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Millions are at Risk

The education system in Morocco faces major faults that many believe are irreparable. While more than 95% of children within the appropriate age are enrolled in primary school, less than 15% graduate from high school. The dropout rate among young students is so high that only 53% of students in middle school continue on to high school. Children are subject to a poorly structured curriculum, in which the attempt at a multi- lingual teaching is embedded; this method not only has been poorly executed, but has caused a drop in literacy. Morocco has shown recent improvements and a desire to better the lives of its people, however it’s limited resources and economics means prevent rapid improvement. Economic and influential assistance from the U.S would help Morocco by saving the lives of many and giving people an opportunity to live a comfortable life of the streets of Morocco.
Illiteracy is one of the primary contributors to Morocco’s poor education system. In response to the immensity of the problems in education, the Moroccan government has made efforts within the past ten years to stop illiteracy, because of these efforts a gradual increase in literacy was made. However illiteracy remains to be problematic. In the year 2012, The National Agency For Illiteracy Diminishing stated, “10 million Moroccan men and women are illiterate”. Although more common in adults over the age of fifty (61.1%), the illiteracy rate in Morocco has for many years been high in comparison to developed countries. Morocco World News demonstrates the immensity of the issue Moroccans are facing through statistics gathered from The Moroccan High Commissioner for Planning Ahmed Lahlimi. Rural areas in October of 2015 had an illiteracy rate of 41.7%, more urban areas had an average of 22.2% illiteracy. Finally statistics gathered from the total population concluded that 41.9 % of women are illiterate while 22.2% of men are illiterate. Illiteracy in Morocco has also proven to be dependent upon the given region. More Southern areas such as Laâyoune (located in the Sakia el Hamra region) which has a rate of 20.3 percent and Dakhla-Oued Ed Dahab has 23.9 percent. Béni Mellal-Khénifra, however, has the highest rate of illiteracy at 38.7 percent illiteracy.
Given the recent decrease in illiteracy compared to Morocco’s statistics from previous years, the government has established a system focused around points. Their aim is to earn a total of ten points within a span of five years. Morocco’s Ministry of Culture and Communication writes, two points amounts to teaching literacy skills to 1.1 million people, costing the Moroccan government tremendous efforts in collaborating with different partners to better its peoples education. After the National Education and Training Charter’s (CNEF) goal to reduce Moroccan illiteracy to less than 20% by 2010 failed, it’s new goal to eradicate illiteracy by 2024 was made. Lahlimi states that rates have dropped 10% within ten years. Such advancements have proven to be critical to the country’s overall well being and chances of opportunity. The Global Education Monitoring Report writes, “educated mothers are less likely to die in childbirth by two-thirds and that child mortality would be reduced by a sixth. Literacy plays an important role in mortality rates through the ability to read.”. The author suggests that Morocco not only lacks the ability to deliver traditional education, but health education such as sexual health is lacking, causing unwanted pregnancies and lack of health awareness as well. By establishing a stable education system in which more kids are kept in school and off the streets, and one in which people are educated in all aspects of life, not only would kids have more potential opportunities in the workplace, but Morocco would benefit form a more prosperous and stable country in which equal opportunity and overall health is established. However, Morocco can’t reach such a goal on it’s own.
It’s in the United States best interest to involve itself in Morocco’s educational crisis. By supporting a reconstruction of the curriculum and providing aid, Morocco’s goal of significantly diminishing its iliteracy rate by the year of 2024 wouldn’t be so unattainable. Ultimately saving the lives of many, the U.S should not only feel that they must be involved in what some would refer to as an unjust fate for Moroccan citizens and is purely good, but feel proud to involve itself in something that for the past decade has demonstrated small success. Undertaking a reform alongside Morocco has the potential to save and improve the lives of many people who have earned the right to learn through struggle and hardship.

