• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


Global Challenges for Learning

Page history last edited by Ami Mehta 11 years, 4 months ago

From Specific Case to Global Challenge - Where Do We Start?


During the second week of class (April 12) we will form teams around 4-5 specific opportunities that will be launch points for improving learning for girls around the world.   



By April 11, 2012 please post an example of a challenge from the developing that you find compelling or would like to learn more about. Please include at least one link from a credible organization that describes the situation in more detail.   




WHERE to start?




Local example that is scalable nationally and globally is optimal.



WHO specifically is being affected?



Describe the type of 11 year old girls in this specific environment.  Illustrate using drawings, pictures, videos and/or text based descriptions. 



WHAT is the challenge? 



Include links, articles, books and references.



HOW is this an opportunity?



First thoughts for meeting this opportunity:  "I wonder how.." or "How might we..



WHEN will the experience be relevant?


10 year horizon planning.

Today, 5 years out, 10 years out.



WHY is this important?



Explain the rigor behind each choice.  How is this informed by business, design, and learning theory
Your Name 

Muzaffargarh, Pakistan 

3 min video from UNICEF describing rebuilt school including impact on girls 

* More than 700,00 children forced out of school by flooding in 2010

Report from UNICEF

* How might we "leapfrog" to building better schools than they had before? We don't need to rebuild, we can  create something new 

*  Could we create a "learning package" that goes along with food and medicine relief supplies so that children who have been affected by natural disaster can resume or even get connected to learning?

  Developing a model for post-disaster education can be used around the world. Disasters can create openings for doing things differently.
Dan Gilbert 

Dharavi, Mumbai, India


Dharavi    is a slum in a suburb of Mumbai, India. In 1986, the population was estimated at 530,225,but modern Dharavi has a population of between 600,000and over 1 million people.Dharavi is one of the largest slums in the world.It used to be the largest slum in Mumbai at one time, but as of 2011, there are four slums in Mumbai larger than Dharavi.

Dharavi covers an area of 535 acres.

Dharavi slums in Mumbai [video]



11 year old girls in the largest slum in Mumbai, India are forced into a life of cigarette rolling as opposed to going to school.


What's Going On?  Girls Education in India


Indian girl trapped in life of cigarette rolling


Life skills training of 300 girls in Mumbai slums


Urbanisation, Growing Slums and Global Change

*How can we offer valuable learning opportunities to 11 year old girls living in the slums?

*What type of learning is most valuable for them to be able to participate in the economy? entrepreneurship, sewing skills, cooking and cleaning skills, administrative work?

*How can we transition them into a secondary school system?

*Can we use technology to bring the learning to them?

Today - population is still in growth mode.  More girls continue to lose opportunities to get educated.


5 years out - Slums continue to grow exponentially but new innovations beginning to take root.  Examples to come.


10 years out - Girls finding new opportunities because of women's movements in India.

Urbanisation, growing slums and the MDGs
“... the international community must concentrate more of its efforts on improving the lives of the urban poor if
the Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved. . . .Without a renewed commitment to the needs of our
urban era, matched by resources, the world’s urban transition will see a further expansion and entrenchment of
slums, and the spread of urban ills.” Kofi Annan
Ami Mehta
Xinjiang, China 

Children in Xinjiang going to school





Go to 04:40 to see how a six year old girl crosses a river using flying fox on her way to school. 



Other instances of children in rural areas having to walk for many hours everyday to go to school.



How can we provide quality education to children living in far flung villages?

How do we create critical mass so as to have economy of scale?

Is technology a solution? 

  50% of the country's population live in rural areas but only 1% of students in college come from rural areas. More and more schools are being closed in the rural areas due to the decrease in number of school age children in these areas. Children have to walk long distance to bigger towns and cities for school. The situation is particularly severe in the western part of china where many children live in rural areas and the terrain is rough.  Shannon Xue 
Mbire District, Zimbabwe 

Video detailing lives of rural girls in Zimbabwe

 3:45 - girls talking about not being able to go to school



Zimbabwe has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, leading to a large number of orphans that cannot continue school 

Report from UN


Lack of teachers staying in rural areas of Zimbabwe


Schooling is needed to create the future decision-makers of the communities.

