Missing Childhoods: Child Kidnapping in Nigeria

Written by Iasmina-Măriuca Stoian

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

Historical background

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

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

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

Understanding the issue

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

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

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

Root causes

Poverty & unemployment

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

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

Religious & political factors

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

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

Methods and tactics of kidnappers

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

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

Impact on families and society

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

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

Future challenges & solutions

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

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

Conclusions

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

References


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

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

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

 

The Enduring Legacy of Jacques Delors: Transformative Visions for Education and Society

Written by Laraib Ahmed

Jacques Delors is a prominent French economist and politician who notably served as the President of the European Commission from 1985 to 1995. He played a significant role in shaping the European Union (EU) during a crucial period of its development. Delors is widely recognized for his efforts in advancing European integration and was instrumental in implementing the Single European Act, which aimed to create a single market within the European Economic Community (EEC), that now developed into being the EU. He also pushed for the creation of the euro currency, which became a reality after his tenure. Delors is considered a key figure in modern European politics due to his contributions to the EU’s growth and development.1

The Delors Report, “Learning: the Treasure Within,” commissioned by UNESCO in 1996 and chaired by Jacques Delors, delineated four pivotal pillars of education essential for personal and societal growth.

Firstly, “Learning to Know” transcends the mere accumulation of facts and figures. It champions the cultivation of critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and a comprehensive understanding of various subjects. This pillar advocates for an educational approach that not only imparts knowledge but also encourages lifelong curiosity and adaptability in an ever-evolving landscape.

Secondly, “Learning to Do” underscores the significance of practical application alongside theoretical learning. It acknowledges the importance of vocational training, hands-on experience, and the development of technical competencies tailored to specific professions or tasks. This pillar aims to equip individuals with the practical skills necessary to excel in their chosen fields and adapt to evolving professional demands.

The third pillar, “Learning to Be,” prioritises holistic development. It places emphasis not solely on academic achievement but also on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, values education, and personal growth. Its goal is to nurture well-rounded individuals capable of making sound decisions, understanding themselves and others, and positively contributing to society.

Lastly, “Learning to Live Together” accentuates the fostering of social cohesion, intercultural understanding, and global citizenship. It advocates for an educational framework that fosters respect for diversity, tolerance, empathy, and peaceful coexistence among individuals from various backgrounds. This pillar aims to prepare individuals to thrive in a diverse, interconnected world by cultivating a sense of shared humanity and collective responsibility.

Collectively, these pillars advocate for an inclusive and comprehensive educational system. They stress the development of critical skills, personal growth, social harmony, and a global mindset to enable individuals to navigate the complexities of the modern world and actively contribute to the betterment of their communities and societies. 2

The Delors Report’s enduring significance stems from its enduring principles that address the evolving needs of education and society. By advocating for a comprehensive educational approach, the report remains vital today, recognizing the necessity of equipping individuals not only with academic knowledge but also practical skills, emotional intelligence, and a sense of social responsibility. Its call for adaptability in education, relevant in our rapidly changing world, emphasises the importance of versatile, adaptable skills amid technological advancements and shifts in the job market.3

Photo by Jorgen Hendriksen on Unsplash

Moreover, the report’s emphasis on fostering global citizenship, intercultural understanding, and social cohesion resonates strongly in our increasingly interconnected world. It stresses the preparation of individuals to thrive in diverse settings, advocating for inclusive societies amidst globalizations. The concept of lifelong learning, a central tenet of the report, holds particular relevance today, acknowledging the necessity of continuous learning and upskilling in the face of emerging technologies and evolving paradigms. The report’s focus on personal development, emotional intelligence, and values aligns seamlessly with ongoing discussions about well-being, mental health, and the holistic nurturing of individuals. Its principles continue to guide educational discussions and reforms, shaping education to meet the challenges and opportunities of the contemporary world by emphasizing adaptable skills, global awareness, and holistic development.4


Featured image: Photo de Christian Lue sur Unsplash

References:

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2024, January 6). Jacques Delors. Encyclopedia

Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jacques-Delors

Gaillard, B. (2024, January 5). Décès de Jacques Delors, digne héritier des pères de l’Europe. Touteleurope.eu. https://www.touteleurope.eu/histoire/jacques-delors-digne-heritier-des-peres-de-l-europe/

Institut Jacques Delors. (2020, August 19). 25 years after the Delors Report: what lessons for economic and monetary union? – Institut Jacques Delors. https://institutdelors.eu/en/publications/25-years-after-the-delors-report-what-lessons-for-economic-and-monetary-union/

1 Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2024, January 6)

2 Gaillard, B. (2024, January 5). Décès de Jacques Delors, digne héritier des pères de l’Europe.

3 Institut Jacques Delors. (2020, August 19). 25 years after the Delors Report: what lessons for economic and monetary union? – Institut Jacques Delors.

4 Institut Jacques Delors. (2020, August 19). 25 years after the Delors Report: what lessons for economic and monetary union? – Institut Jacques Delors.

Education Monitor: Around The Globe between the 1st and 30th of November, 2023

Broken Chalk proudly presents a new edition of “Education Monitor: Around the Globe” between the 1st and 30th of November, 2023. Broken Chalk aims with this letter to increase public awareness of  Educational problems, challenges, and violations in the scope of the world. This newsletter is unique. This is a weekly newsletter in which we attempt to monitor and convey educational news from around the world in a concise manner. This monitor will be published biweekly with the effort of our young and enthusiastic team.

