Poor quality education in South Africa

Written by Natacha Daniel

“South Africa has one of the most unequal school systems in the world. Children in the top 200 schools achieve more distinctions in mathematics than children in the next 6,600 schools combined. The playing field must be levelled,” said Sheila Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa.

South Africa, a diverse and promising country, is at a crossroads in its educational environment. Despite progress towards educational equality and accessibility, a dark cloud looms over the nation’s schools: a problem of inadequate educational quality. In this article, we will look at three crucial aspects of the South African education system that contribute to poor teaching and learning: poor time management, insufficient attention to text, and shockingly low levels of teacher subject knowledge. This article uncovers a harsh reality: South African teachers and schools lag well behind their notably poorer regional neigbours. 

Education in South Africa

According to The Economist’s 2017 League Table of Education Systems, South Africa ranks 75th out of 76 countries. According to the most recent figures, 27% of pupils who have completed six years of schooling are unable to read.

Only 37% of children who enter school pass their matriculation test, and only 4% go on to complete postsecondary education and receive a degree (The Economist, 2017). According to the Department of Higher Education and Training, 2.8 million residents between the ages of 18 and

24 are unemployed, not enrolled in an educational institution, and are not getting training (Gater & Isaacs, 2012). 

South Africa, according to the Centre for Education Policy Development (2017), has a high-cost, low-performance education system that fails to contrast favourably with education systems in other developing nations. As a considerable proportion of students reside in rural regions with inadequate conditions, both students and the government incur significant financial burdens (ExpatCapeTown.com, 2016). Local governments are seeking to balance the scales. According to UNICEF (2017), South Africa spends a greater proportion of its GDP1 on education than any other African country. Nonetheless, no meaningful improvement in the country’s education difficulties can be seen. According to Govender (2017), 18 South African schools had 0% success rates in the 2016 national senior certificate examinations.

The HIV AIDS Impact on Education

Although HIV Aids has had a world known impact in many countries, great emphasis is placed here in South Africa. Notably South Africa’s education system has had first-hand experience of the detrimental effects of HIV, through the reduction of able, qualified teachers and its continued disruption on the education of many young pupil’s lives. It goes without saying that without continued support and assistance from actors South Africa will see a further delay in its social and economic development. Key issues to be identified is as follows:  

The HIV/AIDS epidemic specifically in South Africa continues to harm educational development; and there is a decline in the supply of educational services due to teacher fatalities and absenteeism. 

Significant medical along with additional costs are being imposed on the educational system for medical care and death benefits for infected teachers, in addition to recruiting and training replacements for teachers lost to AIDS, according to studies in many countries, including Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The number of school-aged children is decreasing because of HIV Aids. Children who are born with the virus seldom survive long enough to attend school. Orphaned children are frequently neglected and are less likely to attend school than non-orphaned youngsters (cited in Constitution of South Africa, no date). 

The consequences of HIV/AIDS have an adverse effect on the quality of education.  Infected teachers are frequently absent or too unwell to deliver adequate teaching. Substitute educators could fail to possess the necessary expertise or credentials to replace certified teachers. Hence why it is unwise for the government to continue treating HIV/AIDS as a non-serious issue and divert its funding in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a result the quality of education is declining notoriously especially towards government schools (Statistics South Africa, no date). 

According to the Medical Research Council, there was an immediate increase of HIV Aids between 1993 and 2000. One potential explanation is that people were distracted by the political turmoil.  HIV Aids was spreading as the South African people and the world’s media concentrated on the country’s political and socio-economic upheavals. Although the outcomes of these political reforms were favourable, the pandemic did not receive the attention it required. It is feasible that a quick response will limit the impact of the outbreak. According to the president of the Medical Research Council, AIDS killed around 336,000 South Africans between the mid2000s and the mid-2006s (Avert, no date). 

Apartheid’s Impact on Education in South Africa

During the apartheid, spanning from 1948 to 1994, and arguably persisting in nuanced forms today, the South African government enforced a discriminatory system that continues to cast a long shadow over the country’s education system. The impact of apartheid on education, particularly for black pupils, has been profound and enduring. Scholars contend that while overt segregation policies may have formally ended, the remnants of this system persist in more subtle, systemic inequalities. This lingering influence raises questions about the true extent of transformation in South Africa’s educational landscape. This section of the study discusses the major characteristics of apartheid’s influence on South African education.

Education Under Apartheid

The educational landscape in South Africa was marred by racial segregation during the apartheid era. The Bantu Education Act of 1953 entrenched a system of stark inequality for Black South Africans. In contrast to their White peers, Black students were subjected to an inferior education, characterised by meagre resources and underqualified instructors.

Apartheid systematically limited access to quality education for non-White South Africans. Black students oftentimes were taught in their native languages, and the curriculum aimed at channelling them into low-wage occupations, thereby perpetuating socioeconomic disparities.

These disparities created a stark contrast between White and Black schools. While White schools enjoyed increased government spending, improved infrastructure, and well-qualified teachers, whilst on the other hand Black schools suffered from overpopulation, insufficient resources, and deteriorating infrastructure. This inequality prompted significant resistance, with students, teachers, and community leaders staging protests, notably during the 1976 Soweto Uprising.

The enduring effects of apartheid on education are still evident today, as educational disparities persist. The government is actively addressing these historical injustices by striving to provide more equitable educational opportunities for all South Africans. Apartheid’s lingering effects may still be seen in modern South Africa, presenting a complicated legacy in the field of education. Permeating educational disparities exist, posing a problem that the government is working to address to rectify past injustices and provide more egalitarian opportunities for all.

The dedication to building a more equitable education system demonstrates a determined attempt to address apartheid’s lingering impacts, recognising the necessity for comprehensive and long-term approaches that transcend historical inequalities. As South Africa continues its path towards educational equity, the determination to remove gaps remains a critical component of the country’s commitment to a more inclusive and just future. 

Policy recommendations

Among the intricate tapestry of difficulties plaguing South Africa’s education system, it is imperative to recognise that an exhaustive and nuanced strategy is required for effective reform. This strategic approach demands a thorough analysis of certain aspects, such as skill development, to identify specific areas of intervention. The next policy suggestions, for example, will examine the national skills development strategy controlled by SETA (sector education and training authority). These proposals aim to effect significant improvements by taking a focused position on recognised challenges, building an inclusive and efficient educational landscape that overcomes past imbalances in South Africa’s learning institutions.

Enhancing Skills Development Strategy for Improved Education:

In the pursuit of elevating the national skills development strategy, particularly the industrial training program currently under the oversight of SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority), the aim is to optimise its efficacy. The primary goal is to foster a heightened level of competitiveness within the business sector and enhance the overall efficiency of the state. Regrettably, the current performance of SETAs falls short of the government’s articulated mission, prompting imminent reforms in the coming year or two. The recommended reforms are poised to rejuvenate and align the skills development strategy with the nation’s objectives for a more robust and competitive educational landscape.

Quality Improvement and Development Strategy in South Africa:

South Africa’s pursuit of an impartial and high-quality education system demands an aggressive strategy centred on continuous improvement and development (Department of Basic Education, 2021). Multiple groups and organisations contribute to this effort, displaying a deliberate effort to minimise educational challenges. The Department of Basic Education’s Curriculum Evaluation Policy Statements (CAPS) provide a comprehensive framework for curriculum creation and evaluation.

In addition, efforts like those made by the South African Institute of Distance Education (SAIDE) actively contribute to improving the quality of education (SAIDE, 2021). SAIDE’s emphasis on new distant education approaches corresponds with the larger objective of improving educational accessibility and inclusion. Adherence to international standards is a vital component of this strategy. The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) aligns educational degrees with worldwide benchmarks, increasing global competitiveness and the legitimacy of South Africa’s education system (SAQA, 2021).

In a ground-breaking move, the government is set to allocate a substantial R12.5 billion investment over the next five years to spearhead a transformative education program aimed at redressing the enduring impact of apartheid on the educational landscape.

The initiative involves the identification of five thousand underperforming schools situated in remote areas, serving as a direct response to the legacy of apartheid. Substantial resources, including libraries, laboratories, and teaching materials, will be allocated to these schools. Additionally, educators will benefit from targeted support through education development programs and dedicated development teams, as outlined by Hoogeveen and OzIer (2004).

The pedagogical approach within these schools will prioritise the acquisition of vital content and academic skills, with a keen focus on imparting crucial literacy and numeracy skills to learners. Importantly, the progress of both learners and their respective schools will undergo regular monitoring and assessment, reflecting a commitment to ensuring sustained improvement and accountability in tackling the prevailing challenges in South Africa’s education system.

In a significant development, government funding for the Higher Education (HE) system in South Africa has witnessed a remarkable doubling since 1996. The restructuring of these institutions is strategically aligned to enhance the country’s capacity to educate and train a workforce characterised by both skills’ excellence and global competitiveness, meeting internationally accepted standards of quality. The paramount focus is on expanding access to the education system.

The South African Qualifications Authority is mandated with the mission “to ensure the development and implementation of a national qualifications framework.” This framework plays a pivotal role in fostering the comprehensive development of each learner and contributing to the social and economic advancement of the nation. The framework operates as a set of principles and guidelines facilitating the registration of learner achievements, promoting national recognition of acquired skills and knowledge, and encouraging a seamless, lifelong learning system.

Outlined in the South African Qualifications Authority Act (No. 58 of 1995), the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework encompass the creation of an integrated national framework for learning achievements, facilitating access to and mobility within education, training, and career paths, enhancing the overall quality of education and training, accelerating redress for past unfair discrimination, and contributing to the holistic personal development of each learner and the broader socio-economic development of the nation.

To reach these objectives, the South African Qualifications Authority commits to establishing a national learners’ records database, overseeing the quality assurance process, and developing a regulatory framework for the standard-setting process. Aligned with the strategic plan for Higher Education, there is an envisioned increase in enrolment from 15% to 20% of school leavers within 15 years. Notably, the plan outlines a shift in enrolment patterns within five years, with declines in humanities and rises in Business and Commerce, as well as Science, Engineering, and Technology.

Closing remarks 

Ultimately, South Africa’s effort to confront the fundamental educational difficulties formed by its historical context, particularly the persisting effect of apartheid, demonstrates a commitment to transformative reform. The strategic goals and policies addressed here are part of a larger effort to create a more inclusive, equitable, and high-quality education system. South Africa’s commitment to accessible, high-quality education for all remains steadfast as it navigates the complexity of this educational landscape.

While obstacles remain, the coordinated investments and reforms demonstrate a resilience that reflects the country’s commitment to developing an informed, competent, and internationally competitive population. South Africa’s education system is a dynamic environment that represents a continuing conversation between past injustices and the aim of a future in which every learner can prosper regardless of their colour or native language.

As the country develops in its own way, it is critical to constantly analyse and adjust policies, drawing inspiration from successful tactics, promoting cooperation, and ensuring that the educational journey corresponds with the changing demands of South Africa’s varied and dynamic community. The goal of this collaborative initiative is to pave the way for a future in which education serves as a beacon of empowerment, breaking down barriers and unlocking the full potential of every student.


