. This convention is complemented by Article 39 the Afghanistan’s education act 2008 which prohibits all forms of punishment at school. 

Afghan students have reported an increasing use of corporal punishment for moral crimes since the Taliban took power in 2021. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety among boys are unfortunately common consequences of the restrictive measures imposed by the Taliban at school. 

Decreased school attendance rate 

As with girls, the attendance rate of boys at school has decreased since the Taliban takeover.  This may be related to the economic and humanitarian situation of the country which puts more pressure on boys, thus resulting in decreased attendance. Moreover, the regime of fear established by the Taliban at school and a loss of motivation due to the low quality of education may lead some male students to stop coming to class.

Promotion of a misogynistic society 

Barring girls and women from studying and teaching also has a negative impact on the quality of learning of boys in Afghanistan and promotes values in contradiction with human rights treaties and conventions signed by the country.

Under the Taliban regime, female teachers are restricted to teach boys and were replaced by men regardless of their qualifications and experience. Sometimes, no replacement could be found, leading to the disruption of classes.  This certainly has had a deteriorating effect on the quality of education of boys.

In addition to the decline of the quality of education caused by these replacements or teacher shortage, the new education system established under the Taliban promotes values in contradiction with rights enshrined in human rights treaties. Gender-based segregation by excluding girls from secondary schools and universities as well as the modification of the school curriculum may also have a negative impact on boys as it shows them an example of society where men and women are not equal. This promotion of misogyny violates several human rights treaties ratified by Afghanistan which provides that men and women should enjoy the same rights and be equal. 

These new decrees introduced by the Taliban regarding education constitute severe violations of human rights law.  

Impact on the overall quality of education

In addition to the ban on female teachers which severely undermines the quality of education in Afghanistan, the change of curriculum by the Taliban and the condition of facilities in some schools constitute significant challenges to the current education system of the country.

Change in curriculum 

The new curriculum established under the Taliban does not align with human rights law and appears to deny women’s rights. Human rights treaties provide that education should encourage the full development of the human personality and the respect of human rights. 

Despite the ratification of these treaties by Afghanistan, important subjects such as English, civic education, physical education, arts have been removed and the new curriculum focuses primarily on religion as well as on the view of women’s Islamic rights. A report obtained by Human Rights Watch in January 2022 which is believed to be an internal proposal for the revision of the curriculum contains discriminatory statements such as: 

“Many books have presented women’s rights as human rights. The teachers must explain women’s rights through the framework of Islam, not what the West calls women’s rights.”

Issues with the condition of educational facilities and infrastructure

Poor standards of hygiene and a lack of clean water, toilets and soap may also have an impact on school attendance. In over 50% of schools in Afghanistan, there is no clean drinking water and in over one-third of schools, there are no toilets where students can wash their hands. 

Conclusion and recommendations

Despite the ratification of multiple human rights treaties and conventions by Afghanistan, the Taliban have established an education system which causes gender-based discrimination, promotes illiteracy and allows human rights violations such as corporal punishment at school. Different recommendations can be made to address these issues. 

Combating illiteracy among girls and women in Afghanistan

The high rate of illiteracy (particularly among girls and women) in Afghanistan calls for action. For example, the EU, UN Women and UNESCO have collaborated in implementing the project “Empowering women and adolescent girls in Afghanistan through literacy and skills development for sustainable livelihoods”. Other projects could be initiated in this regard. 

Encouraging vocational and community-based education for girls and women

Among options currently available to girls and women to remedy the ban on secondary and higher education imposed by the Taliban, vocational education can be considered. This alternative can help women secure self-employment, thus allowing them to obtain financial independence. UNESCO currently provides literacy and pre-vocational training to over 55,000 young people and adolescents (over 68% of students are women and adolescent girls) in Afghanistan. UNICEF also provides children (mostly girls) with community-based education classes and teaching and learning materials. 

Providing women with teacher training

Teacher training could be provided to women who aspire to teach. This was the approach taken by UNICEF for its Girls’ Access to Teacher Education (GATE) programme. 

Addressing corporal punishment at school

The use of corporal punishment on children constitutes a severe violation of human rights law and might severely undermine the quality of education of boys as it may lead some students to drop out of school. It is urgent to act to prevent such punishments at school. 

Improving the condition of educational facilities to foster attendance at school.

Since 2024, UNICEF and the EU have joined forces in improving the condition of buildings and classrooms in 385 public primary schools in Afghanistan. UNICEF stressed the importance of ‘rehabilitating classrooms, building toilets and water systems’.

References

Broken Chalk’s World Day Against Child Labour Press Release 

Panashe Marie Louise Mlambo, Mamta Rao  

World Day Against Child Labour, annually on June 12th, was first launched in 2002 by the ILO to raise awareness and foster activism aimed at preventing child labour. This day brings together governments, local authorities, civil society, international organizations, workers, and employers to highlight the issue of child labour and to define effective strategies for its elimination.1 Despite progress over the past two decades, conflicts, economic crises, and the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have reversed many of these gains, making it more critical than ever to renew global efforts against child labour.2 

Broken Chalk, an Amsterdam-based non-governmental organisation committed to addressing human rights violations in the education sector, joins this global call to action. Our organisation, established in October 2020, is dedicated to removing obstacles to education, promoting peace and tolerance through intercultural understanding, preventing radicalism and polarisation, and eliminating educational opportunity gaps across various demographics.3 

Our extensive research and advocacy work reveal that child labour can indeed be eliminated if its root causes are addressed. Economic disparities, lack of access to quality education, and systemic injustices are the primary drivers that push children into labour. More than ever, it is urgent for all of us to contribute to bringing solutions to people’s daily problems, and child labour is – possibly – the most visible of these problems. 

