Liberia: World Bank Liberia Chief Economist Talks About Ending, 'Learning Poverty'

-- Says 270 million children are caught in the learning gap

The World Bank Liberia Chief Economist Daniel K. Boakye has called on governments and its partners in Sub-Sahara Africa to seriously invest in the education sector which will help reduce or end poverty.

Boakye said in absolute numbers, 270 million children ages 10 to 14 are caught in this 'Learning Poverty' gap. He added that in some Sub-Saharan countries, it is estimated that more than 80 percent of children cannot read a single word by Grade 3 level.

He added, "This high rate of learning poverty, and slow progress in low and middle-income countries is an early warning sign that global education goals are at risk and threatens efforts to end poverty."

Boakye made these remarks on Thursday, October 17, 2019, when World Bank Liberia Office joined over 190 countries to accelerate, "End Poverty Today" with a new scheme under the banner, "Ending Learning Poverty in the world."

This year's celebration was hosted by Zambia, connecting all African countries with Washington, DC, with a live video conference that gives every country, including Liberia, an opportunity to explain challenges facing the education sector and how to seek more support from World Bank aimed at cultivating their respective educational sectors.

He said the bank has also embarked on directing its funds in the area of Ending Learning Poverty aimed at providing quality education to children at age 10 to be able to read and answer simple tests.

"Far too many children don't have basic literacy skills. New analysis undertaken by the World Bank and United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) shows that 52% of children at or near the need of primary school age cannot read a short story," Mr. Boakye said.

Boakye added: "This high rate of Learning Poverty and slow progress in low and middle-income countries is an early warning sign that global education goals are at risk and threatens efforts to end poverty."

He said that based on the analysis carried out by the bank, the World Bank Group is setting a new learning target to reduce at least half the number of children who cannot read by age 10.

"By setting a global target, the World Bank can work with countries to define their own national learning targets. While support for countries in the long-term task of building quality education systems continues, efforts need to be focused on ensuring that all children are getting the foundation skills required in primary school," Boakye said.

According to him, most of the countries that the World Bank works with have various challenges, but the key challenge facing most Sub-Saharan African countries is poverty.

"But if we are able to address poverty in Africa, it will go a long way in reducing poverty globally," he said.

Boakye defines poverty as a lack of basic necessity of life, noting that when you are poor and don't have food to eat, it becomes one of the characteristics of poverty, including lack of access to basic health services, education and safe drinking water.

"As part of the agenda in ending poverty, the World Bank is today focusing on the importance of access to education as the way of reducing poverty. It will amaze you to know that among all the key instruments that are needed to reduce poverty, education is considered the first priority," he said.

Boakye added that the first thing that every parent, who does not have money, needs to do is focus on his/her children's education and once it is attained, a person is automatically on his way to come out of poverty.

"Reason is that a child will study and achieve a certificate that will show a particular profession that will bring employment to help the family and others," he said.

A District Education Officer from Montserrado County said that a survey conducted by the World Bank should be taken into consideration to ensure children acquire reading skills.

"One of our responsibilities as District Education Officers (DEOs) is to monitor our schools, to ensure that teachers meet the required standards so as to give back to the students, because if the teacher is not prepared, he would not properly teach the student," one of the DEOs said.

"When you cannot read with understanding, it is not possible to have anything done correctly, because people will have to make a decision for you, and we don't want this for our children," a DEO interjected.

B.W. Harris Elementary Principal Ms. Sarah S. Barclay says to make the students to acquire better reading skills, her administration has introduced Early Childhood Development, because when a child is well developed, it means the foundation of that child is being built, she said.

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