Cover Image by Trevor Samson / World Bank via Flickr

  • Avert. (No date.). South Africa HIV statistics. Available from: www.avert.org/safricastats.htm  (Accessed date: 19th November 2023).
  • Alison. (No date). “The Looming Gap in the Education Sector in SA.” Available from:
  • https://alison.com/blog/loominggapintheeducationsectorinsa (Accessed 19th November 2023).
  • Bhorat, H. (2004) The development challenge in post-apartheid South African education. In: L. Chisholm (ed.) Changing education and social change in post-apartheid South Africa. 
  • Cape Town: HSRC Press and London: Zed Books
Bhorat, H. and Hodge, J. (1999)
  • Decomposing shifts in labor demand in South Africa. The South African Journal of Economics 67(3): 348 – 380. 
  • Education and Training Unit. s.a. Government programmes and policies: education policies: school fees. Available from: http://www.etu.org.za/toolbox/docs/government/ schoolfees.html (Accessed 19th November 2023).
  • Gater, R. & Isaacs, D. 2012. Spending on school infrastructure does matter. GroundUp, 25 May. Available from: https://www.groundup.org.za/article/spending-school- infrastructure-does- matter/ (Accessed 19th November 2023). 
  • Gater, R. & Isaacs, D. 2012. Spending on school infrastructure does matter. GroundUp, 25 May. Available from: https://www.groundup.org.za/article/spending-school- infrastructure-does- matter/. Accessed 19th November 2023). 
  • Govender, P. 2017. Matric results 2016: 18 schools obtain 0% pass rate. Mail & Guardian, 5 January. Available at https://mg.co.za/article/2017-01-05-matric-results-2016-18-%20schoolsobtain-0-pass-rate ( Accessed 19th November 2023).
  • Kingdon, G. and Knight, J. (2005) Unemployment in South Africa: Causes, Problems and Policies. Paper presented at the conference, ‘The South African Economy Under Democracy: A 10 Year Review of Economic Policies”, Stellenbosch.
  • Hosking, S. (2001) Rates of return to education in South Africa, 1960 – 1996. Paper presented at the DPRU conference, 200l.
  • Hoogeveen and OzIer (2004) Not separate, not equal: Poverty and inequality in post-apartheid South Africa. World Bank, working paper.
  • Motala, S., & Dieltiens, V. (2009). Education in South Africa: A System in Crisis. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council.
  • Posel, D. and Casale, D. (2001) Gender Aggregates: Women Subsistence Farmers Affect the Unemployment Count. Agenda, 49: 82 – 88.
  • Poswell, L. (2002) The Post-Apartheid South African Labour Market: A Status Report’. Development Policy Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
  • Republic of South Africa. (1953). Bantu Education Act, No. 47 of 1953. Government Gazette, 378(5029).
  • Saul, J. (2002). The Crisis in South African Schools: An Analysis of the Wastage in the South African School System. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council.
  • Schultz, T.P., and Mwabu, G. (1998) Labour unions and the distribution of wages and employment in South Africa. Industrial and Labour Relations, 51(4).
  • Simkins, C. (2001) South Africa’s stock of human capital. Econometric Research Southern Africa, Working Paper, Department of Economics, University of Witwatersrand.
  • Statistics South Africa (2005) Labour Force Survey, September 2000 to March 2005: Historical Series of Revised Estimates. Statistical Release P021O, Embargoed until September 2005.
  • South African Human Rights Commission. (2021). “Education Rights Charter: Part 2.” Available at
  • https://www.sahrc.org.za/home/21/files/SAHRC%20Education%20Rights%20Charter_Part2.pdf (Accessed 19 November 2023).
  • South Africa. Centre for Education Policy Development. 2017. Challenges facing education in South Africa. Pretoria: Department of Education. Available at http://www.cepd. org.za/files/pictures/The%20 Challenges%20Facing%20Education%20Interview %20Nov%2009.pdf (Accessed 19th November 2023). 
  • South Africa. 1996. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Available from:https://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/constitution/SAConstitutionwebeng.pdf (Accessed 19th November 2023). 
  • South Africa. 1997. South African Schools Act of 1996. Pretoria: Government Printer. Available from: https://www.gdead missions.gov.za/Content/Files/SchoolsAct.pdf. (Accessed 19th November 2023). 
  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 2017. Overview: education and adolescent development. UNICEF South Africa. Available at https://www.unicef.org/southafrica/education_344.html (Accessed 19th November 2023). 

ما وراء المدينة المنورة: تفريغ التحديات التعليمية في المغرب

أناستازيا جوليداني

المغرب بلد شمال أفريقيا يحده المحيط الأطلسي والبحر الأبيض المتوسط والجزائر. يبلغ عدد سكان البلاد أكثر من ٣٦ مليون نسمة، مما يجعلها خامس أكبر اقتصاد في أفريقيا. على الرغم من أن المغرب هو واحد من أكثر البلدان ازدهارا واستقرارا سياسيا في المنطقة، فإنه لا يزال يواجه العديد من التحديات التعليمية
حسب اليونسكو، فإن معدل الإلمام بالقراءة والكتابة في المغرب يبلغ ٧٣٪، بمعدل إلمام بالقراءة والكتابة ٦٦٪ للنساء ٧٩٪ للرجال. على الرغم من أن هذا تحسن عن السنوات السابقة، إلا أنه لا يزال هناك تفاوت كبير بين المناطق الحضرية والريفية، مع انخفاض معدلات معرفة القراءة والكتابة في المناطق الريفية. وعلاوة على ذلك، فإن نوعية التعليم تشكل مصدر قلق، مع ارتفاع معدل التسرب وانخفاض مستويات التحصيل التعليمي
.في هذه المقالة، سوف ندرس التحديات التعليمية التي يواجهها المغرب، فضلا عن الحلول الممكنة لمواجهة هذه التحديات

Schoolchildren admiring an eclipse in Morocco. Photo by Universe Awareness.

التحديات التي تواجه نظام التعليم في المغرب
جودة التعليم
من أكثر التحديات التي تواجه نظام التعليم في المغرب إلحاحا هي جودة التعليم. يعاني العديد من الطلاب المغاربة من مهارات القراءة والكتابة الأساسية، مما يؤدي إلى ارتفاع معدلات التسرب وانخفاض مستويات التحصيل. وبحسب البنك الدولي، فإن ٣٦٪ فقط من الطلاب المغاربة الملتحقين بالمدارس الابتدائية يكملون التعليم الثانوي.
ويعزى نقص التعليم الجيد جزئيا إلى نقص المعلمين المؤهلين، ولا سيما في المناطق الريفية. وفقا لتقرير صادر عن وزارة التربية الوطنية والتكوين المهني والتعليم العالي والبحث العلمي المغربية، هناك نقص في أكثر من ٦٠٠٠٠ ، معلم في البلاد. ينتج عن هذا النقص أحجام أكبر للفصول، مما يجعل من الصعب على المعلمين توفير اهتمام فردي لكل طالب.
الوصول إلى التعليم
وفي حين أن التعليم إلزامي في المغرب، فإن العديد من الأطفال، ولا سيما في المناطق الريفية، لا يحصلون على التعليم. وفقا لتقرير صادر عن منظمة الأمم المتحدة للطفولة (اليونيسيف)، حوالي ٢٠٠٠٠٠ طفل مغربي تتراوح أعمارهم بين ٧ و ١٣ سنة غير ملتحقين بالمدارس. وتتأثر الفتيات بشكل خاص، حيث تفضل العديد من الأسر إبقاء بناتها في المنزل للمساعدة في الأعمال المنزلية أو تزويجهن في سن مبكرة.
وعلاوة على ذلك، يشكل الفقر عائقا كبيرا أمام التعليم في المغرب، حيث لا تستطيع العديد من الأسر تحمل تكاليف اللوازم المدرسية والزي المدرسي، فضلا عن النقل من المدرسة وإليها.
المناهج وطرق التدريس
تعرض نظام التعليم في المغرب لانتقادات بسبب مناهجها وأساليب التدريس التي عفا عليها الزمن. لا يتوافق المنهج الحالي مع احتياجات القوى العاملة الحديثة ولا يوفر للطلاب المهارات والمعرفة التي يحتاجونها للنجاح في القرن الحادي والعشرين.
بالإضافة إلى ذلك، فإن أساليب التدريس المستخدمة في المدارس المغربية غالبا ما تكون قديمة وتعتمد بشكل كبير على التعلم عن ظهر قلب وحفظها. هذا النهج لا يشجع التفكير النقدي أو الإبداع، والتي هي المهارات الأساسية في عالم اليوم المتغير بسرعة.
عدم المساواة بين الجنسين
عدم المساواة بين الجنسين هو تحد كبير في النظام التعليمي في المغرب. في حين أن الحكومة حققت تقدما في تعزيز تعليم الفتيات، لا تزال هناك فجوة كبيرة بين الجنسين في الالتحاق والإنجاز. وبحسب تقرير صادر عن اليونسكو، فإن صافي معدل التحاق الفتيات بالمدارس الابتدائية في المغرب يبلغ ٨٧٪، مقابل ٩٣٪ للبنين. وعلاوة على ذلك، فإن مستويات إنجاز الفتيات أقل من الفتيان، مع ارتفاع معدل التسرب.

Children in a classroom in Morocco. Photo by Antonio Cinotti.

تدريب المعلمين والتطوير المهني
يعد الاستثمار في تدريب المعلمين والتطوير المهني أحد أهم الحلول لتحديات التعليم في المغرب. يجب على الحكومة المغربية توفير المزيد من فرص التدريب للمعلمين لتعزيز مهاراتهم التعليمية وتعلم أساليب جديدة للتدريس.
بالإضافة إلى ذلك، يجب على الحكومة تحفيز المعلمين على العمل في المناطق الريفية من خلال تزويدهم برواتب أفضل ومساكن ومزايا أخرى. ومن شأن هذا النهج أن يساعد على معالجة النقص في المعلمين المؤهلين في المناطق الريفية وأن يوفر للطلاب إمكانية أفضل للحصول على تعليم جيد.
حلول للتحديات التعليمية في المغرب
الاستثمار في تدريب المعلمين
أحد أهم الحلول لتحديات التعليم في المغرب هو الاستثمار في تدريب المعلمين. يجب على الحكومة المغربية توفير المزيد من فرص التدريب للمعلمين لتعزيز مهاراتهم التعليمية وتعلم أساليب جديدة للتدريس.