We call for a renewed global commitment to social justice, with the elimination of child labour as a central focus. This involves leveraging the Global Coalition for Social Justice to drive initiatives that address the socio-economic factors contributing to child labour. 

 We urge all nations to ratify ILO Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age. Combined with the universal ratification of ILO Convention No. 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour achieved in 2020, this would provide comprehensive legal protection for children against all forms of child labour.4 

Regions like Africa and Asia-Pacific bear the brunt of this issue, with Africa having the highest percentage of children in child labour (one-fifth) and the highest absolute number (72 million). Asia and the Pacific follow with 7% of all children and 62 million in absolute terms in child labour. Together, these regions account for nearly nine out of every ten children in child labour worldwide.4 

This year, the focus is on accelerating progress towards achieving Target 8.7 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aims to eradicate child labour in all its forms by 2025. By focusing on Key areas of action—legislative reforms, education, decent work for adults, social protection, and public advocacy—we can create a comprehensive strategy to eliminate child labour and build a brighter future for all children.6 

Let us renew our commitment to ending this grave violation of children’s rights. By uniting our efforts, we can build a future where every child enjoys their right to a childhood free from labour and filled with opportunities for education, growth, and development. 

“Our work is driven by a commitment to fostering respect and understanding in education. On this World Day Against Child Labour, we urge governments and stakeholders to the UN to prioritize the fight against child labour in education and to take decisive action to address systemic issues,” said a representative from Broken Chalk. 

As an international organization, Broken Chalk remains steadfast in its mission to achieve both local and global perspectives in its advocacy efforts. Through collaborative action and collective engagement, we strive to create a world where every individual has access to quality education in a safe, inclusive, and respectful environment. 

References

Unjust Detention and Abuse of Minors and Mothers in Istanbul Allegedly Affiliated with the Gülen movement

Context

On the 7th of May 2024, the Turkish police conducted a large-scale operation in Istanbul, where multiple people associated with the Gülen movement, distinctly young female students were targeted. Consequently, 49 persons were detained, including students aged between 13-25, together with their parents. Among the people arrested, a mother with Parkinson’s disease and her daughter were put in prison, facing numerous violations of human rights that will be further explained. The operation was carried out by the Anti-Smuggling and Organised Crime and Anti-Terrorism units of the police in the Beylikdüzü district of Istanbul.

During the operation, multiple homes were forcibly entered and searched, and children were forcefully taken into custody by the Turkish authorities, despite objections from their families and lawyers. This has raised concerns among Turkish society, but also at the international level, about the treatment of minors and the violation of their basic rights during the operation.

Basis for the detention

During the investigations, the minor detainees were reportedly questioned in the absence of their lawyers, and their statements were allegedly manipulated by the police authorities. Some minors were interrogated for 15 hours without having access to legal services, while others were questioned under threat or pressure.

The alleged reasons for this operation were based on activities such as providing, educational support to people by being an education coach, offering financial support, assisting with language learning (English), and organizing educational events. All those activities were intended to support the legal as well as the learning/pedagogic needs for students, but instead, they were labelled as ‘terrorist activities’.

Among the detainees, the female students were questioned about institutions and activities that could be potentially linked to the Gülen Movement. Specific questions included subscriptions to closed publications, use of the ByLock application, and holding accounts at confiscated Bank Asya. Those inquiries as well as how they were made, reflect intrusion into individual freedoms of expression, access to information, and financial freedoms Other students were also questioned about participation in tuition centres, schools, or dormitories associated with the Gülen Movement. Other questions that were put were either interpretative, leading, or based on physical and phone surveillance.

Stories behind the scenes

The stories from the detained people paint a disturbing picture of the unlawful detentions in Istanbul and the heavy impacts on children and their families. From a mother arrested for providing English lessons to her children, to a doctor detained with his daughters, and a mother of seven detained along with her children, these stories showcase the arbitrary and unjust nature of the detentions. People who were suffering from different diseases, for example, a woman diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, were kept in unsuitable and unacceptable conditions.

Those stories not only underscore the need for greater accountability in the detention process, in order to prevent these violations of human rights and arbitrariness but also bring to the surface the reality behind the bars and the unspoken atrocities that happen to these innocent individuals and their families.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are non-exhaustive and can be used to address human rights violations and prevent such cases:

  • Advocate for legal and humanitarian assistance by encouraging NGOs to provide support for the affected persons. For example, providing counselling services, funding legal defence and monitoring the conditions for the detainees to see if they align with the international standards.
  • Promote awareness and mobilize support for the current issue, as well as encouraging campaigns that support human rights. Additionally, these could also determine the Turkish authorities to adhere to international standards.
  • Call for investigation by demanding the UN organs or different human rights organizations to initiate an independent investigation to the alleged violations of human rights.