You can contribute to our work if you like. If you witness any violations in the scope of education, you can write the comment part of this post. Broken Chalk will try to address the issue in its next monitor edition.

Broken_Chalk_November_Edition1

To Download it as PDF: Follow this link.

Broken Chalk Platform, in March 2019, was founded by a group of educators abroad who experienced and have been experiencing severe human rights violations in Turkey and had to ask for asylum currently in several countries.

These education volunteers also suffered greatly and started their new lives in their new countries without human rights violations. They gained respect just because they were considered human beings in those countries. However, they left one part of their minds and hearts in their homeland. They assigned themselves a new duty, and the human rights violations they left behind had to be announced to the World. A group of education volunteers who came together for this purpose started their activities under the Broken Chalk platform’s umbrella. However, the Broken Chalk platform was not enough to serve their aims. Therefore, they completed their official establishment as a Human Rights Foundation in October 2020.

Broken Chalk is now much more than a platform, and we have reviewed and enlarged our vision and mission within this framework. Violations of rights would be the first in our agenda in the field of Education all over the World. At the point we reached today, Broken Chalk opened its door to all individuals from all across the globe, from all professions, and to all individuals who say or can say ‘I also want to stand against violations of human rights in Education for our future and whole humanity, where our generations grow up together.’

Education is essential because it can help us eliminate the evils from society, introduce, and increase the good. We want to draw the public’s and stakeholders’ attention to the fact that Education is in danger in several different parts of the World. The attacks are wide-reaching, from the bombing of schools to the murder of students and teachers. Raping and sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, and forced recruitment also occurred, instigated by armed groups. Attacks on Education harm the students and teachers but also affect the communities in the short and long term.

We invite all individuals who want to stop human rights violations in Education to become Volunteers at Broken Chalk.

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. 

Signed, 

Broken Chalk 

From Slums to Success: The Remarkable Story of Kianda Foundation and Its Impact on Kenya’s Most Vulnerable Communities

Written by Frida Brekk

Kianda Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to empower underprivileged communities in Kenya through education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship. Founded in 2001 by a group of young professionals, the Kianda Foundation has since impacted thousands of Kenyans’ lives. The foundation’s focus on education is evident in its various programs aimed at providing quality education to children in low-income areas. The Early Childhood Development (ECD) program targets children between the ages of 3 and 6 years and provides them with a solid foundation in literacy, numeracy, and social skills. The primary education program focuses on providing quality education to children in grades 1 to 8, while the secondary school program provides scholarships to deserving students to enable them to complete their high school education.

Kianda Foundation’s healthcare program provides basic medical care to children in low-income areas, focusing on preventive care. The program also provides health education to children and their parents to promote healthy living practices. Additionally, the foundation runs a nutrition program that provides meals to school children, ensuring they have access to healthy and nutritious food. The Foundation’s entrepreneurship program aims to empower women and youth through skills training and access to capital. The program provides training in various skills, such as tailoring, hairdressing, and catering, among others. Participants are also provided with capital to start their businesses, enabling them to become self-sufficient and contribute to their communities’ economic development.

Photo by Kevin Menya on Unsplash

One of the notable achievements is the establishment of Kianda School, a top-tier primary school located in the affluent suburb of Muthaiga, Nairobi. The school provides a world-class education to children from diverse backgrounds, with a focus on academic excellence, character formation, and social responsibility. The school’s alumni have excelled in various fields, including medicine, law, and entrepreneurship. The Kianda Foundation founded Kianda School as a flagship school that provides a world-class education to children from diverse backgrounds. One of the school’s notable achievements is its focus on character formation, social responsibility, and academic excellence. The school’s curriculum includes classes on social justice, environmental conservation, and community service, instilling values of empathy and leadership in students. Kianda School’s alumni have excelled in various fields, including medicine, law, and entrepreneurship, and many have become leaders in their communities and beyond.

Kianda Foundation’s impact is evident in the thousands of lives it has touched over the years. Its commitment to empowering communities through education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship has made a significant difference in the lives of underprivileged Kenyans. The foundation’s programs have improved the quality of life for individuals and contributed to the development of communities and the country as a whole. Kianda Foundation is undoubtedly a testament to the power of individuals coming together to make a difference. Its commitment to empowering underprivileged communities through education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship is an inspiration to many.

Grace was a young girl living in the slums of Nairobi when she was enrolled in the Kianda Foundation’s Early Childhood Development program. Before joining the program, Grace had never held a pencil or attended school. However, Grace quickly learned how to read and write through the program’s quality education and nurturing environment. She also developed social skills and gained confidence in herself. After completing the ECD program, Grace was enrolled in Kianda Primary School, where she excelled academically. She received a scholarship from the Kianda Foundation to complete her high school education. Today, Grace is a successful businesswoman and a role model to many young girls in her community.