بالإضافة إلى ذلك، يجب على الحكومة تحفيز المعلمين على العمل في المناطق الريفية من خلال تزويدهم برواتب أفضل ومساكن ومزايا أخرى. ومن شأن هذا النهج أن يساعد على معالجة النقص في المعلمين المؤهلين في المناطق الريفية وأن يوفر للطلاب إمكانية أفضل للحصول على تعليم جيد.
الأساس القانوني للحل:
وفقًا للمادة ٢٦ من الإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان، “لكل شخص الحق في التعليم.” كما أن الحق في التعليم معترف به في العديد من المعاهدات الدولية لحقوق الإنسان، بما في ذلك العهد الدولي الخاص بالحقوق الاقتصادية والاجتماعية والثقافية, والحقوق الثقافية واتفاقية حقوق الطفل . وتعترف هاتان المعاهدتان بالحق في التعليم كحق أساسي من حقوق الإنسان ينبغي أن يكون في متناول الجميع، بغض النظر عن الجنس أو الطبقة الاجتماعية أو الموقع الجغرافي.
توسيع نطاق الوصول إلى التعليم

ولزيادة فرص الحصول على التعليم في المغرب، ينبغي للحكومة أن تنظر في تنفيذ سياسات تستهدف الأطفال من الفئات المحرومة. وقد تشمل هذه السياسات برامج المساعدة المالية، مثل المنح الدراسية أو الإعانات، لمساعدة الأسر على تغطية تكاليف التعليم.
ويمكن للحكومة المغربية أيضا أن تقيم شراكات مع المنظمات غير الحكومية وغيرها من أصحاب المصلحة لتوسيع فرص الحصول على التعليم في المناطق الريفية. ويمكن أن يشمل هذا النهج بناء مدارس جديدة، وتوفير وسائل النقل من المدرسة وإليها، وضمان حصول المدارس على الموارد والمواد اللازمة لتوفير تعليم جيد.
تحديث المناهج وطرق التدريس
لتحسين جودة التعليم في المغرب، يجب على الحكومة تحديث المناهج وطرق التدريس لتتماشى مع احتياجات القوى العاملة الحديثة. ويمكن أن يشمل ذلك إدماج المزيد من المهارات العملية، مثل محو الأمية الحاسوبية، في المناهج الدراسية. كما يجب على الحكومة تعزيز التعلم القائم على المشاريع، والذي يشجع على التفكير النقدي ومهارات حل المشكلات، بدلاً من الحفظ عن ظهر قلب.
وعلاوة على ذلك، يمكن للحكومة المغربية أن تتعاون مع المنظمات الدولية، مثل اليونسكو، لتطوير مواد ومناهج تعليمية جديدة أكثر شمولية وذات صلة باحتياجات الطلاب المغاربة.
سد الفجوة بين الجنسين
حقق المغرب تقدما كبيرا في تعزيز تعليم الفتيات، ولكن لا تزال هناك فجوة بين الجنسين في الالتحاق والإنجاز. ولسد هذه الفجوة، ينبغي للحكومة أن تركز على تحسين فرص حصول الفتيات على التعليم، ولا سيما في المناطق الريفية.
ويمكن للحكومة أن توفر حوافز للأسر لإرسال بناتها إلى المدرسة، مثل المنح الدراسية أو الإعانات. وبالإضافة إلى ذلك، يمكن للحكومة أن تعمل مع المنظمات غير الحكومية على تنظيم حملات توعية تعزز أهمية تعليم الفتيات وتتصدى للمواقف الثقافية التي تمنع الفتيات من الحصول على التعليم.
التعاون الدولي
التعاون الدولي أمر حاسم في مواجهة تحديات التعليم في المغرب. يمكن للحكومة المغربية التعاون مع المنظمات الدولية، مثل البنك الدولي واليونسكو، لتأمين التمويل لمبادرات التعليم والحصول على الخبرة والموارد.
بالإضافة إلى ذلك، يمكن للحكومة المغربية أن تتعلم من تجارب البلدان الأخرى التي نجحت في مواجهة تحديات تعليمية مماثلة. على سبيل المثال، يمكن للمغرب أن يتطلع إلى البلدان المجاورة، مثل تونس والجزائر، التي حققت تقدما كبيرا في تحسين الوصول إلى التعليم وتعزيز المساواة بين الجنسين في التعليم.
يواجه نظام التعليم في المغرب عدة تحديات، منها جودة التعليم، والوصول إلى التعليم، والمناهج الدراسية وطرق التدريس، وعدم المساواة بين الجنسين. وفي حين بذلت الحكومة جهودا للتصدي لهذه التحديات، لا .يزال هناك الكثير الذي يتعين القيام به لضمان حصول جميع الأطفال المغاربة على تعليم جيد

لتحسين جودة التعليم في المغرب، على الحكومة أن تستثمر في تدريب المعلمين، وتوسيع فرص الحصول على التعليم، وتحديث المناهج وطرق التدريس, وسد الفجوة بين الجنسين في الالتحاق والإنجاز. بالإضافة إلى ذلك، فإن التعاون الدولي أمر حاسم في مواجهة هذه التحديات، ويجب على الحكومة المغربية التعاون مع المنظمات الدولية والتعلم من تجارب البلدان الأخرى التي نجحت في مواجهة تحديات تعليمية مماثلة.
.ومن خلال التصدي لهذه التحديات، يمكن للمغرب تحسين آفاق شبابه، وتعزيز النمو الاقتصادي، وبناء مستقبل أكثر إشراقا للبلاد


Broken Chalk calls for recognition of the importance of access to education in the mother language

Written by Luzi Maj Leonhardt, Dooyum Stephanie Tseke, Sara Rossomonte

Today, on the International Day of the Mother Language, the acknowledgement and advancement of the mother language in education, and social and cultural development are inevitable.  

International Mother Language Day was first introduced by the UNESCO initiative of Bangladesh, at the 1999 General Conference. Since then, it was established by the UN General Assembly, and its importance was formalized as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

However, limitations in access to education in the mother language remain, as approximately 40% of the global population lacks this fundamental right. In some regions, these numbers even go up to 90% of the population, according to the UN.  Access to education in the student’s mother language fosters an inclusive learning environment, which welcomes indigenous and minority groups and leads to better learning outcomes, especially in the early stages of education.  Broken Chalk recognises the need to address the issue of a lack of native language representation in education in many countries worldwide. Especially the educational sector in countries with a colonial or foreign administrative past continues to be strongly influenced by their language of instruction.  Broken Chalks strongly supports the creation of accessible and high-quality educational materials in the native languages of various countries.

The importance of mother language in education cannot be overstated. In most sub-Saharan African countries, approximately 85% of students receive instruction in a language other than their native tongue (UNESCO, 2017). Nigeria, a nation with over 600 different languages, solely employs English as the language of instruction in primary schools, prohibiting the use of local languages that are deemed informal.

Similarly, many Asian societies, formerly under colonial rule, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Indonesia, only began actively promoting their national languages after World War II. In Sri Lanka, Tamil was officially recognised as an official language in 1978, yet English has become the predominant language in recent years.

The absence of mother tongue instruction in education leads to knowledge gaps, particularly at the primary and secondary levels, hindering effective learning and exacerbating inequality and discrimination against diverse cultures, resulting in low student enrolment rates. Broken Chalk calls for urgent investments to lower the educational gaps of children with speak in their mother language.

Ethiopian schools have introduced instruction in students’ native tongues, resulting in significant improvements, including a half-year increase in education attainment and a 40% rise in the likelihood of students reading complete sentences (Rajesh, 2017). Similarly, the Bolivian Campaign for the Right to Education (CBDE) advocates for inclusive educational approaches, particularly for the indigenous population. Broken Chalk believes that education is crucial to working towards the elimination of discrimination against indigenous populations.

Children benefit from embracing both their own and others’ cultural identities while using the same language, as exemplified in Zimbabwe, where the government has prioritised mother tongue education. However, challenges persist globally, including inadequate funding for minority language education, lack of standardised teaching materials, and qualified teachers for indigenous languages. Colonial language policies contribute to linguistic inequality and marginalisation, necessitating governments and educational institutions to prioritise mother languages in curriculum development and teacher training programs. Funding is essential to preserve endangered languages and promote multilingualism through bilingual education initiatives. Broken Chalk calls for the allocation of more funding to promote multilingualism in education.

At Broken Chalk,celebrating World Mother Language Day reaffirms our commitment to cultural diversity and acknowledges the value and heritage of all languages. In addition to efforts being made globally, Broken Chalk will continue to publish articles in different languages to encourage and advocate for Cultural and Language Diversity.

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect. 


Broken Chalk 

Educational challenges in Panama

Written by Francisca Rosales

Panama is a country in Central America with a population of approximately 4.2 million people in 2020 (Puertas et al. 2023). Panama has a Human Development Index of 0.815 due to widespread socioeconomic inequality, especially among the country’s indigenous population (ibid.).

The Panamanian education system is divided into different stages: preschool; primary school; pre-secondary school and secondary school. Education is free until middle school (The Oxford Business Group 2023). Despite recent progress in children’s access to education, Panama’s educational system is still facing grave challenges, especially as the quality of the country’s education continues to lag (The Oxford Business Group 2023; UNICEF 2021). There are still great disparities in dropout rates between rural and urban areas, and the number and professional qualification of teachers remains unsatisfactory (The Oxford Business Group 2023). The state budget for education continues to be disappointing (Herrera et al. 2018). In 2020, the Panamanian government only invested 3.9 percent of its GDP in education (Trading Economics 2023). Currently 17.2% of children aged between 15 and 24 are not enrolled in education or employment, entailing that many adolescents lack access to education and to the necessary skills to find an employment (Unicef 2020).

This report highlights educational challenges that Panama is facing at the moment; namely, the lack of quality education and infrastructure, and inequalities in access to education that affect especially rural and indigenous communities. The report concludes with recommendations to improve the Panamanian educational system.

Elementary school in Boquete, Panama. Photo by Fran Hogan on Wikimedia Commons.

Quality of Education & Infrastructure

The quality of education in Panama continues to fall behind (UNESCO 2020). There are not sufficient services at schools to ensure quality education for students, especially in rural and indigenous communities (UNICEF 2021). To illustrate, approximately 30 percent of children do not have access to preschool education (UNICEF 2021). Also, educational infrastructure is deteriorating due to poor maintenance (Herrera et al. 2018). The lack of capacity to accommodate students has led to the introduction of the two-shift school day to optimize school infrastructure (The Oxford Business Group 2023). This strategy entails that one shift of students attends school during the morning, while another shift attends school in the afternoon. However, this has hampered the development of students’ basic skills. The physical infrastructure of schools in rural areas is lower than in urban schools (Unesco 2020). Rural schools face major infrastructure challenges: there is a lack of infrastructure to accommodate the local demand for school; this results in children dropping out of school or forces children to walk for long distances to access their schools. Also, compared to schools in urban centers, schools in rural areas often lack the necessary learning materials, such as textbooks and notebooks (Unesco 2020).

Moreover, the educational style remains old-fashioned, as the curriculum is still based on memorizing concepts rather than developing key competencies and developing skills important for students’ future employability (UNICEF 2021). The lack of enforcement of a bilingual curriculum and, therefore, the lack of proficiency in English has negatively affected students’ preparedness for the labor market, especially in the sector of tourism. As a response, the government implemented a Bilingual Program in 2015, to improve basic and secondary teachers’ proficiency in English (The Oxford Business Group 2023). Furthermore,  schools lack a clear approach to teaching in schools in indigenous communities, which compromises the quality of education for students with an indigenous background. In fact, many teachers teaching in schools in indigenous communities follow non-inclusive educational practices (Unesco 2020). For example, non-indigenous teachers often do not allow students to speak in indigenous languages among themselves, creating tensions in the classroom environment and the current bilingual curriculum fails to include indigenous languages (Unesco 2020). 