Keywords: Gülen, students, Turkish police, detention, Istanbul, minors, arbitrary, human rights

References:

Water Scarcity in Jordan 

“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”  

-Benjamin Franklin 

Written by Iasmina-Măriuca Stoian 

Water scarcity is a serious issue that affects over 700 million peoplei that live in over 43 different countries. From those, there is a list of 14 countriesii that face severe water stress: Qatar, Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, United Arab Emirates, San Marino, Bahrain, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Oman and Botswana. Because most of them are located either in the Middle East or in the Northern Africa region (MENA region), they are mostly affected by the desert climate and by the increasing level of demand. 

By definition, water scarcity, or water shortage, is the lack of necessary supplies of fresh and clean water to meet the demand for water, thus affecting the countries economically, politically and also the world’s growth level of population. 

Background 

Jordan, a relatively stable oasis in the midst of Middle Eastern turmoil, is affected by two issues that threatens its continuous stability – water scarcity and the regional conflicts that not only affects the surrounding countries, but also the Jordanians. According to a study, without intervening measures, over 90% of Jordan’s low-income population will be experiencing critical water insecurity by the end of 2030 (Yoon et al., 2021). What is worth mentioning about this issue is that, although infrastructure is adequate, demand exceeds supply due to population growth and Syrian refugees. Water sources in Jordan include 54% groundwater, 37% surface water, and 110 mm of annual rainfall. However, while the underground basins are overly exploited, the surface water supplies are either mismanaged or contaminated by pollution, making them inaccessible for immediate use. 

This article will look firstly into the factors contributing to this issue, then the effects on the society and the environment, and finally the solutions and current projects. From the mismanagement of surface water resources to desertification and climate change, this article will provide an overview of Jordan’s water scarcity, the measures already taken and solutions for this issue. 

Main causes for water scarcity 

The issue of water scarcity in the Jordan Valley is complex and difficult to address due to a variety of factors such as natural processes, political crises, rapid population growth, water pollution, the discrepancy between supply and demand, the migration of Syrian refugees, and the misuse of water resources. The water shortage not only has effects on the environment and people living in the region, but also on the poor populations from rural areas who face daily struggles due to water scarcity, pollution, and resulting health and economic crises. The following paragraphs will present some, but not all causes of the water shortage in the country. 

Desertification, droughts, and climate change 

Desertification and droughts are natural phenomena affecting the water shortage not only in the country but also in the region, as well as the impact of climate change leading to decreased groundwater and aquifer replenishment. Also, heavy irrigation practices and the overdrawing of water from aquifers have contributed to the depletion of water sources. 

While droughts are temporary periods caused by a lack of precipitation, desertification is a long-term process in which fertile land becomes arid and almost impossible to support vegetation, leading to the transformation of the specific area into a desert. They are both caused by the increased temperatures, human activities, such as deforestation, or lack of rainfalls. 

On the other hand, climate change means rising global temperatures, modifying rainfall patterns, intensifying drought conditions and desertification processes. These conditions increase the risk of wildfires and threaten groundwater resources, which supply a significant portion of the country’s domestic water. 

Pollution and water contamination 

Pollution from agricultural runoff and contamination has had a significant impact on the water in Jordan. Multiple rivers and lakes have been contaminated due to the use of insecticides by farmers. In Jordan Valley, the widest region with freshwater resources,iii approximately 70% of freshwater resources are now contaminated by biological pollutants.  

Mismanagement of water resources  

Jordan relies on 3 major surface water sources for 37% of its total water supply; these are the Jordan, Zarqa, and Yarmouk rivers. Overdrawing water for heavy irrigation is depleting water resources in the whole MENA region, leading to drier landscapes and decreasing moisture in the ground. Heavy irrigation uses water from various sources, such as rivers, aquifers, and groundwater, preventing the excess water from being used for other purposes due to added pollutants and chemical compounds. Additionally, over-pumping by Israel and Syria are causing Jordan’s access to the Jordan and Yarmouk rivers to diminish, due to lack of regional environmental cooperation.  

Migration of refugees and increasing demand 

Current water demand exceeds the water supply, leading to a constant water deficit in Jordan. Population growth, particularly from refugees, exacerbates the issue by reducing available water per capita. There are three main uses for water in Jordan: municipal, industrial, and agricultural.  

As for Amman, private water tankers in wealthy areas have seen a rise in prices, contributing to the ongoing water shortages in the city. As a result, government rationing of water is common, and wealthier households often use private water trucks to fill multiple tanks on their roofs. On the other hand, the poor households are most affected, as they have limited capacity to store water and cannot afford to buy from private trucks. While people are responsible for obtaining water tanks on their own, damage to these tanks can make them lose precious water. Stories from people show the dramatic image behind this issue, making people beg for water from their neighbours or skip showers or cleaning to save water.iv More effects will be further discussed below. 