Mary was a single mother living in a low-income area of Nairobi. She had always dreamed of starting her own business but needed more skills and capital to do so. Through Kianda Foundation’s entrepreneurship program, Mary received training in tailoring and was provided with a microfinance loan to start her own tailoring business. With hard work and determination, Mary’s business grew, and she was able to support her family and employ other women in her community. Mary is now a successful entrepreneur and a mentor to other women in her community who aspire to start their businesses.

Another remarkable accomplishment through the Kianda Foundation is the story of Rosemary Njeri. Rosemary grew up in the slums of Nairobi and had limited access to education and economic opportunities. However, her life changed when she was enrolled in Kianda Foundation’s primary school. Rosemary excelled academically and was awarded a scholarship by the Kianda Foundation to attend a prestigious high school in Kenya. She continued to excel in her studies and was awarded a scholarship to attend the United States International University-Africa (USIU-A) in Nairobi. At USIU-A, Rosemary pursued a degree in international business administration and was actively involved in various extracurricular activities. After completing her degree, Rosemary worked for several years in the private sector in Kenya before returning to Kianda Foundation as a program officer. In this role, she oversaw the foundation’s entrepreneurship program, which provides training and microfinance loans to women and youth in low-income areas. Under Rosemary’s leadership, the entrepreneurship program expanded and reached more people in need. Many of the program’s beneficiaries went on to start successful businesses, creating jobs and contributing to their communities’ development. In recognition of her outstanding work, Rosemary was selected to participate in the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship, a flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that brings together young African leaders for leadership training and networking opportunities in the United States. Today, Rosemary is a successful social entrepreneur and a role model to many young women in Kenya. She is the founder of La Fédération Des Femmes Entrepreneurs Du Cameroun, a social enterprise that empowers women entrepreneurs in Cameroon. Rosemary’s success is a testament to the transformative power of education and the impact that grassroots organizations like the Kianda Foundation can have on people’s lives.

These stories are just a few examples of the many lives impacted by the Kianda Foundation. The foundation’s commitment to sustainably empower individuals and communities through education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship has made a significant difference in the lives of underprivileged Kenyans. The foundation’s impact is a reminder that with dedication, hard work, and a sense of purpose, we can all make a difference in the world.

Kianda Foundation’s programs and impact:

  • Since its inception in 2001, the Kianda Foundation has impacted over 25,000 children and young people in Kenya.
  • The foundation’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) program has provided quality education to over 10,000 children in low-income areas.
  • The primary education program has supported over 1,500 students in their primary school education.
  • The secondary school program has awarded over 500 scholarships to deserving students, enabling them to complete their high school education.
  • The healthcare program has provided medical care to over 8,000 children in low-income areas and has reached over 20,000 children through health education programs.
  • The nutrition program has provided over 250,000 meals to children in schools.
  • The entrepreneurship program has trained over 1,000 women and youth in various skills and has provided over 500 microfinance loans to entrepreneurs.
  • Kianda School, the foundation’s flagship primary school, has over 700 students from diverse backgrounds and consistently ranks among the top schools in Kenya in national exams.
  • Kianda Foundation’s programs have received support from various donors and partners, including USAID, Rotary International, and the Kenyan government.

The foundation’s impact goes beyond just the numbers. Kianda Foundation has empowered communities through its various programs by providing access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. The foundation’s focus on empowering women and youth is particularly noteworthy, as it has enabled individuals who would otherwise not have had access to such opportunities to become self-sufficient and contribute to their communities development. Kianda Foundation’s impact on the lives of individuals and communities is a testament to the power of grassroots organizations to effect change and make a lasting impact.


References:

Education Monitor: Around The Globe between the 15th and 29th of February, 2024

Broken Chalk proudly presents a new edition of “Education Monitor: Around the Globe” between the 15th and 29th of February, 2024. Broken Chalk aims with this letter to increase public awareness of  Educational problems, challenges, and violations in the scope of the world. This newsletter is unique. This is a weekly newsletter in which we attempt to monitor and convey educational news from around the world in a concise manner. This monitor will be published biweekly with the effort of our young and enthusiastic team.

You can contribute to our work if you like. If you witness any violations in the scope of education, you can write the comment part of this post. Broken Chalk will try to address the issue in its next monitor edition.

To Download it as PDF: follow this link.

Broken Chalk Platform, in March 2019, was founded by a group of educators abroad who experienced and have been experiencing severe human rights violations in Turkey and had to ask for asylum currently in several countries.

These education volunteers also suffered greatly and started their new lives in their new countries without human rights violations. They gained respect just because they were considered human beings in those countries. However, they left one part of their minds and hearts in their homeland. They assigned themselves a new duty, and the human rights violations they left behind had to be announced to the World. A group of education volunteers who came together for this purpose started their activities under the Broken Chalk platform’s umbrella. However, the Broken Chalk platform was not enough to serve their aims. Therefore, they completed their official establishment as a Human Rights Foundation in October 2020.

Broken Chalk is now much more than a platform, and we have reviewed and enlarged our vision and mission within this framework. Violations of rights would be the first in our agenda in the field of Education all over the World. At the point we reached today, Broken Chalk opened its door to all individuals from all across the globe, from all professions, and to all individuals who say or can say ‘I also want to stand against violations of human rights in Education for our future and whole humanity, where our generations grow up together.’