Inequalities in Access to Education

According to UNICEF, 3 out of 10 children are affected by multidimensional poverty in Panama (UNICEF 2022). Children living in poverty and children with an indigenous background lack access to quality services (UNICEF 2022). Although preschool education is compulsory, approximately 40 percent of children aged between 4 to 5 years do not attend preschool (UNICEF 2020). Ensuring children’s access to preschool education is essential since the level of oral language kindergarten can have a great impact on a child’s learning outcomes through primary school in reading and writing, as well as mathematics (Puertas et al. 2023). The educational system also does not reach all adolescents to the same extent: only 7 in 10 children aged between 12 and 14 years were enrolled in pre-secondary school before Covid-19, while only 5 in 10 adolescents between 15 and 17 years were enrolled in high school (UNICEF 2020). Consequently, only 35 percent of students reached the minimum proficiency levels for literacy according to the Sustainable Development Goals (UNICEF 2020). Also, 19 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls in pre-secondary schools are overaged; this fact points that unsatisfactory learning leads to school dropout, curtailing the possibility for young adults to acquire the necessary skills for future employability (UNICEF 2020). 

Inequalities greatly affect children with indigenous backgrounds, as indigenous children display lower achievement in literacy and numeracy rates. The indigenous population in Panama mostly lives in rural areas, where the supply of schools is substantially lower, compared to urban areas (Unesco 2020). To illustrate, adolescent girls from indigenous communities are more likely to be excluded from access to education and to complete secondary education and 1 in 10 children from rural areas are more likely to not be enrolled in school (UNICEF 2021; Unesco 2020).  The literacy rate for women from indigenous backgrounds between 15 and 24 years of age is 84 percent, which is lower than the national average (97 percent) (Unesco 2020). Also, schools in indigenous communities have poorer infrastructure and lower school attainment. Violence, including abandonment, or neglect, currently affects 44.5 percent of children, and indigenous girls show higher vulnerability to violence (UNICEF 2020). Children with disabilities also face exclusion in access to education as 1 in 4 children with disabilities does not attend school (UNICEF 2021).

Students’ reading performance greatly decreased after Covid especially due to inequality (Puertas et al. 2023). At the end of 2020, only 51 percent of children in primary schools and 42 percent of high school students could read proficiently (Puerta et al. 2023). A large portion of the population does not have access to internet from home or electricity. In fact, only 40 percent of households with children in public schools have internet access (Puertas et al. 2023). During the Covid lockdow, children from higher-income households could use online platforms, such as Microsoft Teams, to engage with their teachers; however, students in lower-income households often only had WhatsApp as a means of communication with their teachers. Consequently, thousands of students were at risk of dropping out of school during this period (UNICEF 2022).

Photo by Katie Chen on Unsplash.

Conclusion and Recommendations

This report highlights that the major educational challenges in Panama lie in the lack of appropriate infrastructure to ensure that students have access to quality education and social inequality that hinders students from achieving satisfactory educational outcomes. Education is an essential mechanism for development. Thus, the government of Panama must commit to expanding the current budget for education to improve schools’ physical infrastructure and quality to ensure that its population can access the necessary skills and increase its capabilities. Also, it is essential to continue investing in teachers’ capacity building to improve the quality of teaching and develop a curriculum that enables students to develop essential skills for the job market.

The government should also prioritize children from indigenous communities to close the current gap in unequal access to education. The government should invest more in schools in indigenous communities to improve learning outcomes in reading and mathematics among primary school and high school students. This is only possible through the implementation of inclusive policies that take into consideration students’ educational needs and recognize the disproportional exclusion of children with indigenous background from accessing quality education. Ensuring that students with an indigenous background have access to quality education is essential to prevent students from dropping out of school and from being further marginalized from society. 


Cubilla-Bonnetier, D., Grajales-Barrios, M., Ortega-Espinosa, A., Puertas, L. and De León Sautú, N. (2023). “Unequal literacy development and access to online education in public versus private Panamanian schools during COVID-19 pandemic”. In Frontiers in Education (Vol. 8, p. 989872). Frontiers.

Herrera M, L.C., Torres-Lista, V. and Montenegro, M. (2018). Analysis of the State Budget for Education of the Republic of Panama from 1990 to 2017. International Education Studies, 11(7), pp.71-82.

Oxford Business Group. (2023). “Panama makes progress towards sustainable education growth”. https://oxfordbusinessgroup.com/reports/panama/2015-report/economy/learning-curve-progress-is-being-made-towards-sustainable-growth-via-a-rising-budget-and-a-push-to-raise-post-secondary-offerings#:~:text=The%20Panamanian%20education%20system%20is,five%2Dyear%2Dold%20children 

Trading Economics. (2023). “Panama – Public Spending on Education”. https://tradingeconomics.com/panama/public-spending-on-education-total-percent-of-gdp-wb-data.html#:~:text=Government%20expenditure%20on%20education%2C%20total,compiled%20from%20officially%20recognized%20sources 

Unesco. (2020). “Rurality and education in Panama”. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000374672 

UNICEF. (2021). “All children learn in Palama”. https://www.unicef.org/lac/en/all-children-learn-panama 

UNICEF. (2022). “Country annual report 2022: Panama”. https://www.unicef.org/media/136316/file/Panama-2022-COAR.pdf 

UNICEF. (2020). “Country Programme document”. https://www.unicef.org/executiveboard/media/3176/file/2021-PL9-Panama_CPD-EN-ODS.pdf

The silent sacrifice: Children in Cobalt Mines and the Toll on their Education

Written by Anna S. Kordesch

In the cobalt-abundant regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a grim reality hides beneath the earth’s surface. Children, some as young as six, labour in hazardous mines, extracting a mineral vital to the global technological advancement—cobalt. This essential element, used in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries for devices like smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles, exacts a heavy toll not only on the youthful miners but also on their aspirations for education, which are left in ruins.

This article delves into the distressing ordeals of children working in the cobalt mining sector and the significant repercussions it exerts on their educational prospects. By scrutinising the diverse elements that sustain this cycle of exploitation, the aim is to uncover the systemic challenges eroding the prospects of an entire generation in DRC.

Although education represents the promise of a more hopeful future, it remains an elusive 

aspiration for many children trapped in cobalt mines. It is crucial to delve into the complex network of elements that deprive these young individuals of the chance to receive an education, develop, and escape the relentless grip of poverty. This text explores the limitations in access to schools, insufficient educational infrastructure, and the economic burdens that compel children to work in the mines. By doing so, it scrutinises how these interrelated difficulties perpetuate a cycle of illiteracy, effectively stripping an entire generation of their potential.

This article serves as a strong call, calling upon governments, corporations, and civil society to confront the entrenched problems that uphold the exploitation of children in cobalt mines. Through our efforts to shed light on the severe impact on education, we aim to spark substantive conversations and motivate tangible actions aimed at protecting the rights and prospects of these at-risk children.

Mining in Kailo, Congo. Photo by Julien Harneis on Wikimedia Commons.

The Importance of Cobalt for the World Market

Cobalt (Co) is a global metal with widespread applications in commercial, industrial, and military sectors. Its primary and essential use is in the electrodes of rechargeable batteries. Cobalt is a crucial component for many of today’s everyday devices, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, and various other electronic gadgets. Moreover, it plays a vital role in renewable energy technologies, being used in wind turbines and solar panels i.

Southern Congo is situated above an estimated 3.4 million metric tons of cobalt, representing over half of the world’s known supply. Many Congolese, including children, have taken 

employment in the industrial mines in this region. The vast cobalt reserves highlight that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will likely remain the primary source meeting the increasing global demand for cobalt in lithium-ion batteries. DRC’s cobalt mine production has experienced almost constant growth, going from 11,000 mines in 2000 to 98,000 in 2020. This remarkable increase is closely linked to the world’s escalating need for this metal. While the DRC is home to valuable minerals such as cobalt, copper, coltan, and gold, it is also one of the world’s most impoverished nations, grappling with issues of poverty and humanitarian crises that afflict its population ii.

Small-scale mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) engages individuals of all age groups, including children, who are compelled to labour under challenging and unfavourable conditions. Among the 255,000 Congolese involved in cobalt mining, 40,000 are children, with some as young as six years old. Most of them earn less than $2 per day, primarily relying on their hands as their primary tools for work iii.

The Dangers of Cobalt Mining

Unfortunately, children are indeed involved in artisanal mining. The youngest children often start by accompanying their mothers to the mines, while older ones take care of their younger siblings and, over time, become directly involved in the mining activities. The prevailing perception in developed countries is that child labour is a practice to be unequivocally condemned, representing one of the worst forms of exploitation.

In addition to the environmental toll of cobalt mining activities, there is a significant human cost  associated with it. For adults working in these mines, there’s a heightened risk of injury or even death. This peril stems from the lack of basic protective equipment, such as hard hats and vests, as miners often work barefoot and use their hands to extract ores. Furthermore, in a 2016 report by Amnesty International, it was revealed that many mines are constructed in unsafe ways, subjecting workers to life-threatening situations in their pursuit of cobalt. Numerous miners have lost their lives or suffered severe injuries due to incidents like tunnel or pit collapses, underground fires, and suffocation. The risks of accidents resulting from improperly constructed excavations and mines can lead to fatalities from suffocation, asphyxiation, or drowning.

Children, in particular, are exposed to this inhumane working environment, living in constant fear for their lives as they strive to earn money to support their families. Child labor is a grave issue in the DRC, where children not only work in an unsafe environment but also face physical abuse, sexual exploitation and are exposed to drug use.

Environmental factors also pose significant risks in cobalt mining, including mosquito-borne illnesses linked to unintended water pooling in placer mining areas or diarrheal diseases caused by poor sanitation practices. These health concerns can be exacerbated by the remote locations of the mines and the absence of medical services, making timely treatment often unavailable.

Artisanal mining. Photo by Fairphone, on Flickr.

Where does Education Fit In?

In addition to the clear violations of human rights and the life-threatening conditions that children in the DRC face due to their labour, their right to education is profoundly impacted. While the Congolese government introduced the DRC Child Protection Code in 2009, which mandates “free and compulsory primary education,” the lack of adequate government funding places the burden of covering non-tuition fees, including teacher salaries and uniform costs, on parents. Parents are required to pay between 10,000 and 30,000 Congolese Francs ($10-30) per month, an expense that many cannot afford. This financial barrier further hinders these children’s access to education. While parents may aspire to provide their children with access to formal education, economic constraints frequently force them to withhold this educational opportunity in the interest of ensuring the family’s financial viability iv.

Kabedi is a 12-year-old girl in the DRC who has returned to school after three hard years of working in an artisanal copper and cobalt mine. She explains, “When I was 9, I started working in the mine after my father died to help my mother.” Kabedi toiled from morning to night, seven days a week, collecting, crushing, and transporting copper and cobalt ores. Despite her efforts, at the end of the day, Kabedi would return home exhausted with an average of 5,000 Congolese Francs (around $2.5) in her pocket. This starkly illustrates that while these children work in cobalt mines out of sheer necessity, the income they earn is still insufficient to cover their basic needs and education costs v.