Children in the Wilderness - environmental and leadership-focused program for rural children









How can we ensure children are able to continue their education even as they have growing responsibilities in their homes? What types of learning opportunities are most important for communities in rural Zimbabwe? Could we use the wealth of natural resources to create community-based learning experiences that also give girls more opportunities?

Now - organizations building schools but a lack of rural teachers and children being unable to continue their schooling


5 years out - Teacher training programs more important to be able to fill schools, life expectancy increases with availability of medicine so less orphans and more children able to continue in school


10 years out - increased opportunities and mobility for rural women in Zimbabwe

Environmental education is cross-disciplinary and community-based. 


Zimbabwe's natural resources make tourism an integral part of their economy.



Jennifer Bundy 
Ghana, West Africa   

Schoolgirls in Ghana report sexual predation both by male teachers and by classmates.  Throughout West Africa girls are routinely kept out of primary and secondary school, in part because it is not seen as a safe place for them.


According to a 2003 UNICEF report 14% of female students in Ghana reported being raped at school.  A report from the UN office of humanitarian affairs explains that "Child rights advocates have found that children, particularly girls, are frequently humiliated, sexually abused and exposed to sexually transmitted diseases because of deep-seated beliefs in the merits of corporal punishment."








- How can we make young girls less vulnerable to sexual predators, particularly those serving as authority figures in their educational life?  


- How can we create the dramatic culture shifts necessary to make this kind of behavior unacceptable in these communities?


- How can we build protections into the school experience so that girls can feel comfortable in the classroom and families can feel confident that their daughters are safe at school?


- Why have efforts to address this over the last decade been unable to stamp out the problem?  What can we learn from their successes and limitations?


Now - End atrocities committed against young girls seeking education.  Empower those who are already in educational settings to actually become educated while they are there.


Long-term - Eliminate a key barrier to education in the region and increase the number of girls beginning and continuing their education.


Girls in this position will never be able to achieve true educational goals if they are exploited just by showing up at school.  Addressing this foundational problem has the potential to make all other educational projects in the area more successful.  Any solution that addresses the problem of condoning sexual exploitation has the potential to extend beyond educational settings.  Alexis Hiniker 

Parents consider their daughters to be temporary property of their birth families, as they are to marry and move to their husbands’ house by the age of 18. Investing money and time in the education and future of a girl child is considered economically irrelevant.


Nepali girls, from an early age, take care of their younger siblings and share in the difficult day-to-day responsibilities of running a family. Rather than invest time in learning, from the age of five or six girls are responsible to collect water, cook, tend cattle, wash clothing, and work in the fields.


Though girls are often technically enrolled in school, most often they are not able to attend classes as attending school with unfinished domestic tasks is frowned upon. While some girls manage to do both, they are often too tired to be able to study properly in school.


“Our parents never let us girls study after grade five,” says Meena, age 18. “We are labeled as others’ property and giving us proper education is not their priority. We were expected to do house chores only.”

The Nepali girls and women who were interviewed by Human Rights Watch/Asia were forcibly trafficked into India. They did not work as prostitutes voluntarily but were held in conditions tantamount to slavery. Promises of jobs and marriage are common techniques by which recruiters entice their victims to leave home. But other, more overtly coercive tactics such as kidnapping are also reported. Girls who are already in debt bondage in other industries, particularly carpet factories, are particularly vulnerable. 


Girls who are victims of sex-trafficking in Nepal often come from the very poorest regions of Nepal. Without education or opportunity they often live with their families on the poorest outcast edge of society. Often food may be scarce or clean water unavailable. Missing girls can be as young as 8 or 9, but are most often 14 – 18 yrs of age. They often come from the very lowest caste in Nepali society, where hardship is the norm, although current trends in trafficking are showing higher-caste girls who are also being bought and sold by traffickers.







How might we keep girls on a learning track so they are less vulnerable to traffickers who offer false promises? 


How might we help break the attitude that investment in girls' education is wasted?



Today: some examples of girls reaching their 10th year of education. some families understanding the value of educating their girls.


10-years out: widespread knowledge of trafficking - most girls aware and are not tempted by false promises because they are highly value education 

Education can improve the outlook on girls' lives. They won't be tempted by the promise of a "better" life, jobs or money from strangers who are going to sell them.   June Ou 

Kigali, Rwanda

UNICEF reports that “in countries where menstrual hygiene is taboo, girls in puberty are typically absent for 20% of the school year”.


