SEATTLE — Internal political instability, corruption and an uphill battle in eradicating poverty have been some of the most pressing issues for Suriname. As a nation within the global south, the poverty rate is at 47.2 percent. What’s more, Suriname’s most recent Human Development Index rank was 94th, behind only Gabon.
In a country where only 34 percent of children attend early childhood education, stringent policies are essential to addressing disparities in the wage gap that hinder young adolescents from attending school. According to UNICEF, 83.3 percent of the richest 20 percent receive a secondary education, in contrast to only 28.9 percent of people that make up the poorest 20 percent. Investments in the private sector are vital to dismantling the wage gap, which in turn will help mitigate the poverty rate. Additionally, education in Suriname must remain a key objective to provide opportunities for children in a country that is highly dependent on its exports of bauxite, alumina, gold and oil.
One well-received alliance that has formed to answer to such predicaments is between the Suriname Army and the South Dakota Army National Guard. This affiliation between South Dakota and Suriname has been unequivocally rewarding for both parties since its creation ten years ago under the U.S. National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP). There has been a robust effort to address such concerns of poverty, by focusing on key subject matters and accounting for civilian culture while providing experience for both organizations.
Most recently, both parties visited O.S. Majosteeg Elementary School in the district of Wanica, where they worked for nine days on renovations within the building. The school, which serves 450 students daily, was in desperate need of reconstruction, with many facilities in poor condition.
Speaking about the alliance between the two armies as well as education in Suriname, U.S. Army Specialist Richard Schiradely commended Suriname’s forces. He went on to acknowledge how extremely helpful they had been, as well as the importance of providing safe amenities for children and their unconditional right to quality education. He spoke highly of the environment by noting “the community’s good attitude made the job fun. I would definitely love to participate in an experience like this again.”
This is not the first time these two organizations have teamed up for development projects in Suriname. Under the SPP, repairing schools has been the main area of collaboration, with the most recent development project involving renovating the O.S. Santodorp school in Paramaribo in 2016. The continued support through exchanges between different states and countries shows the benefits that each country receives in experiencing new cultures, which enriches their understanding. With continued efforts in development and specialization, there is little uncertainty that education for all cannot be achieved under such programs.
– Alexandre Dumouza