Education is essential because it can help us eliminate the evils from society, introduce, and increase the good. We want to draw the public’s and stakeholders’ attention to the fact that Education is in danger in several different parts of the World. The attacks are wide-reaching, from the bombing of schools to the murder of students and teachers. Raping and sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, and forced recruitment also occurred, instigated by armed groups. Attacks on Education harm the students and teachers but also affect the communities in the short and long term.

We invite all individuals who want to stop human rights violations in Education to become Volunteers at Broken Chalk.

Education Monitor: Around The Globe between the 1st and 31st of October, 2023

Broken Chalk proudly presents a new edition of “Education Monitor: Around the Globe” between the 1st and 31st of October, 2023. Broken Chalk aims with this letter to increase public awareness of  Educational problems, challenges, and violations in the scope of the world. This newsletter is unique. This is a weekly newsletter in which we attempt to monitor and convey educational news from around the world in a concise manner. This monitor will be published biweekly with the effort of our young and enthusiastic team.

You can contribute to our work if you like. If you witness any violations in the scope of education, you can write the comment part of this post. Broken Chalk will try to address the issue in its next monitor edition.

Education-Monitor_Oct-1-31

To Download it as PDF: Follow this link.

Broken Chalk Platform, in March 2019, was founded by a group of educators abroad who experienced and have been experiencing severe human rights violations in Turkey and had to ask for asylum currently in several countries.

These education volunteers also suffered greatly and started their new lives in their new countries without human rights violations. They gained respect just because they were considered human beings in those countries. However, they left one part of their minds and hearts in their homeland. They assigned themselves a new duty, and the human rights violations they left behind had to be announced to the World. A group of education volunteers who came together for this purpose started their activities under the Broken Chalk platform’s umbrella. However, the Broken Chalk platform was not enough to serve their aims. Therefore, they completed their official establishment as a Human Rights Foundation in October 2020.

Broken Chalk is now much more than a platform, and we have reviewed and enlarged our vision and mission within this framework. Violations of rights would be the first in our agenda in the field of Education all over the World. At the point we reached today, Broken Chalk opened its door to all individuals from all across the globe, from all professions, and to all individuals who say or can say ‘I also want to stand against violations of human rights in Education for our future and whole humanity, where our generations grow up together.’

Education is essential because it can help us eliminate the evils from society, introduce, and increase the good. We want to draw the public’s and stakeholders’ attention to the fact that Education is in danger in several different parts of the World. The attacks are wide-reaching, from the bombing of schools to the murder of students and teachers. Raping and sexual violence, arbitrary arrests, and forced recruitment also occurred, instigated by armed groups. Attacks on Education harm the students and teachers but also affect the communities in the short and long term.

We invite all individuals who want to stop human rights violations in Education to become Volunteers at Broken Chalk.

Press Release: International Day for Education

Children in classroom with food

On the 24th of January, the world celebrates the importance of education for peace and development with the International Day of Education. In light of this celebration, Broken Chalk reiterates the importance of education as a human right, and reaffirms its mission to address human rights violations in the educational field today. 

UNESCO has declared the theme for this year ”Learning for Lasting Peace” and is dedicating this year’s International Day of Education to the crucial role education and teachers play in countering hate speech. Education is a powerful tool that has the potential to influence future societies. If inclusive and of quality, it promotes understanding, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence among individuals and communities.

Today, a staggering 250 million children and youth find themselves out of school, while 763 million adults grapple with illiteracy. Access to education is highly unequal, meaning not every child has the same opportunity for development. Broken Chalk deems this situation unacceptable, recognizing that the right to education is being violated on a massive scale.

Broken Chalk reiterates its commitment towards Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG4), in ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education. Considering the theme of International Day of Education 2024, “Learning for Lasting Peace”, Broken Chalk recognises that the worryingly high number of international conflicts in the last year has detrimentally affected the ability of people to access equitable and quality education. Broken Chalk calls for all stakeholders to do their utmost to focus on peaceful resolutions and policies in order to allow for greater educational accessibility and peace for students around the world.

On this International Day of Education, it is essential to recognise the importance of teachers for their role in the journey towards inclusive and equitable education. Regrettably, there is a growing shortage of teachers across the world, significantly impacting educational access and quality. Broken Chalk commits to continuing its practice of publishing “Educational Challenges” articles. Broken Chalk hopes that these articles will bring to light the difficulties teachers and other stakeholders face in their respective countries. By ensuring that the narrative around education development is broadened to include the perspectives and challenges of teachers, Broken Chalk believes that there will be more significant progress towards achieving universal education accessibility, quality and equity.

In addition to its ongoing efforts, Broken Chalk will publish several articles in celebration of the International Day of Education. Broken Chalk will continue to raise awareness, encourage dialogue, address human rights violations in education, and drive action to achieve quality education for all. 

Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.

Signed,

Broken Chalk

Challenges in Guinea’s Education System

Written by Merve Tiregul

Guinea, officially the Republic of Guinea, is a country located on the west coast of Africa with a population of 13.53 million[i]. The region is known for hosting various ancient empires and civilisations, such as the Ghana and the Mali Empire, and a wide range of ethnic groups with historical roots, like the Fulani, Mandinka, and Susu people[ii] [iii] [iv]. In the late 19th century, Guinea came under French control with European powers, particularly France, establishing colonies in the region[v]. Guinea gained independence from France on October 2, 1958, under the leadership of Ahmed Sékou Touré, who became the country’s first president[vi]. It was the only French West African colony to choose immediate independence rather than continued association with France[vii].