Since 11-to-12 year old girls don’t have proper feminine hygiene supplies (and they’re embarrassed about bleeding), they stay home from school. As a result, they fall behind and most eventually drop out.


Video: SHE Sustainable Health



 The lack of affordable hygienic products and facilities, combined with a cultural taboo, has profoundly and negatively affected adolescent girls’ education.




  • How might we educate adolescent girls about their periods so that they do not feel shameful or disadvantaged?
  • How might we promote the importance of healthy sanitation (clean, running water) and safe facilities (sex-separate toilets) for girls at school and in the community?
  • How might we raise awareness and education to eliminate the stigma of menstruation?
  • How might we address the lack of affordable and environmentally-friendly sanitary care?

Now - girls are dropping out of school because of cultural taboos, poor sanitation, and lack of proper hygiene. 


10 years out - girls are empowered to stay in school because of increased community acceptance and health awareness.



Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest completion rate of primary school with barely half of all school-age children completing primary school. According to MDG Report (2010), lack of education is a "major obstacle to accessing tools that could improve people's lives... jeopardizing the health of girls and diminishing their opportunities for social and economic advancement." Thus, the vicious cycle continues. Joy Wong Daniels

In Ghana, 59% of births to girls 15-19 are unintended. 21% of 18 year olds have a child or are pregnant. 41% of children have sex before age 18 and 8% before age 15. Among teenagers 15-19, 8% of married women report modern contraceptive use, 33% of unmarried sexually active women report modern contraceptive use, and 62% report that they have unmet contraceptive needs. Only 24% used condoms during their last high risk sexual experience. 

93% of women age 15-19 have some formal education and there is high gender parity. 85% of women have access to media.


Reproductive health education and access to reproductive health benefits is limited in Ghana, especially in rural areas. 

Adolescent reproductive health in Africa http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/458?task=view

Improving the Reproductive Health of Sub-Saharan Africa’s Youth http://www.prb.org/pdf10/youthchartbook.pdf

Rural reproductive health care in Ghana https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/3805/ubc_2008_spring_yakong_vida.pdf?sequence=1

Factors affecting sexual experience and condom usage http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/3180997

Attitudes and perceptions of secondary school students around reproductive health in a rural region in Ghana http://www.ajol.info/index.php/ajrh/article/viewFile/55726/44192

How can we reach girls to educate them about what may be a sensitive topic? Can it be addressed within schools (high rate of education)?

What is the most effective mode of instructional delivery?  Are teachers willing/able to address this in school? If so, what sort of training do they need?  If not, what other modes of delivery can we consider (mobile teaching unit, radio program (high rate of access to media))?

Can we reach those girls not in school?


Today: with the introduction of a reproductive health program, particularly one accessible for rural areas, girls will begin to change their practices.

5 years: Girls who have been through the program are able to go further in school because they are not dropping out due to pregnancy or STDs.

10 years out: Some of the original cohort may be able to make it to college and serve as mentors to young girls. Others may marry and pass on benefits to their children.

Leads to increases in child health, improved educational attainment and economic outcomes, decreases in disease and death. Can be scaled up to other countries.

"The relationship between mother’s education and the timing of her marriage and first birth is well established, as is the relationship between a mother’s education and the health of her children. Keeping girls in school delays marriage and the start of childbearing, and reduces health risks associated with pregnancy at a young age for young mothers and their offspring." http://www.prb.org/pdf10/youthchartbook.pdf

Kerri Thomsen
Bulidah, Budhaya and Muterere Subcounties, Bugiri District, Uganda 

There are approximately 50-100K people in these three subcounties, so approximately 15-25K girls under 15. 


There are many challenges for these girls, including, but not limited to: 

- not enough primary schools

- not enough classrooms at those primary schools

- no secondary school in either of these 3 subcounties; since secondary school is often prohibitively expensive, only some students go and they are overwhelmingly male

- poor water tables which make clean drinking water a very scarce resource

- girls have to walk very far to get water which keeps them from being in school

- if the family can afford to send some of their kids to school, but not others, the girls will be kept home

- the resources the schools have are minimal to non-existent

- the teachers are not usually well trained or well incentivized or held accountable; due to challenging environment morale of teachers is usually low. 