Furthermore, the gruelling work hours these children endure highlight that this kind of life is fundamentally incompatible with the continuity of education. In the DRC, the average number of years of education completed by young adults is less than four. Data reveals that only about 18% of the total population manages to attain the highest education level, which is six years of schooling. Many children have to forsake their education to bring food to the table at the end of the day. This results in a self-perpetuating cycle in which, once caught, it becomes exceedingly challenging to extricate oneself from and consequently pursue an education vi.

Access to education plays a pivotal role in significantly reducing vulnerability to child slavery and can serve as a means to lift children out of poverty. Therefore, safeguarding the availability of education is a crucial element in preventing child slavery and mitigating vulnerability to exploitative labour and slavery in adulthood.

Potential Solutions

Solutions to address mining injustices can involve various stakeholders. An example of such 

efforts is the Fund for the Prevention of Child Labor in Mining Communities, a collaboration between UNICEF and the Global Battery Alliance. Through this initiative, UNICEF aims to support the school reintegration of 500 children who have left mining work. While international organisations are playing their part in upholding children’s right to quality education, jeopardised by harsh physical labour, civil society is raising awareness through the hashtag #NoCongoNoPhone to combat the cobalt supply chain that fosters child labour. A third key actor, the government in the DRC, is working with the Enterprise Generale du Cobalt to gain control over the artisanal cobalt mining sector, with the aim of curbing the illegal use of children as forced labour. These collective efforts from various actors are essential in addressing the complex issues surrounding child labour in cobalt mining vii.

Indeed, this collective action involving a multitude of actors is essential to effectively combat this illegal employment, which deprives countless children of a meaningful future that hinges on their right to quality education. Society must become aware of the dark realities occurring behind the everyday use of these common devices. It is only through such global awareness that children in the DRC can hope for a chance to one day lead age-appropriate lives, free from the burden of child labour in the cobalt mines.


Gulley, A. L. (2022). One hundred years of cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Resources Policy, 79, 103007. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resourpol.2022.103007

The DRC mining industry: Child labour and formalisation of small-scale mining. Wilson Center. (n.d.). https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/drc-mining-industry-child-labor-and-formalization-small-scale-mining

Alshantti, O. (2023, March 15). Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: The human and environmental costs of the transition to Green Technology. Spheres of Influence. https://spheresofinfluence.ca/coblat-mining-drc-green-technology/

From mine to school. UNICEF. (2021, May 15). https://www.unicef.org/drcongo/en/stories/mine-school

Democratic Republic of Congo – World Bank. (n.d.). https://databankfiles.worldbank.org/public/ddpext_download/hci/HCI_2pager_COD.pdf

Philipp, J. (2021, November 5). The effects of cobalt mining in the DRC. The Borgen Project. https://borgenproject.org/cobalt-mining-in-the-drc/

i The DRC Mining Industry: Child labor and Formalization of Small-Scale Mining. (n.d.). Wilson Center. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/drc-mining-industry-child-labor-and-formalization-small-scale-mining

ii Gulley, A. L. (2022). One hundred years of cobalt production in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Resources Policy, 79, 103007. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resourpol.2022.103007

iii The DRC mining industry: Child labour and formalisation of small-scale mining. Wilson Center. (n.d.). https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/drc-mining-industry-child-labor-and-formalization-small-scale-mining

iv Alshantti, O. (2023, March 15). Cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: The human and environmental costs of the transition to Green Technology. Spheres of Influence. https://spheresofinfluence.ca/coblat-mining-drc-green-technology/

v From mine to school. UNICEF. (2021, May 15). https://www.unicef.org/drcongo/en/stories/mine-school

vi Democratic Republic of Congo – World Bank. (n.d.). https://databankfiles.worldbank.org/public/ddpext_download/hci/HCI_2pager_COD.pdf

vii Philipp, J. (2021, November 5). The effects of cobalt mining in the DRC. The Borgen Project. https://borgenproject.org/cobalt-mining-in-the-drc/

Educational Challenges in Qatar

Written By Anna Moneta

Qatar’s history

Qatar, once a modest Gulf state, has undergone a remarkable transformation into a global economic powerhouse, largely attributed to the discovery and exploitation of oil reserves in the mid-20th century. The revelation of oil beneath Qatar’s arid desert sands in the early 1940s marked a pivotal moment, catapulting the nation into a dominant position in the global oil and natural gas markets. This economic ascent is intricately linked to Qatar’s historical ties as a British protectorate, formally established in 1868 with interactions dating back even earlier. [1]

The British, leveraging their extensive experience in oil resource management in the Gulf, played a crucial role by providing technical expertise and guidance for oil drilling and export infrastructure. This collaborative effort laid the foundation for Qatar’s thriving oil industry, enabling the nation to capitalize on its newfound resource wealth. However, the influence of British colonialism extended beyond economic realms, permeating into Qatar’s educational system. The British presence, which included military corps and colonial workers engaged in the oil industry, prompted the emergence of an educational system designed to cater to the children of both Qatari nationals and British colonial workers. This collaborative initiative led to the establishment of the Ministry of Education in 1956, shaping the trajectory of Qatar’s educational landscape. [1]

Today, Qatar stands among the world’s wealthiest nations, largely driven by its revenue from oil and natural gas. Nevertheless, the legacy of colonization raises pertinent questions about the enduring impact on the country’s educational framework. As we explore Qatar’s historical evolution and the complexities of its educational system, it is crucial to address contemporary concerns. The World Bank, in particular, underscores issues in early childhood development (ECD) outcomes in Qatar, shedding light on deficiencies in self-regulation skills and early literacy and numeracy skills among young children. [2] These concerns, despite economic progress, pose potential long-term consequences by impeding crucial brain development, adding a new layer of complexity to the narrative of Qatar’s historical and educational journey.

Qatar’s school system

Qatar’s educational landscape is characterized by a diverse system that includes both public, government-operated schools and privately-run institutions, each offering distinct curricula and languages of instruction. The prevalence of international curricula in many private schools has sparked discussions about the enduring influence of British colonialism on the nation’s education.

Government schools in Qatar are structured into three levels: primary school, serving students between the ages of 6 and 12; preparatory school, accommodating those aged 13 to 15; and secondary school, catering to students between the ages of 16 and 18. Additionally, for younger children, there is a range of options including nurseries for those aged 0 to 3, and kindergarten or preschool for children aged 3 to 5, providing flexibility based on individual needs. It is important to note that associated costs can vary significantly, typically ranging from QAR 15,000 to QAR 40,000.

In higher education, institutions in Qatar are classified as private, national, or branch campuses. The University of Qatar, established in 1973, stands as the oldest higher education institution in the country. Offering a diverse array of programs at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, the university encompasses faculties of engineering, social sciences, education, Islamic studies, humanities, and sciences. The presence of these higher education institutions further enriches Qatar’s educational landscape, contributing to the nation’s academic and intellectual growth.

Issues arising from Qatar’s colonial history.

Postcolonial theorists, exemplified by scholars like Hickling-Hudson (2006), provide a critical lens through which to examine the lasting impact of colonialism on education systems in former colonies. One of their central arguments revolves around the deliberate under-resourcing of education by colonial powers as a means of perpetuating control and exploitation of local populations.

The British presence in Qatar necessitated the establishment of an educational system to cater to the children of both Qatari nationals and British colonial workers. This early system laid the groundwork for Qatar’s educational landscape. Thus, when the nation embarked on its journey of economic transformation fuelled by oil wealth, its educational foundations were influenced by its colonial past. [3]

The postcolonial argument put forth posits that colonial powers intentionally kept education under-resourced in their colonies. This tactic was not merely neglect rather; it was a calculated strategy to exploit local populations. In fact, by depriving colonized peoples of adequate education, colonial powers could maintain control and perpetuate socio-economic inequalities. [3] The 2015 OECD study, which ranked Qatar in the bottom 10 of its educational index, hints at the implications of such deliberate underinvestment.

The correlation between Qatar’s colonial history and its educational challenges becomes apparent when considering the consequences of insufficient educational resources. While Qatar has made remarkable advances in various sectors, including infrastructure and healthcare, its education system has faced persistent disparities in terms of quality and access. These disparities are a reflection of the historical under-resourcing of education, an issue that postcolonial theorists emphasize.

Educational Challenges

The 2015 OECD ranking serves as a stark reminder of the enduring impact of this historical underinvestment. Qatar’s educational system, despite the nation’s substantial wealth, lagged in international assessments.

A significant development in Qatar’s education landscape has been the proliferation of private international schools, particularly in the last three decades. These schools cater primarily to Western expatriates and offer curricula in languages such as English, French, and German. While these institutions have contributed to Qatar’s educational diversity, they have also exacerbated disparities. Students attending private international schools often receive what is perceived as a higher quality education, leading to unequal opportunities in terms of academic performance and prospects. This educational divide raises questions about equity and access within the Qatari education system.

One further challenge facing Qatar’s education system is the need to strike a balance between the Arabic and English languages. Arabization and hybrid approaches have emerged as potential solutions to this linguistic dilemma. Arabization advocates argue that a strong emphasis on Arabic is crucial to preserving cultural and linguistic heritage. Conversely, advocates of the hybrid approach argue that a bilingual model, combining English and Arabic, is essential for equipping students with the skills needed for the globalized world while preserving traditional cultural values. This linguistic draw reflects the complexities of navigating a postcolonial educational path. Although, concurrently, the Qatari government has been active in its efforts to build a cohesive national identity through its governmental curriculum. This curriculum not only imparts knowledge in core subjects like mathematics, science, and the arts but also emphasizes Islamic studies, history, and the Arabic language. While these efforts aim to instil a sense of pride and national identity in Qatari students, they encounter challenges when it comes to preparing students for higher education and the workforce. The need for a curriculum that can adapt to the evolving global landscape while preserving cultural values is a complex task.

The World Bank’s Concerns

The World Bank has raised concerns regarding the state of Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Qatar, specifically highlighting deficiencies in self-regulation skills and early literacy and numeracy skills among young children. Despite the country’s economic progress, these developmental gaps pose long-term consequences by impeding crucial brain development. The World Bank recognizes the potential transformative impact of enhanced ECD, not only in academic realms but also in promoting better health outcomes and fostering economic prosperity. [2]

The World Bank proposes a comprehensive three-fold strategy to enhance Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Qatar. Firstly, it advocates for the establishment of a Qatar-based multisectoral body to coordinate and oversee the implementation of a holistic ECD strategy. This body would prioritize the formulation of robust child protection policies, creating a secure environment for young children, while also emphasizing the expansion of support for breastfeeding and parental leave. [2] Secondly, to ensure a more inclusive ECD approach, the World Bank recommends broadening the coverage of programs to encompass all children in Qatar. This expansion involves a significant increase in the scope of nutrition programs and the introduction of pre-primary education initiatives. The focus extends beyond the supply side to cultivating public demand for ECD programs and addressing existing inequalities across socioeconomic lines [2]. Lastly, the World Bank stresses the necessity of establishing a robust quality assurance system for Qatar’s ECD. This involves harmonizing standards for teachers and educational providers, ensuring a coherent curriculum spanning ages zero to six, and implementing monitoring mechanisms. A comprehensive set of key performance indicators, supported by a robust data system, is proposed to track child development outcomes and monitor progress effectively. [2]


In conclusion, Qatar’s educational journey reflects a profound transformation, evolving from an initially inadequate educational provision to a nuanced landscape deeply influenced by historical colonialism. Although commendable strides have been made in enhancing educational performance, the enduring legacy of colonization persists, leaving an indelible mark on the country’s educational framework. This narrative gains additional complexity with the World Bank’s highlighted concerns regarding early childhood development (ECD) outcomes, emphasizing the urgency of addressing contemporary challenges.