Impact on society and environment 

Human capital impacts 

Apart from the insufficient amount of drinking water for the population, the rest of the amount necessary for basic hygiene and sanitation is almost inexistent. Consequences of the lack of water on the long term are the development of adverse health conditions such as lethargy, neurological symptoms, kidney failure, and others. Moreover, the lack of clean water can also affect the population by increasing the mortality rate attributed to numerous wash-related diseases. 

Water scarcity can also affect children and young students, by lowering the school attendance and performance rates, especially for girls. This is important as children would be able to practice important hygiene behaviour, such as correct disposal of menstrual products and handwashing. 

Impact on refugees 

The impact on refugees is even more drastic. As many of them are among the poorest people in Jordan, the impact is even greater. Tayba Abkar, a 32-year-old Sudanese refugee and a mother of four says: “My children have to go to the neighbours’ house on most of the days to use the toilet. My 13-year-old daughter feels very embarrassed when she goes there”.v This is just one of the many stories of families struggling with this environmental issue. 

Impact on food security 

Water scarcity not only affects human lives but has also a direct effect on food security. A decrease of water in local lakes and rivers means a decrease in agricultural productivity. Food insecurity mostly affects the poor population, leading to multiple cases of malnutrition, famine or undernourishment. 

Solutions and mitigations 

Jordan Water Sector Efficiency Project 

The Jordan Water Sector Efficiency Project aligns with the government’s strategy and aims to improve water sector efficiency, drought management, and climate resilience, for which the World Bank approved $300 million for the implementation of this project.vi The project is still being implemented and is envisaged to cover over 1.6 million people and to save 10 million cubic meters of water, reduce electricity use, and establish a drought management system to benefit households, farmers, and industries in the country. 

UNICEF collaboration 

Among the different international organizations involved in this issue, UNICEF supports sustainable water and environmental conservation projects to improve access to water and sanitation for vulnerable children and families. They currently work with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation to enhance water supply and sanitation infrastructure in cities, schools, refugee camps, and communities.vii They are planning to implement alternative water technologies, promote water conservation, and advocate for policies that manage social-ecological systems. Regional advocacy groups like EcoPeace Middle East also contribute to environmental protection and peacebuilding.  

Dialogues about regional water allocation 

Another solution would be the improvement of water allocation by establishing multilateral discussions and regional cooperation between countries. The Jordan River Basin lacks a multilateral treaty for water allocation. These discussions could play a significant role in reaching comprehensive agreements and promoting regional sustainable development, including unified management of the Jordan River Basin. 

References

  • Wu, T. L. (2024, March 4). 4 Countries with Water Scarcity Right Now | Earth.Org. Earth.Org. https://earth.org/countries-with-water-scarcity/ 
  • Yoon, J., Klassert, C., Selby, P., Lachaut, T., Knox, S., Avisse, N., Harou, J., Tilmant, A., Klauer, B., Mustafa, D., Sigel, K., Talozi, S., Gawel, E., Medellín-Azuara, J., Bataineh, B., Zhang, H., & Gorelick, S. M. (2021, March 29). A coupled human–natural system analysis of freshwater security under climate and population change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2020431118 
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene. (n.d.). UNICEF Jordan. https://www.unicef.org/jordan/water-sanitation-and-hygiene 
  • Beithou, N., Qandil, A., Khalid, M. B., Horvatinec, J., & Ondrasek, G. (2022, July 8). Review of Agricultural-Related Water Security in Water-Scarce Countries: Jordan Case Study. Agronomy. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12071643  

Gang violence in Ecuador: Consequences for students 

Written by Iasmina-Măriuca Stoian 

Introduction 

The organized violence perpetrated by criminal gangs in Ecuador has almost taken over the lives of its citizens. Add menace and fear to fear, and several students have had to change the way they live and go to school forever. The unceasing violence follows students to school, as some students may be disrupted and killed in the process. It also hinders students’ education, and if businesses and schools are terminated, some may experience intimidation, losing any hope of ever going to school. Furthermore, it leads to economic and social insecurity due to the increase in poverty levels and unemployment where an affected student has reduced opportunity to pursue a decent future because of financial inability. The presence of gangs in the ensconced prisons and their occupancy of the streets has enabled forced recruitment and fear. Students’ capacity to learn and succeed is hampered by the hostile and unsafe environment that the persistent violence and instability produced. 

A persistent threat and an increasing concern 

In Ecuador, gang violence has been a major problem, especially in major cities like Quito and Guayaquil. The majority of killings in the nation have been committed by street gangs, including the Latin Kings, also referred to as the STAE. Concerns over the safety of the populace, particularly students, have been raised by this. To combat the rising threat posed by adolescent gangs, the government has put in place a number of measures, such as harsher penalties for individuals found in possession of weapons and without authorization. 

The fear and insecurity caused by the criminal gangs have made it necessary for students to change their patterns and live with fear daily. The education sector has been highly affected whereby shops and schools are closed to prevent being attacked, targeted, or extorted. The economic and social implications of the violence have left many in poverty and jobless, causing the majority to opt-out of essential amenities that would ensure the need for students to be in the precinct of their facilities. The recruiting of members and intimidation by gangs within prison and outside on the street has made the environment too hot for students since their safety is highly tampered with. Gangs have made the plight of students to be in an unsafe place by recruiting them and actively corrupting their morals. 