- these subcounties are right on Lake Victoria and not too far from the Kenya-Uganda trucking route, so there is significant amount of disposable income among undereducated fisherfolk and truckers, making commercial sex work a lucrative option for families to encourage their girls to go into

- limited sex/HIV/AIDS/STI education 

- limited access to sanitary pads, so many 11 year old girls have to miss school for 1 week/month

- limited employment or income generation opportunities 

- lack of access to quality pre and antenatal care

- lack of access to vaccines

- high infant and maternal mortality rates

- low literacy and numeracy rates 


How might we: 

- empower them to overcome some of these obstacles

- get them all wearing shoes so they dont get jiggers in the classroom and have to miss school

- get them better educated in knowing their risks for health and HIV/AIDS education 

- provide easier access to clean water

- build with them a high quality, low fee (or free) secondary school

- offer more income generating opportunities for women

- incentivize them to stay in school





NOW!  The sooner the better! Many of these problems are extremely urgent 



If we can figure out a model to improve educational and other opportunities for these girls, we could lift millions of the poorest of the poor girls and women out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa! 

Meredith Bates 

Louga, Senegal Video describing the 10,000 Girls Project in Senegal:



According to UNICEF, almost 2/3 of women age 15 and up in Senegal are illiterate, and only 16 percent of Senegalese girls go on to secondary school. This gender discrepancy is especially marked in rural areas.


Barriers include:

  • lack of family funds and resources for school fees and supplies
  • bias towards boys and prioritizing education for boys when family funds are limited
  • overreliance on women and girls for household and farm labor
  • frequent school absences from preventable illnesses
  • practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation 
  • the undervaluing of education for girls in general society

(Source: http://womensglobal.org/What%20We%20Do/where.html)


Senegal has already implemented a variety of effective top-down, large-scale interventions to improve access to education; key opportunities involve changing the hearts of minds of the Senegalese people, increasing both parents’ and students’ commitment to completing a full course of schooling and enlisting their support for gender-equity in education.

Community-based interventions have been particularly effective, as they meet rural residents where they’re at and make use of the persuasive power of peer/community networks.

Other opportunities include scholarships specifically for girls, health training and supplies to prevent absence due to preventable illness, and literacy training for adult women.


Case studies from SeneGAD: http://senegad.pcsenegal.org/cases.html


Now: Scholarships, workshops, and community-based support groups for girls begin to eliminate some of the remaining barriers to keeping girls in school.


5 years: Girls are staying in school longer, and communities feel a need to keep both boys and girls in school for a full course.


10 years: Males and females complete secondary education at approximately equal rates. Female representation in the workforce has dramatically increased, providing additional career role models for young girls and increasing their commitment to staying in school. 


The Senegalese government is committed to primary education and has devoted relatively large amounts of aid money to increasing educational quality and access. Senegal’s current barriers are a model for the sorts of cultural challenges to universal education that many other countries will – and do – face once the more obvious logistical and systemic barriers have been addressed. Because Senegal is economically (and, to some extent, culturally) similar to many of its West African neighbors, vetting these interventions in Senegal will expedite their application to other areas of West Africa and the broader developing world.

Heidi Williamson 
Tanzania  abstract: The global development community has focused in recent decades on closing the gender gap in education, but has given insufficient attention to the specific needs of pre- and post-pubescent girls as they transition to young womanhood within the educational institution. This study explored the social context of girls' experiences of menses and schooling in northern Tanzania, with data collection focused on capturing girls' voiced concerns and recommendations. Results indicated that pubescent girls are confronted with numerous challenges to managing menses within the school environment. Many are transitioning through puberty without adequate guidance on puberty and menses management, and pursuing education in environments that lack adequate facilities, supplies, and gender sensitivity. Girls have pragmatic and realistic recommendations for how to improve school environments, ideas that should be incorporated as effective methods for improving girls' academic experiences and their healthy transitions to womanhood. 


Article: "

Where the education system and women's bodies collide: The social and health impact of girls' experiences of menstruation and schooling in Tanzania"



In Peru, the proportion of school-age children enrolled in secondary school is 9 percent higher for boys than for girls. In rural areas this figure climbs to 17 percent.