However, Touré’s presidency grew to be authoritarian and was marked by political repression, human rights abuses, and economic mismanagement[viii]. Touré’s policies led to the international isolation of Guinea and the country becoming one of the poorest in the region[ix]. Following Touré’s death, the country continued to struggle with poor macroeconomic performance, weak governance structures, and political instability in the 1990s[x]. In 2010, Guinea made considerable progress with a new constitution and democratic elections[xi]. However, the country faced political upheaval with a coup d’état in September 2021, leading to a fluid and unstable political landscape once again [xii]. The remnants of colonialism have left enduring imprints on the nation’s history, politics, and education system, contributing to structural challenges that still persist. Today, Guinea stands as one of the least developed nations globally, and the current political instability poses a substantial barrier to achieving widespread education access within the country [xiii].

While strides have been made to increase access to education, there is still ample room for improvement. Access to quality education is unequally distributed, especially in rural areas, leading to disparities in enrolment rates and learning outcomes. Although primary education for Guinean children is free and compulsory, the country struggles with extremely low enrolment and completion rates [xiv]. This is due to various factors such as economic barriers, traditional gender roles, cultural norms, and lack of infrastructure. This article aims to delve into the educational challenges in Guinea, shedding light on key issues that demand attention.

Lack of Infrastructure

The lack of adequate infrastructure in schools is a great concern in Guinea. Although the Guinean government made promises to increase the budget for education by 20% per international standards, it has been declining since 2020 to 10.2%, getting close to an all-time low [xv] [xvi]. Poorly equipped classrooms, libraries, and sanitation facilities hinder the quality of education and demotivate children from going to school. Many schools face a shortage of essential learning resources such as textbooks, reference materials, and teaching aids. The lack of these resources hampers the effectiveness of teaching and learning processes [xvii].

The lack of infrastructure also has a direct effect on the gender disparity in accessing education. As per the United Nations Children’s Fund, approximately 10% of female children in Africa miss or drop out of school due to not having access to proper restroom facilities during menstruation[xviii]. In fact, following improvements in school sanitation, Guinean girls’ enrolment rates witnessed a 17% increase from 1997 to 2002, demonstrating the crucial role sanitation facilities play in girls’ access to education [xix].

The insufficient infrastructure is particularly pronounced in rural regions making it harder for children to attend school regularly. This issue is particularly critical given that approximately 62% of the population in Guinea resides in rural areas [xx]. The country has a predominantly agrarian economy, with agriculture being a primary source of livelihood for a significant portion of the population. Additionally, Guinea has experienced relatively limited urbanisation and the pace of rural-to-urban migration has been slow. Unfortunately, ensuring universal access to education is significantly more difficult in rural areas where the majority of Guineans live. Schools are usually hard to reach because of long distances and insufficient transportation networks, such as roads and public transportation. Moreover, improving the quality of education proves notably challenging in Guinea’s rural areas. The lack of qualified teachers, adequate classrooms, educational materials, and sanitary facilities poses an even more significant problem in these regions compared to urban areas [xxi].

Quality of Education

The shortage of qualified teachers in Guinea is a pressing concern regarding the quality of education. Many schools, especially in rural areas, face difficulties in recruiting and retaining teachers with proper qualifications. The average classroom consists of 80 students and only one teacher[xxii]. Large student-teacher ratios make it challenging for educators to provide individual attention to students. The Education Systems Analysis Programme report has shown that in 2019, a mere 45% of students who completed primary school demonstrated satisfactory proficiency in reading and only 32% exhibited sufficient skills in mathematics[xxiii]. This data illustrates the importance of the teacher shortage problem given its direct influence on learning outcomes.

Economic Barriers

Economic constraints pose significant challenges to families striving to provide education for their children. A poverty measurement survey conducted by Unicef in 2020 has shown that around half the population of children in Guinea live in poor households [xxiv]. Educational expenses, such as textbooks, uniforms, school supplies, and transportation impede access to education for many Guinean children. Moreover, many families in Guinea rely on agriculture or informal sector activities for their livelihoods. Sending a child to school means diverting labor from economic activities, which can be a significant opportunity cost for families dependent on daily wages.

Economic barriers also have a direct impact on the gender disparity regarding access to education. If a low-income family has both male and female children, they often prefer sending their boys to school while girls stay home to help with chores. Boys are regarded as a better investment than girls and their education is therefore deemed more valuable for low-income families, especially in rural areas [xxv].

Boys in a classroom. Guinea, June 2015, by GPE/Tabassy Baro via Flickr

Gender Disparities

While primary and secondary schools have become more accessible for Guinean girls since the 1980s, gender disparity in education remains a significant challenge in Guinea. When it comes to enrolment and completion rates, especially at the primary and secondary levels, there is a wide gap between boys and girls. In 2012, the rate of completion for primary school among females stood at 61.5% [xxvi]. Regarding secondary school participation, the net enrolment for males was 40.5%, whereas for females, it experienced a discouraging decline to 25.9% in 2016 [xxvii]. As of 2020 data, it was estimated that 37.8% of boys complete lower secondary school in Guinea, whereas the rate is 28.5% for girls [xxviii]. Notably, the disparity in completion rates between boys and girls stands at 9.3, surpassing the Sub-Saharan Africa aggregate gap of 3 [xxix]. When it comes to adult literacy, the gap between men and women stands at 29.9 which is larger than the gap of the Sub-Saharan Africa aggregate, 13. While 61.2% of Guinean men can read and write, the literacy rate is notably lower for women at 31.2%[xxx].