Gang violence in Ecuador has been a significant issue, especially in cities such as Guayaquil and Quito. The Latin Kings, also known as STAE, as well as other street gangs have been responsible for a large percentage of homicides in the country. This has raised concerns about the safety of the citizens, including students.  

Government’s response  

As a response to this issue, the government has implemented various policies to address the growing youth gang threat, including stricter punishment for those caught armed and without a permit. However, despite the risks of these policies, the government reports that its approach to security has been successful, with a significant reduction in homicide rates. This reduction in lethal violence has made Ecuador one of the safest countries in Latin America. The government’s approach to crime control has emphasized efforts to reach higher levels of social control based on policies of social inclusion and innovations in criminal justice and police reform. 

One notably innovative aspect of this approach was the decision to legalize several street gangs in 2007. The government claims the success of these policies can be seen in the drastic reduction in violence and criminality, including a decrease in inter-gang violence and homicide levels. The legalization process helped to improve the quality of life and security in communities, leading to a transformation in the way gangs operated and interacted with their surroundings. 

Consequences and impacts on students 

The key consequences of those violent acts were for students. The street gangs’ activity has generated the atmosphere of terror and fear, which influenced students’ capability to concentrate on the studies. Moreover, around 4.3 million children have been unable to receive an education due to the temporary transition to online classes and threats made by criminals. The latter factor also made it easier for school workers to conduct identification and try to tackle sexual violence cases, causing the reduction of the reports and the absence of help for victims. The organized crime spread only produced the negative effect, prompting the impossibility of elimination and secure reporting. Thus, the government should take urgent action to protect the rights of these children and ensure that they can learn in a safe and secure environment. 

Social inclusion as a key 

In response to this issue, the government has recognized the importance of engaging with marginalized subpopulations, including those involved in street gangs, to ensure the success of its Citizens’ Revolution. The approach to social inclusion and community empowerment has been crucial in addressing the root causes of gang violence and providing opportunities for behavioural change. 

Moving forward, the government needs to continue and highlight the social inclusion approach to street gangs as a model of best practices. This includes further formalizing the legalization process within institutions and developing strategies for effective intervention. By addressing the underlying social and economic factors that contribute to gang violence, the government can create a safer environment for students and all citizens in Ecuador. 

Conclusion 

In light of the significant consequences of gang violence on students in Ecuador, it is imperative for the government to prioritize social inclusion and reform efforts. By addressing root causes and promoting opportunities for behavioural change, Ecuador can create a safer and more conducive environment for students to learn and thrive. 

References

Amsterdam Housing Scams target International Students

As part of our ongoing commitment to safeguarding the interests of international students and renters, Broken Chalk presents this lobbying report to address the pervasive issue of housing scams in Amsterdam. With the rising incidence of fraudulent activities targeting renters, especially expats and students, urgent action is needed to protect vulnerable populations and preserve the integrity of the rental market.

Problem Statement

Amsterdam, like many major cities, faces a significant threat from housing scams, with scammers targeting expatriates and students seeking affordable accommodation. The financial losses incurred by victims of housing scams are substantial, posing a significant economic burden and jeopardising the financial well-being of renters.

Expatriates and students are particularly vulnerable to housing scams due to their limited familiarity with local housing norms and regulations, making them prime targets for exploitation. Victims of housing scams often fail to report incidents to authorities, contributing to a lack of accountability and perpetuating fraudulent activities within the rental market.

Recommendations

We advocate for stricter regulation of the rental market, including mandatory membership in established realtors’ organisations such as the MVA or the NVM and the strengthening of rental agencies to prevent fraudulent practices and hold perpetrators accountable.

We encourage the government to launch comprehensive educational campaigns targeting renters, particularly expatriates and students, to raise awareness of common housing scams provide guidance on identifying and avoiding fraudulent schemes and collaborate with organizations like !WOON to disseminate information and provide confidential advice to individuals seeking housing.

We urge the government and universities to implement measures to verify the legitimacy of rental listings and landlords, including access to resources such as the Kadaster property register and to encourage and raise awareness of renters to conduct thorough background checks and seek second opinions when evaluating rental opportunities. Proper measures should be taken against informal listings on social media, and penalties and fines should be placed to combat the surge of housing scams.

Furthermore, renters should be made aware of their rights regarding fees and financial transactions and guidance on legal deposits and recourse options for unjust fees should be provided. We urge the government to facilitate access to support services, such as those offered by!WOON, to assist victims of housing scams in reclaiming losses and seeking restitution.

Broken Chalk advocates for proactive measures to inform and support international students in navigating the Dutch housing market effectively. Our proposed solutions aim to empower students with the knowledge and resources needed to secure safe and legitimate accommodation during their time in the Netherlands.

We further recommend collaboration with home affairs departments at universities and colleges to incorporate housing education and assistance into orientation programs for international students. By integrating housing-related information sessions, workshops, and resources into existing initiatives, institutions can better prepare students for the challenges of finding accommodation in a new country.

We further advocate for legislation and policy frameworks that incentivize universities and colleges to prioritize housing support for international students. Encourage the establishment of dedicated housing offices or support services within educational institutions to provide tailored assistance and guidance to students throughout their housing search process.