To effectively navigate the intricacies embedded in Qatar’s historical and educational context, a compelling solution emerges—the establishment of robust national educational institutions. These institutions should not only aspire to academic excellence but also actively integrate globally relevant subjects into the curriculum. A strategic imperative lies in prioritizing Qatar’s national educational system over international institutes, ensuring alignment with the nation’s distinctive history, cultural values, and contemporary requirements. Through this strategic emphasis, Qatar can pave the way for an education system that not only preserves its rich heritage but also equips its youth with the skills and knowledge essential for navigating the complexities of the modern globalized world. Embracing this transformative approach ensures that Qatar’s educational landscape becomes a beacon of cultural preservation and global readiness.



[1] Zahlan, R. S. (2016). The creation of Qatar. Routledge.

[2] Nikaein Towfighian, S., & Adams, L. S. (2017). Early Childhood Development in Qatar. The World Bank.

[3] Hickling-Hudson, A. (2006). Cultural complexity, postcolonial perspectives, and educational change: Challenges for comparative educators. In J. Zajda, S. Majhanovich, & V. Rust (Eds.), Education and Social Justice (pp. 191-208). Springer Netherlands.

General Secretariat for Developing Planning. (2018). Qatar Second National Development Strategy 2018-2022. Retrieved from https://www.psa.gov.qa/en/knowledge/Documents/NDS2Final.pdf.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2015). PISA 2015 Results in Focus. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2015-results-in-focus.pdf.


Female Genital Mutilation and its Effects on Education

Written by Juliana Campos, Nadia Annous and Maria Popova.

FGM, or the full-term Female Genital Mutilation is a practice performed on women and young girls involving removal or injury to the female genital organs. It is not performed for medical reasons, nor does it bring any health benefits. FGM is generally considered a human rights violation and a form of torture with long lasting effects on girls’ physical and mental health, often leading to early marriage and hindering girls’ access to education in over 30 countries worldwide. 

What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?

According to the World Health Organisation, FGM consists of total or partial removal of the external genitalia or injury to the female genital organs. There are four types of FGM: 

  • Partial or total removal of clitoral glands; 
  • Partial or total removal of clitoral glands and labia minora; 
  • Infibulation, which consists of narrowing the vaginal opening; 
  • All other harmful procedures to female genitalia for non-medical purposes. 

In total, it is estimated that over 200 million women have undergone this procedure worldwide. Currently, FGM is performed in over 30 countries around Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with most occurrences being registered in Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Egypt. Most victims of FGM fall between the age range of 0 to 15 years old.

FGC Types. “Classification of female genital mutilation”, World Health Organization, 2014.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Immediate and long-term complications

FGM has no health benefits, on the contrary, it can lead to a number of short and long-term complications to women. The adverse effects of the procedure are both physical and psychological, as FGM interferes with the natural functions of the female body and brings several damages to a healthy and normal genital tissue. Short-term health complications include excessive pain and bleeding, swelling, fever and infections. Oftentimes, the practitioners performing FGM use shared instruments, which leads to transmission of HIV and Hepatitis. Long-term complications include urinary and vaginal infections, pain during intercourse and complications during childbirth, especially in women who have undergone infibulation, as the sealed vagina is ripped open for intercourse and stitched back again after childbirth or widowhood. Neonatal mortality rates are also higher in places where FGM is practiced, as it can lead to increased risk of death for the baby.

How does FGM affect schooling? 

FGM has a direct effect on girls’ education, starting by the long period of recovery needed after the procedure. A full recovery can take up to several months, by the end of which girls may feel it is pointless to return to the same school year. The longer education is disrupted, the lower are the chances of a return to school and many girls end up taking on other responsibilities such as house chores or informal work instead.

Another effect on girls’ education caused by FGM is the increased social pressure for marriage. Especially in low-income households, marriage can mean better financial stability and higher social status. As a result, education is no longer a priority for these girls’ families, causing many FGM victims to enter early marriages, which may lead to early pregnancies, diminishing the chances of a return to school to near zero. 

Besides physical health complications, the psychological trauma caused by such an invasive and painful procedure, often performed without anaesthesia, may be paralysing for these girls, possibly leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, difficulties in socialisation and an overall impact on girls’ confidence. 

Why is FGM still practiced? 

There are different reasons as to why FGM remains such a common practice in certain regions, most of which reflect cultural or social factors. For instance, FGM is considered a requirement for women to be eligible for marriage, serving as “proof” that they have been kept “pure”. As a result, many families may feel as if they should conform to this practice in order to protect their daughters from social exclusion. In countries like Somalia where, according to UNICEF, 98% of girls between the ages of 5 and 11 have undergone FGM, not being part of that astonishing statistic can outcast these young girls from their communities.

Since the 1990’s, FGM has been the center of political debates as the international community and feminist groups press governments for a ban on this practice. However, besides guaranteeing social status, there is also a culture aspect behind FGM. It is seen as an honourable rite of passage, a way for these communities to connect to their ancestors and it creates a sense of belonging which can be difficult for outsiders to comprehend. 

As a result, local political leaders who are openly against FGM are accused of caving in to external pressure and reduce their chances of being elected, making it unlikely that there will be a change in laws before there is a change in these societies’ cultural mindsets. This is evidenced by the fact that FGM is still practiced in many countries where it is officially illegal, such as Egypt, Ghana, Senegal and Burkina Faso.

How can education help end FGM? 

Many girls are forced to undergo FGM at an age when they don’t understand the risks of the procedure. In fact, due to the alarmingly low literacy rates in some communities, it is likely that neither parents nor practitioners are able to make scientifically informed choices regarding these young girls’ health. It is evident, therefore, that education and access to information may be the strongest tools for prevention against Female Genital Mutilation.

Though information can be spread orally and not necessarily through formal education, taboos still hinder open discussions on female reproductive health. That is why it is important for healthcare professionals to educate local practitioners and parents in an accessible way. As education is also an empowering tool, it is crucial that girls are invited into these conversations and informed of their human right to make decisions over their own bodies.

What is being done to stop FGM?

Evidently, the process of educating people about the dangers of FGM must be done respectfully, by listening to these communities and understanding what this rite of passage means as a tradition. That is what NGOs such as the Association for the Promotion of Women in Gaoua (APFG) have done. APFG contributors in Burkina Faso have managed to persuade FGM practitioners to maintain the sacred rituals of the rite but leave out genital cutting. That way, girls are protected from the complications of FGM and the community’s tradition is kept. 

It is equally as important to support survivors all around the world, women who are still dealing with the long lasting physical and mental impacts caused by FGM. The NGO Terre de Femmes or TDF, a German organisation working on raising awareness against Female Genital Mutilation, works to protect and support FGM survivors in Europe, particularly in countries with the highest rates of affected individuals, namely France, Belgium, Italy, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. TDF also advocates against Female Genital Mutilation by writing petitions and increasing political pressure for countries to either ban FGM or ensure existing laws are upheld. 

In conclusion…

Female Genital Mutilation results in numeral short and long-term complications for women, including a significant disruption in girls’ education. It is an extremely dangerous practice affecting thousands of girls each year, girls who have been denied the basic human right to physical integrity. 

Still today, perhaps due to cultural stigmas around female reproductive health, FGM is not as openly discussed as other gender related issues and efforts to tackle its impacts are still insufficient. Educating practitioners, parents and girls themselves by providing information on the dangers of FGM is a powerful tool against this harmful procedure. Furthermore, it is crucial to take FGM’s social, political and cultural complexities into consideration and, most importantly, amplify FGM victims’ voices.


Cover Image by UN Women/Ryan Brown via Flickr

*Upon request, the article may be translated into other languages. Please use the comments section below*

Educational Challenges in Puerto Rico

Written By Samantha Orozco and John Whitlock

Historic background

Puerto Rico is located northeast of the Caribbean Sea and is considered one of the Greater Antilles. Its location boasts beautiful beaches and landscapes but is also prone to hurricanes and other natural hazards that have severely affected its residents. Puerto Rico’s official language is Spanish and it is home to a diverse and multicultural population, with most of its inhabitants of Puerto Rican descent and a significant community of African, European, and Latin American ancestry.

After the Spanish-American War, the United States (US) officially annexed the then Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines in December 1898, initially subjecting Puerto Rico to rule by the US military and a governor appointed by the President. In 1917, the US Congress voted to grant Puerto Ricans official citizenship status, while still denying them the representative rights that usually accompany full citizenship. The island’s inhabitants could not elect their own governor until 1947.

To this day, Puerto Ricans are not able to participate in US elections, have no voting representation within the US Congress, and do not hold the right to “equal treatment” in the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. The island is now an “unincorporated territory” with “quasi-colonial” status, according to former Puerto Rican high school teacher and US Secretary of Education John King.  This causes serious consequences in the education system due to limited support from the US federal government and the unfortunate impact of natural hazards, the negative and systematic effects of which have not been adequately addressed.

Education System Overview

The Puerto Rican education system is roughly based on the American model. School attendance is mandatory from ages 6 to 18, and divided into six years of elementary education, three years of junior high school, and three years of high school. Academic calendars and grading scales are very similar to their US equivalents. After numerous failed attempts by the US to convert the Puerto Rican education system to English, Spanish has remained the language in which public schools operate. The high school diploma is known as the “Diploma de Escuela Superior” a literal translation from its mainland English counterpart. 

A key difference between challenges to the Puerto Rican school system and the mainland US system is the percentage of children experiencing poverty. According to the Census, 44% of Puerto Ricans live in poverty. Whereas 17% of children live below the poverty line in the US, this percentage is at 55% in Puerto Rico and even higher in rural areas. In 2017, a quarter of Puerto Rican children did not have access to the internet and half did not have access to a home computer.

Today, those who do have a home computer may have unreliable power due to damages to the electrical grid caused by disasters and mismanagement. High school drop-out rates are much higher on the island, especially from households with lower incomes: according to the U.S. Department of Education, the dropout rate among high school students is one-third, which is more than twice the current percentage in mainland US. In 2015, the secondary education net enrollment rate was 66.6% as opposed to 80.5% in mainland US.

This data was published in 2009-2010, which is the most recent information available due to the limited production of up-to-date statistics by the local government. Moreover, federal counts frequently omit Puerto Rico from their calculations. It is likely that the dropout rate in Puerto Rico has likely increased even further since, as hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the situation. For those students who graduate high school, outcomes are not equal to those on the mainland US.

