The popular saying“do not judge a book by its cover” teaches a great lesson which can be summed up in one sentence: It is never what we think it is.
This leads me to why protecting the interests of persons with disabilities (PWDs) is important; many times, they are treated as if all they are is their physical or mental challenges. But they are more than just their disability. Every human being, rich or poor, small or big, non-disabled or disabled has a role to play in our lives, and our ability to treat everyone with dignity and respect cannot be overemphasized. Thus, as I explained in my recent proposal in the World Bank Group’s 2018 Law Student Contest for Development Solutions, lack of equal access and opportunity for PWDs will in the long-run impede the necessary development many of us desire in our world.
The launch of the Human Capital Project has galvanized global action to close human capital gaps, and has highlighted the importance of investments in the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate throughout their lives, to realize their potential as productive members of society.
Improving both the quantity andquality of education is pivotal to empowering young people to fulfill their potential. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education is critical not only for fulfilling the needs of the future workforce, but also for producing researchers and innovators who can help to solve intractable challenges.
The underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM gets a lot of attention, but the data on access to, and quality of, education shows that the story is more nuanced.
At primary school level globally, there is gender parity in both enrollment and completion–a remarkable achievement of recent times. Gender gaps emerge in a number of low-income countries, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in some Latin American countries there are ‘reverse’ gender gaps (with boys less likely to attend or complete primary school). Overall, gender gaps (where they exist) are modest in comparison to the gaps between rich and low-income countries.
When it comes to academic performance, girls often do as well as, or better than, boys in science and mathematics.
In primary schools, there are no gender differences in science achievement in more than half of the 47 countries where performance is measured (Figure 1). Girls score higher than boys in 26 percent of the countries. The difference in achievement is almost three-times higher when girls score more than boys compared to when boys score more than girls. Results for mathematics achievement are similar. There are no gender differences in about half of the countries with data, but boys score better than girls in 37 percent of the countries.
Figure 1: Primary-school girls perform as well as boys in science and mathematics
A new guidebook published by the World Bank and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) casts light on how to measure the heavy burden of education spending that falls on the world’s families. Measuring Household Expenditure on Education: A Guidebook for Designing Household Survey Questionnaires will help countries report on SDG 4 indicator 4.5.4: education expenditure per student by level of education and source of funding. The guidebook also aims to ensure proper representation of education expenditures in consumption-based poverty and inequality measures, and enable more micro-econometric research on resource allocation in households.
The burden of education spending by families
We already know that the burden on families can be heavy. UIS data released in 2017 found that families in low-income countries pay more for their children’s education: households in many developing countries spend a far greater share of average GDP per capita on education than those in developed countries. Household spending on secondary education amounts to 20-25% of average GDP per person in Benin, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger, and more than 30% in Togo. In stark contrast, the share does not exceed 5% in almost all high-income countries.
The data also reveal that families—including the poorest—are providing much of the world’s education spending. For example, households provide about one-quarter of education expenditure in Viet Nam, one-third in Côte d’Ivoire, half in Nepal, and more than half in Uganda.
As of the end of 2016, thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers were registered in my home country of Ghana, with more than half of them girls, women and persons with disabilities.
The inaugural World Bank Group Law, Justice and Development Week 2018 Law Student Contest for Development Solutions, was a great opportunity to contribute to the timely discussion on rights, protection and development of vulnerable groups, particularly refugees.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the refugee population in Uganda is estimated at 1.15 million people. This makes Uganda one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in the world. South Sudan alone is the source of more than one million refugees, with 86% of these comprised of women and children. They occupy settlements in rural districts in Northern Uganda such as Adjumani, Moyo and Arua. It is also the home to one of the world’s biggest refugee camp, Bidi Bidi, which hosts a quarter of a million refugees.
By 2035, Cameroon aspires to join the ranks of industrialized, upper-middle-income nations with low poverty rates, strong economic growth, and a functioning democracy. To realize that goal, the government’s strategy (Document de Stratégie pour la Croissance et l’Emploi, DSCE) envisions annual GDP growth rates of 5.5 percent and the creation tens of thousands of formal jobs each year. With a relatively more diversified economy than its more oil-dependent peers in the CEMAC region, the country seemed well-poised to achieve its objectives until at least halfway through the decade. However, Cameroon has been facing a combination of external headwinds and internal constraints that present challenges to its development aspirations, poverty remains high at 37.5 percent (in 2014).
Note: This blog is specifically about Sierra Leone’s successful transition to a digital school census but has broader implications for other countries who plan to adopt digital tools at a wider scale to collect data and monitor education and healthcare facilities in their countries.
In April of last year, the new Minister of Finance of Sierra Leone approached the World Bank with a strong commitment to prioritize education and an intriguing request.
While the World Bank’s resources for low-income countries have never been greater, they still pale in comparison with these countries’ needs. Governments always need to make hard choices between infrastructure needs, social programs, and fiscal discipline. One country was recently able to strike the right balance with the support of World Bank guarantees: Benin.
In 2015, leaders of 193 countries formed an ambitious plan to guide global development action for the next 15 years by agreeing on a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Four years after their launch, the World Bank’s expertise in development data and its large repository of development indicators has played an important role in helping track progress made towards the achievement of the SDGs.
How does SDG monitoring work and how is the World Bank involved?
To monitor the 17 goals and 169 associated targets, a framework of 230+ indicators was developed by the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), a group of UN Member States with international agencies as observers. Different international agencies were assigned as “custodians” of the SDG targets. In this capacity, the custodian agencies work with national statistical offices to develop methodologies for indicators to measure progress on the SDGs. The agencies also work with countries to compile data for SDG indicators, which they submit to the UN Statistics Global SDG database.
The World Bank participates in IAEG-SDGs as an observer and is a custodian or co-custodian (with other agencies) for 20 indicators, and is involved in the development and monitoring of an additional 22 indicators. Altogether, the World Bank is formally engaged with the monitoring of 42 of the 230+ indicators. The indicators cover a wider range of topics in which the World Bank has expertise, including poverty and inequality, social protection, gender equality, financial access, remittances, health, energy, infrastructure, and so on.