The government has a duty to ensure that international students have access to comprehensive information on housing options, rights, and responsibilities from the moment they arrive in the country and to develop informational materials, online resources, and orientation sessions specifically focused on housing-related topics to equip students with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions.

Universities should be held to the same standard. We urge the government to implement specialised support programs or mentorship initiatives for first-year international students to address their unique housing needs and challenges and to pair incoming students with experienced mentors or peer advisors who can offer guidance, share personal experiences, and provide practical assistance in navigating the rental market.

We further fight for the establishment of mechanisms for monitoring the effectiveness of housing support initiatives and collecting feedback from international students to identify areas for improvement and regular assessments of student satisfaction with housing services and use this feedback to refine and enhance support programs over time should be conducted.

By prioritizing the integration of housing education and support services into existing institutional frameworks and advocating for policy changes to incentivize universities and colleges, we can ensure that international students receive the assistance they need to secure suitable housing and thrive in their academic pursuits.

Conclusion

In conclusion, addressing the scourge of housing scams in Amsterdam requires a coordinated and multi-faceted approach. By implementing the recommended measures, we can protect renters, uphold the integrity of the rental market, and create a safer and more equitable environment for all residents. We urge the Ministry of Education to prioritize these initiatives and collaborate with stakeholders to combat housing scams effectively.

Sincerely,

Broken Chalk

Anti-Scamming Team

Addressing Comprehensive Educational Challenges in São Tomé and Príncipe

Written by Liam Mariotti

São Tomé and Príncipe is a small island nation off the western coast of Central Africa, with a population of 220 000 people and a surface area of 964 square kilometers. Its issues stem mainly from the lack of economic and social capital within the country, a common feature across the African continent, compounded by the geographic isolation and remoteness of the island. The country grapples with numerous educational challenges that hinder its socio-economic progress.  This article delves into the key issues facing the education system in São Tomé and Príncipe and tries to identify some feasible solutions that can improve the conditions of education and the opportunities it can provide to young Santomeans. 

Education system 

   The first topic that will be discussed is the education system. São Tomé and Príncipe’s education system comprises pre-primary, primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14, but despite this mandate, many children still face barriers to accessing formal schooling.

  • Pre-Primary Education: Pre-primary education is available for children ages 3 to 6, although attendance rates are relatively low due to limited infrastructure and resources. Pre-primary education aims to provide a foundation for learning and development, preparing children for primary school.
  • Primary Education: Primary education in São Tomé and Príncipe typically spans six years, starting at age 6. The curriculum includes subjects such as Portuguese language, mathematics, science, social studies, and physical education. However, challenges such as overcrowded classrooms, insufficient teaching materials, and a shortage of trained teachers impact the quality of primary education.
  • Secondary Education: Secondary education consists of two cycles: a lower secondary cycle (grades 7 to 9) and an upper secondary cycle (grades 10 to 12). While completion rates for primary education have improved in recent years, enrollment in secondary education remains low, particularly in rural areas. The curriculum at the secondary level focuses on academic subjects as well as technical and vocational education to prepare students for further studies or entry into the workforce.
  •  Tertiary Education: Tertiary education in São Tomé and Príncipe is limited, with a few institutions offering higher education programs. The University of São Tomé and Príncipe, established in 2008, is the country’s primary institution of higher learning. Tertiary education opportunities are limited, and many students pursue higher education abroad due to the lack of diverse academic programs and research opportunities domestically.

General issues

The primary challenge to education in São Tomé and Príncipe is the limited access to it, particularly in rural areas. The country’s remote geographical location, coupled with insufficient infrastructure and transportation networks, makes it difficult for many children to attend school regularly. Additionally, poverty often forces families to prioritize immediate economic needs over education, further exacerbating the problem.

While access to education is crucial, ensuring quality is equally important. São Tomé and Príncipe struggles with inadequate resources, poorly trained teachers, and outdated curricula, leading to subpar educational outcomes. Moreover, the language barrier, as the official language of instruction is Portuguese, presents a significant challenge for students, many of whom speak local dialects at home. Gender disparities persist in São Tomé and Príncipe, with girls facing greater barriers to education compared to boys. Societal norms, early marriage, and traditional gender roles often restrict girls’ access to schooling, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and inequality. Furthermore, São Tomé and Príncipe’s economy faces numerous challenges, including limited fiscal resources and dependence on foreign aid. Budgetary constraints often result in underinvestment in education, hindering efforts to improve infrastructure, recruit qualified teachers, and provide essential learning materials.  Retaining qualified teachers in São Tomé and Príncipe is also a significant challenge due to various  factors such as low salaries, inadequate professional development opportunities, and difficult working conditions. Many teachers leave the profession or seek opportunities abroad, leading to a shortage of experienced educators and impacting the quality of education.

The country faces challenges in ensuring inclusive education for children with disabilities, marginalized communities, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Limited resources, lack of specialized support services, and social stigma contribute to the exclusion of these groups from educational opportunities. Effective governance and policy implementation are critical for addressing educational challenges and driving reform in São Tomé and Príncipe. However, governance issues such as corruption, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and political instability can hinder the effective implementation of education policies and initiatives. São Tomé and Príncipe’s education system should not only focus on providing formal schooling but also prioritize lifelong learning and skills development opportunities for individuals of all ages, equipping students with relevant skills and competencies is essential for their personal development and future success in a rapidly changing world.

