More than one billion people around the world experience some form of disability. Individuals with disabilities have, on average, poorer health, lower levels of employment and earnings, and higher poverty rates. Children with disabilities are especially at a disadvantage when it comes to enrolling and completing school but also how much they learn while in school. This is especially acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, where our latest research, The Challenge of Inclusive Education in Africa, shows that disability gaps in education are increasing.
We are living in a learning crisis. According to the World Bank’s 2018 World Development Report, millions of students in developing countries are in schools that are failing to educate them to succeed in life. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, there are 617 million children and youth of primary and secondary school age who are not learning the basics in reading, two-thirds of whom are attending school. The urgency to invest in learning is clear.
In the first season of The Wire, an American crime drama television series, a young girl who lives in a poor and crime-ridden neighborhood asks Wallace, a teenaged drug dealer, for help with a math problem. It's a word problem that has multiple passengers getting on and off a bus and that asks how many passengers are on the bus at the end of it. The girl is lost. Wallace reframes the problem for her, describing a situation in which different buyers and sellers of crack cocaine take and give her different numbers of vials. When she answers correctly, Wallace asks her why she can't do the same problem when it's in her math book. She explains that if she gets the vial count wrong, the drug dealers will hurt her, so she must get it right.
When I was 13, my literature teacher Estela asked the class to look at two drawings and write down a story about each one them. I looked at the drawings: one was of a man in a suit and tie who was carrying a suitcase and wearing a watch. The other was of the same man but he had a beard, torn clothes and broken shoes. I wrote the first story about a successful man with an amazing family, the second about a poor, sad man who had no friends. Estela seemed disappointed and asked me if people are defined by their clothes. That day, my teacher spoke about prejudices and I learned something that I won’t forget.
En todos los países hay maestros dedicados y entusiastas que enriquecen y transforman la vida de millones de chicos. Son héroes silenciosos que suelen no estar entrenados, no tener materiales didácticos adecuados, o no recibir reconocimiento por su trabajo. Son héroes que desafían las estadísticas y hacen posible que los chicos aprendan con alegría, rigor y propósito.
In every country, there are dedicated and enthusiastic teachers who enrich and transform the lives of millions of children. Silent heroes who often lack proper training, teaching materials and are not recognized for their work. Heroes who defy the odds and make learning happen with passion, creativity and determination.
With the World Bank’s assistance, many governments are seeking to expand or improve early childhood education programs. The Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund is supporting a number of evaluations that will help us estimate the benefits of these investments, but we shouldn’t just care about effectiveness. In a world of resource constraints, we also need to tell countries about the cost-effectiveness of these investments. To do this, we need to know the costs of the programs we’re evaluating. Unfortunately, organizations often don’t collect and regularly report intervention specific cost data.
Guest blog by: Alisha Niehaus Berger, Global Children's Book Publisher at the literacy and girls' education nonprofit Room to Read
As the lead of Room to Read’s global publishing program for the past four years, I’ve been lucky to be involved in many exciting collaborations. As a literacy and girls’ education non-profit, Room to Read works in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments in nine countries across Asia and Africa and consults in many more. The opportunities to engage in meaningful work are myriad. Yet, a recent consultative workshop for Room to Read’s REACH project in South Africa, funded by the World Bank, stands out for me. Why? The public-private partnership at its heart.