According to the Youth Development Institute of Puerto Rico, 51% of high school graduates pursue university education, whereas 67% of suburban Americans and 63% of rural and urban Americans attend college. Many Puerto Rican graduates who are able to attend college come from privileged backgrounds which enable them to attend private schools and hire college application consultants.

This is in line with the islands’ rank as the third-highest income-unequal in the world, following South Africa and Zambia. Additionally, it is particularly difficult for Puerto Rican students to pursue a college education in the mainland US. As US and Puerto Rican high school graduation tests are not harmonized, Puerto Rican high school students are required to take a Spanish language test that nearly no US mainland universities consider valid. Initially aimed to create a standardized college admissions test for the Spanish-speaking world and implemented for a trial run in Puerto Rico, this test was never expanded beyond.  Because of this, and underfunding, most public high school guidance counselors in Puerto Rico do not have knowledge of mainland admission requirements and cannot help students in that way.  

In the last year of reported data, “only 694 high school graduates from all of Puerto Rico went to college on the mainland or abroad in 2016. That’s about 2 percent. The island’s population is 3.2 million, according to the Census Bureau.” 

A positive aspect of the Puerto Rican education system is that the University of Puerto Rico is more accessible and affordable than comparable universities in the mainland US where the average tuition at a public institution is $25,707 per year (for students with family residence in the state) or $44,014 per year (for students without family residence in the state). In comparison, students at the University of Puerto Rico pay $4,366 in tuition in-state, and $8,712 out-of-state. However, according to advocacy group Excelencia in Education, less than half of students who enroll in Puerto Rican universities earn degrees after six years, compared to the US mainland where 58 percent of college students graduate. 

Natural hazards in Puerto Rico

Natural hazards have wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico for many years. Despite being aware of this situation, efforts to mitigate the damage have not been effectively implemented and disaster has been the result. Most of the resources allocated for education are used for repairing school infrastructure, but they remain insufficient.

A clear example of this is the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which struck in 2017 and six years later still affects the territory. Maria severely impacted access to education in Puerto Rico and exposed deficiencies in both the state and institutional aspects of the system. There was an inability to respond to emergencies and a lack of efficiency in seeking solutions that would allow the population to continue their education.

At the time, according to a report made by Kavitha Cardoza (2023), the damage caused by Maria led to the closure of many schools due to infrastructure problems, leaving thousands of students with no opportunity to continue their studies and resulting in a high dropout rate. This created a vicious cycle, as student attrition reduced enrollment, which in turn led to the closure of schools that did not have enough students to operate.

In addition to hurricanes and floods, Puerto Rico has also experienced earthquakes. In 2020, a series of earthquakes contributed to the destruction of the already precarious school infrastructure. Just as the system was trying to recover from the ravages of Maria, it had to face the closure of schools for three months while engineers verified the safety of those still in operation. The most recent natural catastrophe in Puerto Rico was recorded in September 2022 when Hurricane Fiona struck the island, causing damage to infrastructure and the temporary closure of the few schools that were still functioning.

An aerial view of the damage left behind after Hurricane Maria is seen from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, Black Hawk helicopter as AMO agents respond to the humanitarian needs of the people of Puerto Rico October 2, 2017. Photo by Mani Albrecht via Flickr

Bureaucracy and abandonment

Despite its status as an incorporated territory in the United States, discussions about Puerto Rico’s true status and the ongoing debate about its future, whether to be considered a state or attain independence, have not ceased. The only certainty thus far is that Puerto Rican residents are not considered equal to citizens of the U.S. mainland.

The Puerto Rican educational system faces challenges ranging from insufficient investment to talent migration and disparities in educational opportunities. In theory, Puerto Rico has autonomy in managing its resources. However, for many important decisions, authorities find themselves dependent on aid from the federal government.  Due to the implementation of PROMESA, an act passed by the Obama administration in 2016, an unelected Financial Management and Oversight Board makes all decisions about how funding is used in Puerto Rico.  “The FMOB has proposed an array of measures to “shock the system” into growth”.

These measures include but are not limited: to wage controls, reduction in government services, closing public schools, cuts to the University of Puerto Rico, over 100 percent increases in university tuition and other fees, laying off thousands of public employees, furloughing public employees of two days per month, and cuts of 10 percent from pensions of retired workers. Puerto Rico heavily relies on federal funds to maintain and improve the quality of education, and this insufficient investment has led to a lack of resources and deteriorated infrastructure in many schools. For the start of the 2023-2024 school year, it is estimated that 588 out of the 856 functioning schools opened with infrastructure damage, meaning that 69% of schools are still not in optimal conditions to receive students.

The migration of students and educational professionals to the U.S. mainland has been an additional challenge. The pursuit of better economic opportunities on the mainland has resulted in a decrease in school enrollment in Puerto Rico and a loss of talent in the classrooms. This trend negatively impacts schools and, ultimately, the quality of education provided on the island. This is compounded by poor working conditions for educational staff as well as a lack of investment in the professionalization and training of teachers.

The lack of equal educational opportunities is another critical issue. The fact that Puerto Ricans do not have access to the same resources and educational programs as other United States citizens has led to significant disparities in access to quality education, perpetuating inequality. This is evident in the exclusion of standardized test results in Puerto Rico from national compilation. The implementation of federally imposed educational standards and standardized assessments does not always consider the peculiarities of Puerto Rico’s educational system. This can lead to unfair assessments and the imposition of inappropriate measures that do not adapt to the island’s reality. Special education and support for students with disabilities have also faced challenges, such as the lack of resources and trained personnel to provide the necessary support.

Reparation of a fence at the Escuela República del Perú in Puerto Rico, on November 8, 2018. Photo by Ruben Diaz Jr. Via Flickr

The efforts to restore the Education System

The uncertainty surrounding the political status of Puerto Rico has influenced the stability and educational policies and created additional challenges in long-term planning and decision-making. However, in May of this year, the federal administration initiated a program to decentralize the Puerto Rican educational system, which should be viewed as the beginning of sustainable efforts to ensure a dignified education in Puerto Rico. This is in response to the imminent educational crisis affecting Puerto Rico, which must be addressed regardless of the territory’s political future.

The Biden-Harris Administration has played a significant role in supporting Puerto Rico’s education, providing substantial funding through the American Rescue Plan Act and other programs. As stated by the U.S. Department of Education, public school teachers received a 30% salary increase, school repairs were expedited, and technical assistance was provided to improve the management of federal programs and funds. This move towards decentralization is seen as a historic commitment by the government of Puerto Rico to create a 21st-century educational system that better prepares students for the future. So far, $4.9 billion has been allocated to Puerto Rico since taking office. This includes $3 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act and $1.2 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act -CRRSA- 2021.

The Future

As challenges in infrastructure, inequality, and quality persist, the future of this education system and its ability to create better opportunities and outcomes for its students is largely dependent on the future stance of the US towards Puerto Rico. The Biden administration has made promises of a better, more equitable relationship between Puerto Rico and the mainland U.S., but it remains to be seen whether those are implemented in practice. According to Chris de Soto, a Senior Advisor of the Office of the US Secretary of Education,

“Following two natural disasters and a global pandemic, it is critical that trust is rebuilt with students and families across the island. The public should be aware of how federal funds are contributing to the educational recovery of their schools and actually see the benefits in classrooms across the island.  While progress has been made, we know there is more work to do.” 

In recent years, US funding to the Puerto Rican education system has increased. In 2022, Puerto Rico’s education system received federal aid funds amounting to $2.62 billion which is five times higher than education funding allocated to Utah, a state with a similar population size, highlighting the US government’s understanding that the Puerto Rican education system is in a more dire situation than the mainland U.S. The key focus remains the prioritization of educational investment in mitigation and contingency plans to strengthen the resilience of the population against the imminent risk of being struck again by natural disasters. Indeed, Puerto Rico’s education system has endured challenges, the reason why the commitment of authorities to a brighter future for the next generations has to remain unwavering.


Educational Challenges in Benin

Written by Faith Galgalo

The country profile

Inauguration monument Dévoués. Photo by Presidency of the Republic of Benin on Flickr.

Located in West Africa, and on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, The Republic of Benin (French: République du Bénin), gained independence in 1960, from the French rule. Benin, is part of the 15 member states that make up Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a Regional Bloc aimed at promoting economic corporation among member states, to raise living standards and promote economic development.

Education System in Benin

Benin education system follows the French education model, which is Six years in primary, four years in Junior High, three years in Senior High and three years in University, which constitutes to the 6-4-3-3 system (UNESCO, 2023). Education in Benin has been free for 17 years. The provision of the constitution under Rights and Duties of the Individual, Article 13, states that primary education shall be obligatory and the government shall progressively offer free education to its schools (Constitution of Benin (COB), 1990).

Problems in Benin Education

Benin strategy to increasing student enrollment by introducing free education at the Primary level, increased the enrollment rate, from a net enrollment rate of 82% in 2005 before free primary education, to 97% in 2018, 12 years after free primary education was introduced (Data World Bank, 2018).

The rapid increase of students at the foundation level of education due to free education, has however, not translated, in the progressive levels of education, of Secondary and University. According to World Bank Data, 54% of Beninese children enrolled in the 1st grade of Primary school eventually reaches the last grade of Primary education. The low number of students progressing to Secondary and University schools has significantly been attributed to child labor, early marriages, early pregnancy and poverty.

The low literacy levels, which currently stands at 46% and is much lower than the rates in the neighboring countries of Nigeria (62%) and Togo (67%) (World Bank, 2021). In 2018, Benin was among the 10 least literate countries in the world (42.36). The high dropout rate to other levels of education, have led to a reduction of national income and overall GDP in the country, as jobs for less qualified people lead to low-income jobs in the future, creating a lower access to innovation and a lower GDP. As individuals with low levels of literacy are more likely to experience poorer employment opportunities, outcomes and lower income as they face welfare dependency and high levels of poverty as a country (World Literacy Foundation, 2018).

Gender Gaps

Teacher Léandre Benon and student Mariam at the blackboard. Photo by GPE/Chantal Rigaud in Flickr.

The high dropout rates are particularly evident to Benin gender gaps, which have seen more girls drop out than boys. In Benin, gaps between women and men stem from structural social disparities that start earlier in life. According to World Bank, (Nathalie, 2022) the male literacy rate between 15-24 years is about 55 percent while the female literacy rate in the same age group is about 30 percent. Only one in ten girls aged 21-24 have completed secondary school. Moreover, one third of 20–24-year-olds are married by the age of 18, and 15 percent are already mothers at the age of 15-19 (Nathalie, 2022).

In addition, the average number of years of schooling in Benin is 3.8 years which is lower than its ECOWAS member countries of 4.2 years in 2019 (UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, 2022).

Since 2015, Benin has not yet closed the gap. Also, the drop in lower secondary completion rate from 45% in 2015 to 33% and 2020 (UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, 2022) echoes the need to focus on the pursuit of education and ensure 100% transition from one level of education to the next, in both genders.