The gender gap in education has a large impact on the employment and financial independence of women. Since 1990, there has been a decline in the participation of women in the labor force in Guinea. In 2022, the participation rate in the labor force was 63.7% for men, whereas it was 41.7% for women [xxxi]. Education and literacy also play a significant role in the social standing of women and the extent to which women are empowered to contribute to and influence key aspects of their family life. In 2018, only 30.4% of Guinean women were involved in making major decisions in the household, such as household purchases, decisions about their healthcare, and visits to family, relatives, and friends [xxxii].

A 2008 research conducted by Tuwor and Soussou on gender discrimination and education in West Africa reveals persistent challenges affecting girls’ education[xxxiii]. These obstacles include cultural beliefs, misinterpretation of religious teachings, parents with limited literacy and education, and economic constraints. Families are often worried that their girls will lose their traditional values and will not make suitable wives if they receive an education. The study suggests that within Sub-Saharan Africa, the society reinforces the idea that a woman’s primary role is within the household and that girls should uphold traditional roles as brides, mothers, and domestic labourers. Due to these cultural norms and gender roles, girls are forced into child marriages, pregnancies, and physical and sexual violence within those marriages which prevent them from going to school [xxxiv]. Data collected by UNICEF from 2008 to 2012 supports this by revealing that 35.6% of female teenagers were married during this period[xxxv]. While the rate of adolescent pregnancies has decreased since 2010, 115 of every 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth in Guinea in 2021, which is still 2.7 times more than the world average[xxxvi].

Additionally, household chores, caring for younger siblings, and cooking are other domestic responsibilities expected from girls which hinder their ability to attend school. According to the same study, the concern that their girls might get sexually assaulted or even raped is another reason why Guinean parents are reluctant to send their girls to school [xxxvii]. An empirical research conducted by Coleman in 2017 has revealed that it is, in fact, common for teachers to demand sexual favours from female students for a passing grade with little ramifications[xxxviii]. Overall, traditional gender roles, cultural norms, child marriage, and gender-based violence are all serious obstacles to girls’ access to education.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Guinea faces a wide variety of educational challenges that demand immediate attention and collaborative solutions. In order to achieve universal access to education, it is crucial for the government to address the issues of qualified teacher shortages, inadequate infrastructure,  economic barriers, and gender disparities. As we envision a future where every Guinean child has equal access to quality education, collaborative efforts between government bodies, communities, and international partners become paramount. Increasing the budget for education, investing in teacher training programs, improving infrastructure, and leveraging technology for educational enhancement are essential steps in the right direction. Moreover, the acknowledgment of the unique challenges faced by Guinean girls and women must be at the forefront of educational reforms. Gender-sensitive policies, community engagement, and awareness initiatives are vital components in dismantling barriers and fostering a more inclusive educational landscape. By overcoming these challenges and prioritising education, Guinea can lay the groundwork for innovation, economic growth, and social cohesion, and promise a better future for its youth.

References

[i] World Bank. (2022). Population, total – Guinea. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?locations=GN

[ii] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (1998, July 20). Ghana | History, Culture & Legacy. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Ghana-historical-West-African-empire

[iii] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2023, December 4). Mali empire | History, Rulers, Downfall, Map, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Mali-historical-empire-Africa

[iv] Guinea | Map, Flag, Population, People, Religion, & Facts. (2024, January 10). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Guinea/People

[v] O’Toole, T. E. (2023, June 9). History of Guinea | Events, people, dates, & facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/history-of-Guinea

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Schmidt, E. (2009). Anticolonial nationalism in French West Africa: What made Guinea unique? African Studies Review, 52(2), 1–34. https://doi.org/10.1353/arw.0.0219

[viii] Pace, E. (1984, March 28). Ahmed Sekou Toure, a Radical Hero. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1984/03/28/obituaries/ahmed-sekou-toure-a-radical-hero.html

[ix] Farah, D. (2000, November 9). Leader keeps tight grip on Guinea. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2000/11/09/leader-keeps-tight-grip-on-guinea/c09726c4-1247-471c-880d-3c6c91592178/

[x] United Nations Development Programme. (2017). Country programme document for Guinea (2018-2022). Retrieved December 13, 2023, from https://www.undp.org/sites/g/files/zskgke326/files/2022-10/cpd_guinea_2018-2022.pdf

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Samb, S. (2021, September 6). Elite Guinea army unit says it has toppled president. Reuters. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/heavy-gunfire-heard-guinea-capital-conakry-reuters-witness-2021-09-05/

[xiii] Samb, S. (2021, September 6). Elite Guinea army unit says it has toppled president. Reuters. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/heavy-gunfire-heard-guinea-capital-conakry-reuters-witness-2021-09-05/