Thus, to sum up, Sao Tomé’s education system is plagued by a lack of economic resources, which translate into lack of opportunity, for both students and educators, and an incapacity to govern effectively. The lack of social capital also is a major issue as it is very difficult to find skilled individuals who can educate others. The next section will focus on potential solutions to these issues.

Possible solutions

Strengthening governance structures, enhancing transparency and accountability mechanisms, and promoting participatory decision-making processes can improve the effectiveness of education governance in São Tomé and Príncipe. Additionally, fostering collaboration between government agencies, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders can facilitate coordinated efforts to address educational challenges.

To enhance access to education, the government and relevant stakeholders must invest in improving infrastructure, including building schools and enhancing transportation networks, especially in rural areas. Furthermore, targeted initiatives such as school feeding programs and scholarship opportunities can help alleviate the financial burden on families and encourage greater enrollment. Addressing the quality of education requires comprehensive reforms, including teacher training programs to enhance pedagogical skills and proficiency in Portuguese. Additionally, curriculum modernization aligned with the country’s socio-economic needs and cultural context is essential. Investing in educational technology and digital resources can also enhance learning outcomes and prepare students for the demands of the modern workforce.

Empowering girls through targeted interventions, such as awareness campaigns promoting the importance of girls’ education and providing support to families, can help break down these barriers. Implementing policies that promote gender equality in schools, including the recruitment of female teachers and the provision of menstrual hygiene facilities, is crucial. Moreover, addressing underlying socio-cultural norms through community engagement and advocacy efforts can foster a more inclusive and equitable educational environment.

While the government plays a central role in addressing economic challenges, partnerships with international organizations, NGOs, and the private sector are vital for mobilizing additional resources and expertise. Sustainable funding mechanisms, coupled with transparent governance and accountability mechanisms, can ensure that education remains a priority in national development agendas.

Implementing strategies to improve teacher retention and motivation, such as increasing salaries, providing ongoing professional development, and creating supportive working environments, can help attract and retain talented educators. Additionally, recognizing and rewarding teachers for their contributions to education can boost morale and job satisfaction.

Promoting inclusive education policies and practices that accommodate the diverse needs of all learners is essential. This includes providing access to inclusive classrooms, adapting teaching methodologies to meet individual learning styles, and offering support services such as assistive technologies and special education programs. Expanding access to non-formal and vocational education programs, promoting entrepreneurship and technical skills training, and fostering a culture of lifelong learning can empower individuals to pursue diverse educational pathways and adapt to evolving socio-economic demands.

Conclusion

In conclusion, addressing the comprehensive educational challenges in São Tomé and Príncipe requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses various aspects of access, quality, equity, governance, and lifelong learning. While the country faces significant hurdles in providing universal and high-quality education, there are viable solutions that can pave the way for sustainable development and positive societal transformation.

Investments in infrastructure, teacher training, and curriculum reform are essential to improve access to education and enhance learning outcomes. Additionally, efforts to promote gender equality, inclusive education, and community engagement can foster a more equitable and supportive educational environment for all learners.

Furthermore, addressing governance issues, including corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies, is critical to ensuring effective policy implementation and resource allocation in the education sector. Strengthening partnerships between government agencies, civil society organizations, and international partners can facilitate coordinated efforts to address educational challenges and drive meaningful change.

By prioritizing education as a fundamental pillar of national development and investing in the well-being and potential of its youth, São Tomé and Príncipe can unlock opportunities for socio-economic progress and sustainable growth. Through collective action and sustained commitment from stakeholders at all levels, the transformative power of education can be harnessed to build a brighter future for generations to come.

In closing, addressing the comprehensive educational challenges in São Tomé and Príncipe is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic investment in the country’s future prosperity and well-being. By working together to overcome these challenges, São Tomé and Príncipe can realize its full potential and create a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous society for all.

References

Cover Image: Children in São Tomé e Príncipe via Wikimedia Commons

Missing Childhoods: Child Kidnapping in Nigeria

Written by Iasmina-Măriuca Stoian

The statistics are disturbing; the reality is devastating. It has been 9 years since the horrendous abduction of the Chibok girls, yet the nightmare continues as children are still being kidnapped, forcibly recruited, killed and injured– their futures torn away,” said Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.

Historical background

Situated on the West coast of Africa, Nigeria is a country with a rich history, that was also intertwined with its history as a British colony. Only after 1960, when it gained its independence, and it was declared a republic in 1963, Nigeria faced a difficult period of various dictatorships and political regimes that led to more political instability.

Additionally,  the country has faced issues such as cultural tensions, corruption and inequality. Recently, the numbers on child kidnappings have grown exponentially, particularly in conflict areas. These abductions not only have affected the families and the local communities but also have raised serious issues relating to the current administration and calls for urgent measures to be taken both at the national and international levels.

Despite the continuous efforts to address this issue, child kidnappings continue to remain one of the main challenges of the country, affecting not only the lives of children but also the country’s future. This article will look into the root causes that led to this serious issue, as well as the measures that were taken to combat the kidnappings and possible future measures to be taken by the government and international agents.

