President Trump recently made an excellent move to promote the education of children in developing countries. His administration freed resources already appropriated within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to be given to privately run schools.
This will allow for a higher population of genuinely underprivileged kids to gain an education despite their circumstances and safeguard the educational systems for the world’s most vulnerable people.
State-run school systems in crisis countries are overfilled, understaffed and unable to cater to their whole population— if the schools even exist.
As Julie Cram, USAID’s senior coordinator for U.S. International Basic Education Assistance, explains, “Developing countries [often] lack the resources and capacity to provide a quality education, especially to children in rural and hard-to-reach areas, as well as in areas affected by crisis and conflict.”
In Somalia alone, only 30 percent of school-aged children attend a school. If an entire generation of children is skipped over on being educated, they cannot be expected to be functional and productive members of society, further plunging the country into disarray. Not only is this harmful to society, but it presents a national security issue for the United States.
A similar situation to Somalia exists in Bangladesh. Within its borders sits a seaside town called Cox’s Bazar. It is home to the world’s longest beach and 700,000 Rohingya refugees who have made camp there.
The official stance of the Bangladeshi government is that these people are only visitors in the country and therefore do not qualify for public schooling.
Enter USAID Administrator Mark Green, who outlined the vision surrounding the new policy: “Really, we’re trying to provide some semblance of educational services, so that hopefully, someday, those kids are able to, God willing, return home in a meaningful, voluntary way.”
In the previous iterations of the USAID educational spending policy, state governments were getting 100 percent of the money. God only knows what these governments were doing with it.
According to the European Journal of Training and Development Studies, the corruption in Nigeria is so rampant that it is negatively affecting the entire population. Nigeria has the world’s highest percentage of children not enrolled in a school.
Despite the challenges of corrupt governments and vast numbers of unreached students, foundations and faith-based institutions are already on the ground to provide educational services that will be bolstered by USAID.
The agency cites an academic article finding, “Non-state schools already enroll nearly 14 percent of primary school-age students in low-income countries and 24 percent in lower-middle income countries. Globally, nearly one in three higher education students were enrolled in a private institution.”
USAID policy will now recognize this reality and expand funding to reach a more diverse array of institutions.
Though it may not seem like it upon first inspection, this new policy to help international educational efforts is also an “America First” policy.
According to the USAID, the fourth pillar of Trump’s National Security Strategy “prioritizes strengthening countries’ capacity to achieve sustainable development outcomes, a goal that depends directly on the strength of the education sector.”
By providing more access to education, we are enhancing and protecting our national security interests. Stable countries are much easier to trade and deal with and contribute significantly to the global community.
The money will go to children who are eager to learn and who yearn for the opportunity to improve themselves. Green said that, in observing a classroom in Ghana on a trip with First Lady Melania Trump, “Those kids were absolutely desperate to be there.”
Through this initiative, hundreds of thousands of children will get an education and go on to help build up their communities and countries.
In the end, this new USAID policy will ensure that American generosity helps as many people as possible. Mr. Green and President Trump deserve pats on the back for this decision, which has the potential to improve the lives of countless families and the future of their communities.
I look forward to hearing of the good that comes out of assisting non-state schools internationally.
Ken Blackwell is a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. He is the chairman of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).