[xiv] The World Bank. (2019). Guinea Education Project for Results in Early Childhood and Basic Education (. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/pt/292711553199830295/pdf/Project-Information-Document-Guinea-Education-Project-for-Results-in-Early-Childhood-and-Basic-Education-P167478.pdf

[xv] Unicef. (2021). Guinea – Country Office Annual Report 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://www.unicef.org/media/117026/file/Guinea-2021-COAR.pdf

[xvi] MacroTrends. (n.d.). Guinea education spending 1991-2023. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/GIN/guinea/education-spending

[xvii] The World Bank. (2019b). Project Appraisal Document: Guinea Education Project for Results in Early Childhood and Basic Education. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/en/490581562983276735/pdf/Guinea-Project-for-Results-in-Early-Childhood-and-Basic-Education.pdf

[xviii] Coleman, R. (2017). Gender and Education in Guinea: Increasing accessibility and maintaining girls in school. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 18(4), 266–277. https://paperity.org/p/84185798/gender-and-education-in-guinea-increasing-accessibility-and-maintaining-girls-in-school

[xix] Lafraniere, S. (2005, December 23). Another school barrier for girls: no toilet. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/23/world/africa/another-school-barrierfor-african-girls-no-toilet.html?_r=0

[xx] The World Bank. (n.d.). Rural population (% of total population) Guinea. World Bank Open Data. Retrieved December 13, 2023, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.RUR.TOTL.ZS?locations=GN

[xxi] Unicef. (2021). Guinea – Country Office Annual Report 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://www.unicef.org/media/117026/file/Guinea-2021-COAR.pdf

[xxii] Three ways people are improving education in Guinea. (2017). The Borgen Project. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://borgenproject.org/education-in-guinea/

[xxiii] Unicef. (2021). Guinea – Country Office Annual Report 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2024, from https://www.unicef.org/media/117026/file/Guinea-2021-COAR.pdf

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Coleman, R. (2017). Gender and Education in Guinea: Increasing accessibility and maintaining girls in school. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 18(4), 266–277. https://paperity.org/p/84185798/gender-and-education-in-guinea-increasing-accessibility-and-maintaining-girls-in-school

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] UN. (2016) UN data. Retrieved from https://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=GUINEA

[xxviii] UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). UIS.Stat Bulk Data Download Service. Retrieved December 12, 2023 from https://apiportal.uis.unesco.org/bdds.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] International Labour Organization. “ILO Modelled Estimates and Projections database (ILOEST)” ILOSTAT. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://ilostat.ilo.org/data/.

[xxxii] Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). (n.d.). Women participating in the three decisions (own health care, major household purchases, and visiting family) (% of women age 15-49). Retrieved December 14, 2023, from https://genderdata.worldbank.org/countries/guinea/#:~:text=28.5%25%20of%20girls%20and%2037.8,%2DSaharan%20Africa%20aggregate%2C%203

[xxxiii] Tuwor, T., & Soussou, M. (2008). Accessing pupil development and education in an inclusive setting. International Journal of Inclusive Education. 12(4), 363-379.

[xxxiv] Ibid.

[xxxv] UNICEF World Summit for Children. (2016). Plan of action for implementing The world declaration on survival, protection and development of children in the 1990s. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/wsc/plan.htm#Basic

[xxxvi] United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects

[xxxvii] Coleman, R. (2017). Gender and Education in Guinea: Increasing accessibility and maintaining girls in school. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 18(4), 266–277. https://paperity.org/p/84185798/gender-and-education-in-guinea-increasing-accessibility-and-maintaining-girls-in-school

[xxxviii] Ibid

Cover Image: “A classroom in session at Kigneko School; Dabola Area, in Guinea.” by GPE/Adrien Boucher via Flickt

Educational Challenges in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Written by Aoibhínn Kiely

The U.S. Virgin Islands are situated in the Caribbean Sea, located some 64 to 80 kilometres east of Puerto Rico. The region consists of three larger islands, St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John, and approximately 50 smaller cays and islets, amassing a total area of 133 square miles. Due to the inviting climate, the U.S. Virgin Islands attracts a large number of tourists each year, however tourism is one of the region’s only economic resources, and financial aid and funding is provided by the United States.

The region is at risk for hurricanes, with an average of 5 passing the region yearly, and in September of 2017 the territory sustained extreme damage from a barrage of two Category 5 hurricanes within the span of two weeks. Irma and Maria together destroyed virtually all crops of St Croix and an estimated 90% of buildings in the territory were destroyed or severely damaged.

Education in the U.S. Virgin Islands is compulsory and government-run schools operate for free. The Virgin Islands Department of Education runs 21 elementary schools, six middle schools and six high schools between two school districts spread between the three main islands. The territory also sports one university, The University of the Virgin Islands, a public liberal arts based university. 

However, a great number of students attend private schools, and most of the families who relocate to the U.S. Virgin Islands opt to send their children to private or religious affiliated schools, who also charge a tuition fee. Educational challenges in the U.S. Virgin Islands are characterised by poor funding, staff shortages, and struggling infrastructure, causing huge barriers to adequate education for the working class population of the islands.