Understanding the issue

According to recent articles , more than 280 students were kidnapped from elementary schools in the northern region of the country, and seized by militants. This incident is reported to be bigger than the previous one[jc6] , also known as the Chibok girls abduction case. In 2014, Boko Haram, an Islamist jihadist group based in the northeastern region of Nigeria, abducted 276 girls from their dormitories, many of them still remaining missing to this day. This outrageous incident sparked international debate and led to the creation of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign on numerous social media platforms. The reality behind the abductions is even more horrific, leading to other crimes, such as rape, killing, and forced marriages.

Nine years after the Chibok girls incident, Amnesty International and UNICEF highlighted the lack of investigations by local authorities, abandonment of the cases and lack of action from the government. However, schools still are targets of abduction cases that are reported weekly, resulting in approximately 780 abducted children and 61 still held in captivity. [ii]Thus, international organizations are continuing to call for protection and justice for those children, as well as for measures to be taken by the Nigerian authorities.

This issue not only affects the lives of children and families, but it also associated with other issues in the country such as poverty, low rates of employment, political instability, and religious tensions. These challenges will be further discussed in the following paragraphs, explaining them in more detail.

Root causes

Poverty & unemployment

There is a strong link between poverty and unemployment and the issue of kidnapping in Nigeria. Recent rates indicate that almost 46% of Nigerians live in poverty, [iii] and this includes millions of youths who are unemployed and do not benefit from governmental help in any way.

Most of those children did not have access to education, finding their way of living on the streets, where they are most vulnerable. Kidnapping of children is used, besides for political bargains, also for economic gain (kidnapping for ransom), which seems to become more common as the economic gap between rich and poor families grows.

Religious & political factors

Religious differences and the constant tension between the Christian and Islamic citizens are also root causes of the kidnappings. The two religions have been in conflict for generations, thus leading to the abduction of numerous children who were secretly killed in the northern part of the country.

Boko Haram is an extremist terrorist group and their kidnappings are both religious and politically rooted, as declared by their leaders. They mostly target and abduct Christians, as well as people who do not recognize their ideology or political movement.

Methods and tactics of kidnappers

As methods, kidnapping of children can involve the use of offensive gadgets, weapons, specially designed technologies for tracking victims, as well as sensitive information about the targets in order to forcefully take them away from their families and instil fear in their minds. Moreover, kidnapping groups have an impressive organization strategy, in which they are structured on different teams, such as operation teams, guards, tax forces etc.

The reports show that most kidnappers carefully plan their abductions, calculating the costs and benefits of each action. Their preferences on targets vary between different factors that were previously mentioned, such as political, religious, and social backgrounds. This cost for each victim is calculated according to their Kidnap Ransom Value(KRV). In the context of child kidnapping, children from affluent families, with high social status, or from families that have bigger influence may have a higher KRV than others.

Impact on families and society

Child kidnapping can have a devastating effect on families and also on the community, instilling fear and anxiety. Apart from the evident trauma that is inflicted on the past victims, families are also affected. The emotional burden of not knowing the fate or the status of their relative who was abducted is a real trauma, that can cause stress, depression and anxiety in the long-term. Additionally, to the emotional impact, families can also be affected financially, having to face the costs of recovery, treatment or, in the cases of ransom kidnappings, the price they have to pay for having back their children.

On a larger scale, those abductions have also a long-term impact on the local communities. Kidnapped children, especially underaged girls, who can often be victims of other cruel acts, such as slavery, forced marriage and sexual molestation, have a higher impact on society. Thus, from affected families to a local community and later to the whole nation, this issue leads to insecurity, while insecurity leads to political tensions and instability.

Future challenges & solutions

Both present and past governments have tried so far to combat this issue of kidnapping children in Nigeria, through several measures. National and international bodies have collaborated and started several projects, to combat both terrorist threats by the Boko Haram group, and also the criminal activities associated with kidnapping. Other projects were designed to reduce poverty and to increase the quality and accessibility to education, in order to offer children an option and a chance not to end up living on the streets.

More effective solutions in combating this issue are to focus more and pay more attention to the root causes of kidnapping. This could include offering more employment opportunities for youth, investment projects in education, adoption of stricter and more protective laws and regulations and anti-kidnapping measures.

Conclusions

In conclusion, child kidnapping is a serious and complex issue that has different root causes, such as poverty, unemployment, religious and political tensions, and organized criminal group activities. The impact on families and society is enormous, leading to psychological and emotional long-term trauma. Thus, both international and national authorities should take urgent measures and also highlight the importance of international collaboration.

References


[i] See the articles from UNICEF titled “Devastating Reality: 9 Years After Chibok Abductions, Children in Northeast Nigeria Continue to Suffer the Brutal Consequences of Conflict”, and from CBS News “Witnesses in Nigeria say hundreds of children kidnapped in second mass-abduction in less than a week” for more details.

[ii] See the article from Amnesty International “Nigeria: Nine years after Chibok girls’ abducted, authorities failing to protect children”.

[iii] See Bello (2022) for more consideration.