Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Impact of Education in a Developing Country: My Experience in Namibia
Primary students in the computer lab
The Malala Fund works with local partners in developing countries to ensure education for all children. Currently Malala has projects in Pakistan, Jordan, Nigeria, and Kenya. However, there are still 66 million girls out of school around the world. The governments of many developing countries are working on enrolling and retaining all children into the school system, and this summer I was able to witness an education system in the midst of this battle.

In July, I took the opportunity to study abroad in Namibia with the University of Maryland's iSchool. The trip enabled me to see first hand the impact a successful education and library system can have on a developing country. Namibia, located in Southern Sub-Saharan Africa, is a developing country that achieved independence in 1990. Before independence, the country was a part of South Africa and endured the oppressive and damaging policies of Apartheid. The post-apartheid government immediately began to address the inequalities the country faced, including the education system.

A student answering a question
Namibia has been striving to reach all 8 of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals since the 2000 Millennium Summit. Goal two is to achieve Universal Primary Education by 2015. Namibia believed that education was the cornerstone to reaching many of the other Millennium goals. While I was in the capital city I was able to visit and talk with members of the Ministry of Education, as well as visit multiple primary schools in varying economic areas of Windhoek. Girls and boys were mixed in the classrooms at all ages.

The country successfully increased the number of girls that finished schooling by addressing the issue of teen pregnancy, and fighting the social norm of girls remaining home to help with housework. The country also faced a problem with children in rural areas since they had to travel far distances to reach a school. This was a deterrent to attendance and retaining students, especially since many students had to be boarded by a relative or family friend. To combat the disparities between rural and urban regions, the country increased access in rural areas by training more teachers and building more facilities. As a result, in 2013 almost all children were enrolled in primary school and the country is on target to achieve 100 percent literacy rate among youth.1

Designing bookmarks in the Oshana Regional Center
Namibia also addressed the lack of access in rural areas by partnering with IREX and the Millenium Challenge Account to build Regional Study and Resource Centers. The centers provide residents with access to library and information services, which is critical to improving the lives of Namibian citizens and enabling them to access information on agriculture, health, economics, finance, workforce development, and education.2

Programming for Secondary students
During my trip I was able to collaborate with staff to design and implement programming for primary and secondary school students. Our group held programs at the Ohangwena Regional Study and Resource Center and the Oshana Regional Study and Resource Center. We designed programming for young learners in kindergarten through 3rd grade that focused on library resources. We also designed programming for 12th grade students on how to apply to jobs and colleges, and on interview skills.

Overall, the trip to Namibia opened up my eyes to how important education is in a developing country and truly helped me place Malala's story in context. Malala almost lost her life in her fight for education, and she has now committed her life to helping other children in developing countries achieve their potential and receive an education. The bright minds of the children I met and worked with in Namibia proved to me just how important it is to continue supporting countries and organizations, such as the Malala Fund, that are working to provide resources and an education for all children.
A group of talented 12th grade secondary students who are a part of the education revolution in Namibia

sources:
1. Namibia's Vision 30 Document
2. Irex's Regional Library development

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