Unsafe working (and learning) conditions

The vast majority of those who relocate to the U.S. Virgin Islands will decide to send their children to a private school to receive their education. With the Peter Gruber International Academy, situated on St. Thomas, requiring annual tuition ranging from $13,150 to $21,000 excluding materials and accreditation fees, it is starkly obvious that this option is not for everyone. However, given the state of current affairs in public schools, there is no doubt as to why parents would go out of pocket to avoid their children attending the region’s public schools.

In September 2023, teachers across St. Croix walked out of their classrooms in protest, claiming that the conditions they are expected to work in are untenable and entirely unsafe. The protesting teachers mention not only the long-standing issues of underfunding for the schools, but also sweltering temperatures that have to be endured in classrooms, many of which have no clean drinking water. This region, famous for its balmy temperatures, has schools operating without air conditioning. The response to this protest has been to implement schedule adjustments, enforcing earlier dismissal and shortened class periods for the schools on St. Croix. In effect, poor funding has caused policy makers to opt for less schooling hours as opposed to providing adequate equipment to the schools.

Teachers are not the only individuals enraged by these conditions, as students took to the streets in protest of the unsafe conditions they are expected to learn and grow under. Students from two historically rivalling highschools put their differences aside as they called for immediate action from leaders. Devastating heat and lack of air conditioning were only the tip of the iceberg for these students, as placards being held high mentioned termites, mould, leaking ceilings, and other structural ailments concerned with the physical school buildings. Further prompting the action was the stark lack of funding for equipment and maintenance workers.

School facilities in the U.S. Virgin Islands have sustained damage not only from the hurricanes in 2017, but also many in the 90s and less severe instances in 2021 and 2022. As a result the infrastructure must constantly be repaired and seen to, which these students believe is not being upheld on the side of maintenance due to exceedingly poor funding. One of the schools in which the students came from, Educational Complex High School, is used as a hurricane shelter, which the students reiterated, poor maintenance is not only an educational disadvantage but a genuine health and safety hazard for those living on the island. The students stood in unison demanding answers to where the large budgets dedicated to the Department of Education have been going, and hoping together that their action will spare future students on St. Croix from the conditions they have to currently endure.

Where have all the teachers gone?

Dr. Dionne Wells-Hedrington, commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Education cannot stress enough the risk that classrooms will not be filled when the 2023/2024 school year begins. With learning deficiencies in the region presenting themselves as a challenge at present, the 127 teachers reaching retirement age represent a looming loss to the educational system on the islands and a concerning prospect for the students.

The school year 2022/2023 saw 33 teachers separate themselves from the department, expanding the 43 pre-existing teaching vacancies in the region. The strategy being employed by the department in an attempt to tackle this growing issue that has been used for years, to try to recruit teachers from outside the territory to fill the gaps. The Department has been driven to launch a special appeal to recruit degree holders and retired teachers to fill substitute teacher positions.

The situation remains dire however with Wells-Hedrington informing lawmakers last year that nearly 200 teachers and support staff retired or resigned from the already struggling public school education system between June 2022 and August 2022. Furthermore, the number of non-certified professionals working in the public schools on the Islands far outnumber those certified, with only 228 certified professionals in comparison to 610 non-certified professionals.  Emmanuella Perez-Cassius, the Board of Educations Vice Chairwoman, is adamant that educators need to receive higher pay, consistent curriculum mandates and better working conditions.

A storm of mental distress

The Board of Educations Vice Chairwoman further remarked that schools are sorely lacking formal trauma and mental health alert systems for children who need aid with serious issues. The Islands align with national data, indicating that children in America are in the midst of a mental health crisis. St. Croix Foundation reported in 2021 that 22.5% of middle schoolers had “seriously considered suicide” and 33.5% of high school students “felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks that they stopped doing some usual activities”. As this data was collected in the aftermath of the aforementioned hurricanes, it was seen as a cry for help and a call to action for the community of the Islands, with special emphasis on the education system to support children struggling in the region.

In July 2023 Perez-Cassius made it clear that schools are not up to date with critical information that can protect children from a mental health crisis. As a result she called for direct and ongoing communication between the Department of Education and Department of Health, as well as other organisations concerning treatments, school services, and awareness for students with escalating mental health concerns.

The Vice Chairwoman additionally called for the implementation of training on trauma based interventions and approaches. Studies have suggested that students on the islands experience PTSD at a significantly higher level than the general population, and a lack of intervention from the education system is an unfortunate shortfall that devastatingly lets students, and teachers alike, down.

Leadership for change

Although there is no absence of challenges faced by those pursuing education through the system in the U.S. Virgin Islands, these very individuals have shown resilience and perseverance time and time again in the face of challenges. The bravery of the protesting teachers and the voices of strong leaders such as Perez-Cassius and Dr.  Wells-Hedrington are not going unseen and unheard as attention is being drawn to these areas of concern.

Furthermore, the children in the region have stepped up and shown that they will no longer allow for unsafe conditions to be tolerated. These students have shown responsibility and dedication in a way that no child should ever have to. Their passion and drive through their protests and their demands of lawmakers have made waves in their communities and it will be impossible for those in power to ignore their rightly placed rage.  After the terror of Irma and Maria the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands have worked hard to rebuild themselves and their education system, demonstrations of strength that will stand to the region with any hope.

References

Cover Image by MChe Lee via Unsplash