Islamic State Strikes Again: Sex Slavery

Devastating humanitarian crises occur all over the world daily and often fly under the radar. Particularly in areas of the middle east where societies fall far beneath their dictatorial governments, citizens and minorities lack the help and support they need. It is important for the United States to know that in August of 2014, as ISIS conquered large parts of the Sinjar area of northern Iraq, it targeted hundreds of thousands of Yazidis for extermination, executing hundreds of the men and kidnapping them for forced labor. As they advanced through huge swathes of Syria and Iraq, Islamic State commanders ridded their territories of all religious minorities that would compromise their vision of a new Caliphate, ruled by Sharia law and untainted by the infidel. The Yazidis are neither Muslim nor Christian but worship a peacock god which, in the eyes of the Islamic State group (IS), make them satanists and a valid target for extermination. Among the mass killings, thousands of women and children were detained, prompting President Obama to warn of an unfolding genocide. After detaining the Yazidis, the Islamic State systematically separated young women and teenage girls from their families. It didn’t matter if the women were married, had kids or siblings. Nearly 7,000 Yazidi women and children were captured by ISIS fighters according to U.N. Investigators. Many of the women were turned into sex slaves for the militants. Woman who were later interviewed by the Human Rights Watch stated that many of the girls were are young as 12 or 13 years old. It remains the duty of the United States, alongside other developed countries, to send aid to the facilities that were put in place to help the victims of this horrendous disaster recover.
Many young woman and girls were able to escape and lived to tell their stories of this horrific humanitarian disaster. Three young Yazidi women escaped from sex slavery and travelled to London, where they told their personal stories. They wouldn’t show their faces to the camera because, they say, they still have friends and family being held by the fanatics, and they fear the repercussions that they might suffer if they reveal their identities. “We were raped up to five times a day,” says 20-year-old Bushra. “One girl went to the bathroom and slit her wrist. When she did not die she cut her throat. The guards wrapped her in a blanket and threw her out with the rubbish.”
Although the thick of this disaster was years ago, there are lasting effects that continue to go unsolved. Bushra admitted that out of her seven brothers, only one managed to escape, and the other six are still missing to this day. She describes the IS commanders as “Between 50 and 70 years old”, and she explains, “I was 15 when I was selected by a commander. He said younger girls are better than older ones. They usually select the most beautiful and youngest girls for themselves.” She admitted that “There was nothing they didn’t do to [her].” The women and young girls were raped, beaten, burnt with cigarettes, sold over and over again, and in many cases murdered.
Traumatised and exhausted from their daily beatings, they nonetheless seized any opportunity to escape captivity. Many people were eventually placed in internally displaced people camps in Iraq, but others were slowly redirected to the UK, and many to Germany where they are given counselling for trauma, rape and abuse. In January 2016, some woman were given the chance to heal and rebuild their lives thanks to the “Special Quotas Project.” The ambitious scheme, launched by the German state of Baden-Württemberg, brought 1,100 women and children — all former ISIS captives, and mostly Yazidis — to the country. The state of Baden-Württemberg set aside approximately $114 million for the pilot program. Psychologist Dr. Jan Kizilhan, a trauma specialist from Germany, interviewed the survivors to gather a sense for how they could be helped. “The youngest girl I examined was 8 years old. And she was about eight months in the hands of ISIS. She was sold 10 times,” Kizilhan said. “That means in the period of eight months she was raped hundreds of times, every day.” The women and girls in the program live in 23 shelters spread across this affluent region of southern Germany. The location of the shelters remains undisclosed in order to protect the survivors from the reaches of ISIS or their sympathizers. The survivors have two-year special visas, with the option to stay in Germany permanently.
According to Yazidi activists, there are still at least 2,400 women and children in the hands of ISIS. Kizilhan has already been planning for their care. He is training Yazidi and Kurdish psychologists who will be able to treat the survivors in Iraq. While the blunt of this crisis occured years ago, thousands of yazidi victims could still benefit from United States investments and aid at this time. As a developed democratic nation, it is both the responsibility and the interest of the United States to express our disapproval in the behaviors of the Islamic State and support the people of the Yazidi minority. Although the situation in Iraq was and still remains dire, Germany’s support has allowed for there to be hope of recovery for thousands of Yazidi woman. As allies to Germany, a nation that shares many social views as the United States, we should lend aid to organizations that they run, not only to support Germany but more importantly to save thousands of Yazidi woman from trauma, captivation, and abuse. With U.S. awareness and involvement, we could prevent similar future humanitarian tragedies from occurring.

Problems Facing Primary and Secondary Education in Egypt

Egypt has one of the most developed educational systems in the Middle East and North Africa region. However, the outcomes the system produces are far from ideal. Although education is compulsory between the ages of 12 and 17, less than 50 percent of 17-year-olds attend a secondary school. Nearly 13 million people aged 15 or older in Egypt are illiterate, and only about 69 percent of students attending primary school are in the appropriate grade for their age. The two factors primarily responsible for these outcomes are a lack of government spending on education and widespread gender-based discrimination. Several organizations, including USAID and UNICEF, are currently working to improve education in Egypt.

Although Egypt has a GDP of nearly $250 billion, the Egyptian government only spends $9.5 billion on education annually. Egypt is ranked 115th in the world for percentage of GDP spent on education. The lack of expenditure on education has led to a deterioration of school infrastructure and poor teaching quality. Around one in five school buildings in Egypt are unfit for use, lacking functioning water and sanitation facilities. Many primary and secondary school teachers in Egypt are poorly trained, and teachers often use corporal punishment in their classes. According to the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), more than half of the students in Egypt do not meet the low benchmark in international learning assessments.