These gender gaps have translated to the larger community whereby the gender parity index which measures the steps a country has made towards gender parity in participation and/or educational opportunities for females is low at 0.79% (World Bank, 2022). Young girls in Benin are at risk of not completing education as a result of societal norms automatically decreasing women participation of women in Benin’s formal sector. The Government has increased its efforts in ensuring Girls education is addressed with Benin agreeing to introduce the AU Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa which is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa (Forwerk, 2017).

Child labor

Children in Benin engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in the production of cotton and crushed granite. Children also perform dangerous tasks in domestic work and street vending. According to International Labor Organization (ILO, 2021), 20% of children under the age of 14yrs, experience child labor.

Children are trafficked mostly within Benin but also to neighboring countries such as Gabon, Nigeria, and the Republic of the Congo, for domestic work and commercial sexual exploitation, and to work in vending, farming, and stone quarrying (ILO, 2021). Children living in the northern regions of Benin are the most vulnerable to trafficking owing to being a rural area. According to the International Labor Organization, a practice locally known as vidomégon (Child placement), where children most girls, are sent to live with other families for domestic work in exchange for educational opportunities, which in most cases, lead to many children becoming victims of labor exploitation and sexual abuse.

In 2013, the Government implemented a nationwide anti-child labor awareness campaign and signed a bi-partite agreement with a Beninese worker association to reduce child labor through increased collaboration (Refworld, 2021). That year, the Government officials handled 62 child trafficking cases and 11 exploitive child labor cases, referred 23 suspects to the court system on child labor and trafficking charges, and provided shelter to 173 victims of trafficking (ILO, 2021). In another effort to end child labor, Benin’s government through its Social Affairs docket, removed 400 children from child labor as a result of Social Services inspection (ILO, 2021).

Lack of official documentation

A 12th grade math class at Collège d’enseignement général of Sô-Ava. Photo by GPE/Chantal Rigaud in Flickr.

The Beninese Government offers free registration to a new born before 10 days, after which, the parent/ guardian incurs a fee of $30 (ILO, 2021). Cultural practices such as naming a baby, takes 10 days after birth, which therefore gives the parents little time to register and obtain a birth certificate. While in other households, 2 in 10 children in Benin, are born at home, giving children little or no hopes in acquiring official documentation (ILO, 2021).

Lack of official documentation in any country, presents a challenge in accessing basic rights such as access to health and education. In Benin, 4 out of 10 children are not registered at birth and do not receive a birth certificate. As a consequence, they are often denied the right to an education and lack access to other essential services, hence leading to an increase in the informal sector and an increase in child labor.

Since January 2012, UNICEF has been involved in the distribution of more than 140,000 birth certificates that were pulled up in civil status registration centers. Through this initiative, children have access to the services they are entitled to such as health and education. According to UNHCR, a National forum on civil registration is aiming to address the hadles that prevent universal access to birth registration in Benin (UNICEF,2012).


Benin is a country with a growing economy, whose efforts such as free primary education, increase of teachers and facilities, have showed a slight increase, there is still the need for the Government to increase its efforts in ensuring 100% transition in all levels of education in both genders, this will increase the literacy rate, and eventually the economic situation to improve the lives of Beninese people.

A few recommendations would be to increase Government spending on the education sector, especially following the Government 5 years plan through its Program Action that began from 2021-2026, which sorts to increase development in various Governments sectors such as; Education challenges, Development challenges, Economic challenges. Also, Government needs to up its efforts in ensuring no child is left behind as a result of lack of identification, child labor and early marriages. The Government and its Education stakeholders need to encourage the communities especially in the rural areas that Education is an asset, and through it, an entire community benefits from new ideas, leaders and increased standards of living. Through this, the literacy rate of Benin, will increase adding to Benin workforce, that mostly depends on Agriculture, can eventually expand to other sectors such as Technology and Professional and business services hence increase Benin’s GDP.


Educational challenges in Papua New Guinea

Written by Fenna Eelkema


Flag of Papua New Guinea. Kumul Flying high on the 16th of September 2022 across the Southern Cross. Photo by Spencer Wungin on Unsplash

Papua New Guinea is a beautiful country consisting of 600 islands and a population of 10 million. There are more than 800 different languages used in Papua New Guinea, making it one of the world’s most linguistically diverse nations. After being colonised by various countries for 250 years, Papua New Guinea finally gained independence in 1975. Since gaining this independence, Papua New Guinea has been on a quest to provide accessible and quality education for its children. Despite these efforts, Papua New Guinea still faces educational challenges, such as a low literacy rate, a high drop-out rate, and a teacher shortage. Additionally, school is not accessible to all children due to financial, health, or geographical reasons.

Education in Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, the journey towards providing accessible and quality education has undergone several transformations over the past fifty years. In 1973, a significant milestone was achieved with the establishment of the first national unified education system. This system adopted the structure of 6+4+2, wherein students completed six years in primary school, four years in high school, and lastly, two years in either a national high school or directly entering colleges. Despite its intentions, this rigid system limited students’ autonomy over their learning, and the education sector still fell short of achieving wanted goals.

In the 1990s, Papua New Guinea established a new educational system in response to the need for change. The structure was changed to 3+6+4, with three years in elementary school, six years in primary school, and four years in secondary school. This shift aimed to implement an outcomes-based curriculum designed to align education with desired learning objectives. However, challenges persisted, and this education system struggled to meet wanted goals.

Therefore in 2021, there was another transformation; the new 1+6+6 structure was introduced, outlining a curriculum that begins with one year of Early Child Education and Development, followed by six years of primary education and an additional six years of secondary education. A distinctive feature of this structure is adopting a standards-based curriculum, outlining precise learning benchmarks for students and providing educators with clear guidelines for teaching and assessment strategies. Hopefully, this new structure will help improve Papua New Guinea’s education for all children.

Low literacy rate

The low literacy rate in Papua New Guinea has been a concern for a long time; while there has been some improvement over the last two decades, still more than three million people are illiterate. In 2000, the literacy rate was 57 per cent; in 2010, it was 61%; and in 2015, it was 63 per cent. The combination of linguistic diversity and insufficient resources has contributed to this long-standing problem.

The high dropout rates are another reason for the low literacy rate. Around a quarter of children aged 6 to 18 are out of school, and the rate of primary school students transitioning into lower secondary school is only 56%. Economic pressure/poverty, family responsibility, or inaccessible schools are some factors that lead students to drop out.

To hopefully lower the drop-out rate, some high schools have started using the FODE (Flexible Open Distance Education) concept, which allows students to pursue their education beyond the confines of the conventional classroom setting with flexibility; students are allowed to study at their own pace within their communities, liberating them from the limitations of urban centres. This program has seen promising results, with over 80,000 students returning to education.

Remember: there is always something to smile about in the world. Photo by Vika Jordanov on Unsplash

Quality education in remote areas

Papua New Guinea’s unique geography and many remote areas make providing quality education to these hard-to-reach regions hard. The key to quality education is quality teachers. Unfortunately, there is a teacher shortage in all of Papua New Guinea; this shortage is so dire that it has even led to instances where children were left without a school to attend. In 2016, approximately 10,000 teaching positions were vacant, with the majority of these vacancies being in remote areas. Drawing teachers to these remote areas has proven to be a considerable struggle. While initiatives like ‘remote school allowances’ and scholarships have been established to encourage teachers to work in these remote regions, poor motivation and reluctance to work in these areas have contributed to persistent teacher shortages. There are also reports of teachers who were entitled to these allowances but did not receive them; this discouraged some teachers from doing their best work.

Many teachers have also not been receiving in-service training. This is due to a lack of funding. The government has been relying on donors to finance, but the budget is inadequate. Furthermore, there are no structures or regular training posts to support teachers in schools. Now that the educational system is transforming into the 1+6+6 standards-based curriculum, it is imperative that teachers receive the proper training to implement the curriculum accordingly.

Financial problems are another reason why there are issues in remote areas. Families in poor, remote areas often cannot afford school fees, which can amount to more than half of their earnings. While some school fees were abolished by the national government in 1993, schools continue to charge some fees, leading to a financial barrier that hinders equitable access to education. Additionally, sizeable towns in urban areas usually have local secondary schools, whereas students in remote areas often rely on provincial boarding schools; sending your child to a boarding school typically costs more money, which puts the families at an even more significant setback.

Poverty and Health Care

Many children in Papua New Guinea are dealing with health-related challenges. Some of these health challenges stem from poverty, disproportionately affecting remote and rural areas where 85 per cent of the population lives.

One of the health challenges is that the immunisation coverage in Papua New Guinea has been stuck around 60 per cent for nearly ten years. This places children at unnecessary risk of preventable diseases that could be controlled through vaccinations. Additionally, for many individuals, it is hard to access clean sanitation and safe drinking water; this makes it hard always to practice good hygiene leading to contagious diseases easily spread among children.

Malnutrition is another health issue in Papua New Guinea, the underlying cause of almost half of all under-five deaths. Nearly half of all the children aged 6 to 59 months (5 years) suffer from stunted growth, indicating chronic undernutrition during critical developmental periods. Stunting not only endangers a child’s chance of survival but is also harmful to a child’s general health and cognitive growth, which could lead to long-lasting negative consequences.

Another issue is that, for many people, healthcare facilities are not easily accessible. The ratio of doctors to people is one doctor for every 17,068 people, compared to, for instance, Australia, where the ratio is one doctor for every 302 people. Additionally, 90% of the doctors are based in urban areas, whereas 85% of the population lives in rural areas, leaving these rural areas with even fewer doctors. Children often reside hours away from the nearest health clinic, facing difficult journeys on foot, by boat, or by unreliable local transportation. This lack of accessibility worsens children’s difficulties obtaining crucial medical care and other treatments.

Because of its geographical location, Papua New Guinea is frequently subjected to natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides, tsunamis, and cyclones. These events threaten people’s health, disrupt healthcare services, and increase existing vulnerabilities.

To address these health challenges, Papua New Guinea must focus on improving general health care, raising immunisation coverage, promoting better nutrition, improving healthcare accessibility, and strengthening disaster preparedness. By doing so, Papua New Guinea can make significant steps toward ensuring a healthier and more promising future for its children.


To conclude, Papua New Guinea’s educational landscape is marked by progress and persistent challenges. The educational system has undergone many changes, from a rigid structure to an outcomes-based approach. The recent adoption of the 1+6+6 structure shows promise for a more successful curriculum. Still, challenges in teacher training remain, which may impact the outcome of this new curriculum.

Low literacy rates and high dropout rates continue to hinder progress. Initiatives like Flexible Open Distance Education (FODE) have shown potential in addressing dropout rates, but more needs to be done to ensure every child has an opportunity to learn.

The shortage of qualified teachers, particularly in remote areas, presents a significant obstacle because quality education can only happen with quality teachers. Efforts to attract teachers to these regions have been somewhat effective but not wholly successful.

Financial barriers, health issues, and insufficient access to healthcare have added to the challenge. Addressing these challenges is crucial for ensuring a healthier and more successful learning environment for children.

Papua New Guinea has made significant progress in providing accessible and quality education. Although there is still a long road ahead, the nation can create s brighter future for its children by putting in the effort and working with various organisations.