Indigenous girls in rural areas live in the most extreme poverty and make up the least
educated groups in Peru. These girls face numerous constraints to obtaining an education. Enrollment rates are lower for girls in rural areas, and their grade repetition rates are higher than those for boys.


Adolescence is particularly difficult, as girls face a number of risks during this time. Once they begin menstruation, completing their primary school education is a formidable challenge, and opportunities for advancing to secondary school are limited.


The onset of puberty has a negative impact on girls’ participation
in primary school. Menarche, as the most dramatic sign of puberty, affects a
girl in both how she perceives herself and how she is perceived by those in her
environment. In addition, the formal education system does not accommodate the needs of menstruating girls. 


Girls begin to view themselves as women, with both positive and negative feelings about the changes brought about by menarche. These changes are accompanied by a substantial increase in responsibilities as girls assume a much larger share of the domestic and farming chores. Menarche and ongoing menstruation also produce changes in how a girl is perceived by her family and community, whose members consider menarche a symbol of her transition from girlhood to womanhood. Her status as a resource for her family becomes accentuated.


After menarche, the community often sees a female as a sexual object, with accompanying expectations that she take a subordinate role in her relationship to men.


Physical discomfort and unpleasant feelings (odors and soiled clothing) experienced during menstruation lead to school absenteeism and a perception of the need to stay at home. Menstruating females are thought to possess special powers as well as greater vulnerability. Girls often remain at home after menarche because of the belief that during menstruation women are fertile. They stay at home to protect themselves from the possibility of getting pregnant or being sexually abused.


The school environment makes it difficult for girls to attend and participate in school during menstruation because of the lack of bathroom facilities, water, and sanitary supplies, as well as the distance from home to school. Findings indicate that school rules and regulations (such as the requirement to participate in certain physical exercises) do not always respond to girls needs. The discomfort caused by menstruation, aggravated by anemia and malnutrition, contributes to poor school performance and absenteeism, which may result in dropping out of school.

Menarche also signals the time at which girls may abandon school altogether. Socially it signifies the end of childhood for girls. Their female roles are reaffirmed, and they begin to focus more attention on the domestic tasks usually relegated to women. Beliefs that women do not need to continue their studies affect pubescent girls. Girls are seen as suitable or fit for having sexual relations and conceiving. They are at risk of sexual abuse. It is believed that their sexuality should be controlled and protected.

How we migth:

- address the physical barriers posed by menstruation, for example, assuring that all school girls have access to separate facilities for girls and boys, running  water for


-get boys and girls better educated in understanding what menstruation means

The time is now. The better the sooner

 If we can improve education for these girls, new opportunities will appear for these girls and we will be able to stop this circle: girls leaving school, girls getting pregnant and everything starting over again. Manuel Matos 
Students in Kibera, the country's largest informal settlement, face an array of challenges, including access to clean water, medical care, and educational materials. In a place where resources are difficult to attain and unemployment is high, the children of even hardworking and loving parents suffer hugely.

I was surprised to learn that two of the biggest problems facing girls' education are access to food during the school day and ability to get to school safely. In thinking about these as threats to their wellbeing, health, and safety, it's interesting to consider whether mHealth (the field of mobile health and app development) might help these girls and their parents.


Relevant literature on this topic includes:




How might we...

  • Provide low-cost solutions that meet girl students where they're at?
  • Remove time-intensive processes (i.e. fetching water) to give them more time to focus on schoolwork?

Today! Not a minute to lose.


On a recent trip to Nairobi I heard from educators that some of their students had been attacked and raped while trying to make it home for lunch. They had heard that the anti-violence organization V-Day created an on-site lunch program for a neighboring school to address this problem. Knowing that this is resource-intensive, I was curious about other approaches and got to meet a team that drives around the country in a large pink van providing girls with self-defense skills (which have helped girls as young as 4 starve off would-be violaters). I'm curious about other models around food and water access as well as education around self-preservation.

It's worth looking at the accomplishments and experiences of students at the new Kibera School for Girls to see how impactful new models in this space can be on their futures: http://shininghopeforcommunities.org/projects/ksg/ Emily Goligoski




Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.