Gender-based discrimination negatively impacts the educational attainment of Egyptian girls. While the literacy rate for boys is 86.5 percent, the literacy rate for girls is only 75 percent. The number of illiterate women in Egypt is almost twice the number of illiterate men. The disparity in educational attainment between boy and girls is largely brought about by local attitudes towards girls’ education. While 86 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 24 in urban areas can read, only about 72 percent of women in the same age group living in rural areas can read. Improved female educational attainment could help resolve some of Egypt’s socioeconomic issues. Infant mortality rates and population growth rates would likely decrease.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the agency of the United States government responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. USAID has several projects in Egypt aimed at improving educational attainment and literacy rates. The organization’s Literate Village project is a four-year activity that aims to eradicate illiteracy in about 2,000 rural villages. The project targets communities with large numbers of out of school children and has received about $17 million in funding. USAID is also conducting the Early Grade Learning and Remedial Reading project. Studies conducted in Egypt have shown that strong early childhood education greatly improves the odds that a child will complete primary and secondary school. The Early Grade Learning and Remedial Reading project targets early grade learning and seeks to ensure that Egyptian students can learn essential reading, writing, and mathematics skills. The project aims to reach over 150,000 teachers and 7.2 million children and has received about $15 million in funding.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is an intergovernmental organization that seeks to address the needs of women and children in developing countries. UNICEF provides support and funding to Egypt’s Ministry of Education, the government agency responsible for the provision of teacher salaries, textbooks, and school sanitation. UNICEF has many programs in Egypt, such as the Learning Improvement For Everyone (LIFE) program, that provide training for teachers, learning materials, and teacher evaluation systems. Many of UNICEF’s activities have a specific focus on ensuring equal educational access to girls.    

Egypt’s undesirable educational outcomes are primarily brought about by gender-based discrimination and a lack of government expenditure on education. There are twice as many illiterate women as illiterate men living in Egypt. As a result of a lack of funding, school infrastructure and teaching quality have deteriorated. Several international organizations have programs aimed at improving education in Egypt. USAID has programs that seek to enhance early grade education and eliminate illiteracy. UNICEF has programs that seek improve the overall quality of teaching and eliminate gender-based discrimination.

You say “Hezbollah,” I say “Nasrallah.”

Donning his black turban, a subtle reminder that he is a descendant of Muhammad, Hassan Nasrallah reassures the Lebanese people after political events through televised speeches. Upon first glance you would assume Nasrallah is the President or Prime Minister of Lebanon; in actuality however, he is the Secretary General of Hezbollah, a Shia terrorist organization bent on destroying Israel. Nasrallah holds official veto power in the government, as well as control of a powerful Shia militia, Hezbollah has substantial representation in Parliament, and he has an incredible 97% approval rating among Shiites. His ability, as a semi-authoritarian terrorist leader, to gain so much political leverage in the Lebanese government is partially attributed to his history of making military and political decisions that benefit Lebanon, as well as his social reforms and regular communication with the people, creating a extremely loyal following.
Nasrallah has a history of taking action, he was able to build a militia stronger than the Lebanese army by training grass-root fighters and inspiring them with religion. In 2000, he was credited with Israel leaving southern Lebanon and gained even more popularity after negotiating a prisoner exchange that released 400 Lebanese prisoners from Israel. In 2006, he was viewed as the leader of the war with Israel which became a matter of pride among the Lebanese, especially their refusal to surrender arms. Nasrallah’s popularity also increased as he personally oversaw to rebuilding of destroyed homes. In 2008, Nasrallah was even able to stage a takeover of rival party headquarters in Beirut further demonstrating his power.
Another aspect that has greatly contributed to his popularity is his welfare programs, many of which the Lebanese government has failed to provide. Nasrallah has set up successful schools, hospitals, and even sports groups. These facilitates are usually only open to Shiites or members of Hezbollah, which works to create strong bonds of loyalty. If people are not able to receive education or healthcare anywhere else they are unlikely to turn against Nasrallah.
Nasrallah also is known for regularly communicating with his people through televised speeches. The delivery of the speeches themselves are confident yet sincere sometimes even incorporating humor which is rare among religious figures but makes him more approachable. Nasrallah gives his speeches in Classical Arabic with a Lebanese dialect so he can reach more people. He has recently given a range of speeches including one after Saad Hariri’s resignation, where he in a very paternal nature promised to try to keep Lebanon safe and stable, skillfully trying to limit fear but alerting the people to the possibility of Saudi Arabian meddling. He also made a speech in October defending Hezbollah after US sanctions and criticism over their strong ties with Iran, and current fighting in Syria but he made sure to focus on the sacrifice especially parents are making allowing their children to go to war. Nasrallah himself lost a son to Israeli forces, and this personal sacrifice is viewed very favorably among Lebanese citizens, as is a rule he has set in place among his Shia militia that parents with only one child have a choice to send them to war. Through these speeches Nasrallah has created a possible illusion of transparency, but also of trust as he has a tendency to not make promises he cannot keep which has helped him in the long run.