Kenyan Educational History
In Kenya, HIV/AIDS was not declared a national emergency until 2001, by which time the epidemic had claimed an estimated 140,000 lives. At the end of 2003, Kenya was home to some 650,000 children orphaned by AIDS, representing 37 percent of the country’s orphans. Unlike many other sub-Saharan African countries, the number of orphans in rural areas in Kenya is 20 percent higher than in urban areas. Kenya abolished school fees for primary education in 2003, a move that is often cited as having increased educational opportunities for orphans and other vulnerable children. However, primary schools still levy fees for books, uniforms, examinations and other services, and numerous children interviewed for this report said this kept them out of school. Kenya announced in June 2005 a system of cash grants to families caring for orphans, however, as of this writing, it is too early to assess the impact of this policy. The government also provides some bursaries for primary and secondary school through local government funds, but these programs have limited reach and are prone to corruption.
Education is an essential human need, yet even before HIV/AIDS it remained out of reach to millions of children worldwide. In April 2005, the Global Campaign for Education estimated that 60 million girls and 40 million boys of primary-school age were out of school. While this number is declining, it is not declining quickly enough to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2015. For the 2002-2003 school year, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimated net primary school enrollment in Africa to be 70 percent among boys and 63 percent among girls. These figures dropped significantly at the secondary school level, to 32 percent among boys and 28 percent among girls. In more than half of sub-Saharan African countries, more than one third of children do not complete grade five. Although progress is being made on addressing gender disparities in education in some countries, UNESCO estimates that this gender gap will not be closed by 2015.
Studies from several countries confirm significantly less enrollment rates in orphans than nonorphans and identified risk factors such as girl orphans, children orphaned by AIDS, rural or poor households and orphans living in households headed by men . In seven African countries, primary enrollment rates of orphans, especially double orphans, were generally lower than in non-orphans, especially in countries with low overall enrollment rates and in households with least assets. A Kenyan study found that school performance was significantly poorer among children orphaned by AIDS.
In sub-Saharan Africa, there are more than 12 million children orphaned by AIDS, not including the millions of children whose parents are terminally ill. While overall school enrollment rates have risen to approximately 66% in the continent, AIDS-affected children have been systematically left behind. Recent surveys from Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania show that orphans are more likely to withdraw from school, less likely to be at an age-appropriate grade, and less likely to have limited family resources spent on their education.
Orphans and other AIDS-affected children said they had to leave school for reasons like failing to produce a birth certificate or failing to bring a desk to class. In many cases, widows who had been stripped of their property when their husbands died of AIDS were caring them for. In others, volunteers from community-based organizations resorted to pooling meager resources to provide orphans with basic necessities. Many orphans have eked out a living in the street or lived in households headed by other children.
Dropping out of school exposes orphans to a lifelong cycle of poverty and abuse. Children who drop out of school face a high risk of sexual exploitation, hazardous labor, and living in the street. Studies show that rates of HIV infection are higher among children with low levels of education.
Nicaragua Educational History
When the Sandinistas came to power in 1979, they inherited an educational system that was one of the poorest in Latin America.
Under the Somozas, limited spending on education and generalized poverty forced many adolescents into the labor market and constricted educational opportunities for Nicaraguans. In the late 1970s, only 65 percent of primary school-age children were enrolled in school, and of those who entered first grade only 22 percent completed the full six years of the primary school curriculum. Most rural schools offered only one or two years of schooling, and three-quarters of the rural population was illiterate. Few students enrolled in secondary school, in part because most secondary institutions were private and too expensive for the average family.
A 1980 literacy campaign, using secondary school students as volunteer teachers, reduced the illiteracy rate from 50 percent to 23 percent of the total population. (The latter figure exceeds the rate of 13 percent claimed by the literacy campaign, which did not count adults whom the government classified as learning impaired or otherwise unteachable.) In part to consolidate the gains of the literacy campaign, the Ministry of Education set up a system of informal self-education groups known as Popular Education Cooperatives. Using materials and pedagogical advice provided by the Ministry of Education, residents of poor communities met in the evenings to develop basic reading and mathematical skills.
Despite the Sandinistas’ determined efforts to expand the education system in the early 1980s, Nicaragua remained an undereducated society in 1993. Even before the Contra War and the economic crisis that forced spending on education back to the 1970 level, the educational system was straining to keep up with the rapidly growing school-age population. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of children between five and fourteen years of age had expanded by 35 percent. At the end of the Sandinista era, the literacy rate had declined from the level attained at the conclusion of the 1980 literacy campaign. Overall school enrollments were larger than they had been in the 1970s, however, and, especially in the countryside, access to education had broadened dramatically. But a substantial minority of primary school-age children and three-quarters of secondary school-age students were still not in school, and the proportion of students who completed their primary education had not advanced beyond the 1979 level. As of 1995, the illiteracy rate was approximately 34%.
Children in Nicaragua wear school uniforms and contribute to school fees for basic supplies and attend school in the morning, afternoon, or evening shifts because they also work to supplement the family income. Their education just covers the basics, as financial recourses are not available for a more expanded curriculum that includes science, the arts or computers. Only 29% of children complete primary schooling, and an abysmally low 5% of disabled children receive an appropriate amount of attention from instructors. It takes an average of 10.3 years to complete the mandatory six years of schooling.
According to the Foundation for Sustainable Development schooling doesn’t appear to be free of cost. The Chamorro government’s initial economic package embraced a standard International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF loan agreement requires the government of Nicaragua to continue implementing the school autonomy program that reduces national government funding for schools. Under this system, the government pays only the teacher’s salaries, some special training, and some school repairs. Parents must come up with the money for registration fees, transportation, additional salary, desks, books and materials, electric bills and cleaning materials. (The children clean the schools.) Poverty affects school participation, with many families unable to afford the direct or hidden costs. Poverty also results in child labor, which affects more than 167,000 Nicaraguan children and adolescents.