Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Half The Sky" Essay

Read Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's "Half The Sky"

Investing in Education
Derek Bok opens up the chapter with an anecdote of an underprivileged girl. Daj Manju grew up in a village home located in the mountains of central China, a home which consisted of a one room shack and six family members to whom education was not a priority. Her parents, elementary school dropouts, could not afford and did not see the point of schooling. Soon after Dai dropped out of elementary, her story had traveled to and touched a New York resident who, via Morgan Guaranty Trust Company, made a surprisingly (surprising particularly to the donor and the bank) large donation of 10,000 USD. Thanks to the unintended yet generous donation, Dai Manju finished post-secondary school with a specialization in accounting. Many girls in her village also received benefits of education that they would have otherwise gone without.

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Recent trends indicate that in East Asia, more girls like Dai Manju are receiving education. However, the author proclaims that there needs to be more done to measure the economic impact of educating girls. Statistics show that an alarming 57% of 115 million elementary school drop outs worldwide are girls, and 67% of the children who drop out of elementary school in South and West Asia are girls. The first problem here is school attendance. The author reports that although building schools is a logical way to combat this problem, this method is costly, and there are better ways if one looks deeper. Practices such as iodizing salt, deworming students and managing menstruation are very important, yet often overlooked factors that can achieve results at a fraction of the cost. These issues may seem irrelevant at first but it is common knowledge in the scientific community that iodine deficiency decreased IQ. Improvements in these matters make sense economically in the sense that they improve the environment for current students by aiding their physical and mental well-being.

Aside from these methods, this chapter goes on to explore the concept of bribery, in a positive light. The Opportunidades program of Mexico and the school feeding program offered by World Food Programme (WFP) are two examples of morally acceptable bribery. The Opportunidades program offers mothers monetary incentives to keep children in school. In hopes of breaking the poverty cycle, the parents of students with the highest dropout rate, high school girls, receive $66 per month to keep their kids in school and vaccinated. Results have been tremendous and since then, even New York City is experimenting with these ideas. The school feeding program offers a free meal for kids in school and utilizes parents to help serve the food each morning and has helped improve nutrition, reduce stunting, and increase school attendance.

The last part of this chapter speaks about aid in general and the considerations that must be taken in its regard. Philanthropists who give charitably often find that their generosity is met with resistance. This is due to many small factors, which are often overlooked, factors that actually have the ability to make the situation even worse than it was before any donation or aid was produced. For example, aid helps women plant more cavassa for higher returns, men see effectiveness of trade, men overpower women, men spend revenue on beer, women have less money than when they started. Before making a donation, it is vital to understand the culture, especially considering Murphy’s Law.

Bok believes that the most effective types of aid is that of health and education. The author brings up the economic benefits of smallpox as an example. Former to this allusion, he praises the focus that extends past the first problem of attendance (noted in the 3rd paragraph of this summary), which is to increase learning of girls already attending. The most effective initiative intended to retain students and increase their learning capacity is one that offers small scholarships for the girls achieving in the top 15% of their class. This not only raised the marks of those 15%, but also the marks of less able girls and boys as well. According to Bok, these types of initiatives are the ones that will be most effective.

Ann and Angeline
The author sums up his points by referring to a case study profiling The Campaign for Female Education (Camfed). The organization promotes female education through scholarship and has seen wonderful and unexpected returns from its investments. Camfed is a relatively small initiative, which was started by Ann Cotton. The organization is a perfect example of how quality aid can be more effective than quantity aid. The reason Camfed is so effective is the level of personal attachment and understanding that the initiator, Ann, maintains with the people she helps. Matters many would consider as subtleties exemplify this, but due to the knowledge gained from actually communicating with those in need, Ann understood how crucial they are. One example brought up by Bok is the corruption associated with the issuance of scholarships by principals and teachers. When put in charge of issuance, many of these authority figures traded scholarships for sexual favours, often resulting in sexual abuse of the girls. Camfed regulates this issue by using a selected committee, which leaves the girls less susceptible to corruption.

Ann started the project with friends and family, resorting to informal petty fundraising such as selling sandwiches in a Cambridge Market. Although relatively still small, Camfed now operates on a $10 million budget annually. Although Ann Cotton has made great progress, she does not look for any recognition as a reward. The reward for her is the result itself. The girls that were once sponsored by the organization are returning the favour to girls experiencing similar circumstances that they once experienced. The Camfed initiative surpassed its expectations, as the alumni become philanthropists as well. One of these girls is named Afishetu, graduate of Camfed Ghana won the district assembly elections and hopes to acquire a seat in the national parliament. Angeline is another one of these girls, a fruit of Ann’s labour, and she is now the executive director for Camfed Zimbabwe. Camfed has grown from Zimbabwe to Zambia, Tanzania and Ghana through the power of education.
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