Obama Advocates for Education in Central America, Caribbean


The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is offering $68 million to The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), with the money to be invested into an education program for disadvantaged students in Central America and the Caribbean.

A total of 250 fellowships will be awarded each year by the YLAI, providing opportunities for training and mentorships in the region.

The initiative will create 50 business and civil society partnerships each year to benefit emerging business and civil society leaders.

The effort comes on the heels of another effort by President Barack Obama, referred to as 100,000 Strong in the Americas.  The goal of that project is to increase education exchanges between the United States and countries in South America.

“These investments will help young people in unemployed, impoverished and marginalized communities [and will] give them a chance to gain the skills they need to compete and succeed in the 21st century economy,” Obama said on Thursday.

Obama also recently met with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama City.  While there, USAID revealed that it will offer $35 million in funding for a “new higher education program designed to strengthen the capacity of technical training institutions in the region to provide market-relevant training for disadvantaged populations in Central America and the Caribbean.”

Each of these efforts come as part of the Obama administration’s overall goal of improving higher education and technical training in the area, where unemployment levels are consistently high and there is little access to high-quality higher education.  At the same time, populations are continuing to see an increase, causing a rise in threats to social and ecological health and sustainability, writes Andrew Burger for TriplePundit.

“Fifty-eight percent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean is under 35. Despite important economic gains over the last decade, significant challenges – including limited access to jobs, capital and advanced educational opportunities, and the availability of illicit employment opportunities – hold many youth back from reaching their full potential,” the White House highlighted in its Seventh Summit of the Americas’ Fact Sheet.

Before the revolution, Cuba’s literacy rate was below 75%.  That rate increased to 96% in 1961 due to efforts brought forth by Fidel Castro, who introduced literacy brigades to rural areas to teach adults to read.  As of today, that literacy rate stands at 99.8%, ahead of that of the United States.  It is considered to be the most successful campaign in the history of the world.

All children in the country are required to attend government-run schools until they are 16 years old.  The nation, which believes in bettering public schools rather than spending on private education, puts 10% of its budget into education in comparison with the 2% the US spends, writes Shaun Pennington for The St. Croix Source.