9 Reasons Why Education in Poor Countries Should Matter to Everyone
It is so well-known to us that it has become almost trite: Education has the power to change the life of a child.
But have you stopped to think about exactly why it is better for you and for the world to educate children everywhere? Sometimes living in rich countries like the US we feel insulated from what happens in remote villages on the other side of the world, but the power of educating children in those seemingly distant places truly should matter to all of us – here’s why:
1. Education = A Road Out of Poverty
Education is the fastest, most effective way to help someone rise out of poverty. According to the UNHCR, each year a person stays in school, their earnings increase by up to 10%. Why should you care? Beyond, of course, the obvious humanitarian benefits, functioning economies abroad mean a healthier world economy for all of us.
2. Education = Justice
An educated population is less likely to tolerate injustice and human rights abuses. They are more likely to have the knowledge and access to protest and ultimately stop human rights violations.
3. Education = Democracy
A healthy, well functioning democracy needs educated citizens. They are less likely to be persuaded by flashy rhetoric and more likely to push for discussion about real issues.
4. Education = Equality
It is perhaps girls who benefit the most from education. Educated girls have more opportunities in life and more control over their bodies. A society cannot advance while half of its members are kept in ignorance.
But educating girls is more than just this simple equation, because of what The Nike Foundation has termed the Girl Effect. (One of the many things I learned from Growing Up Global). By educating a girl, a cycle of poverty is broken for future generations, as her children are much more likely to be healthy and educated. And non-profits have long known that if you want to educate a community, the most effective way is to educate mothers.
5. Education = Health
Education and health go hand in hand. As mentioned above, an educated girl is more likely to be in control of her health and to have healthy children. Often educational programs abroad focus specifically on public health. We can see the connection in our own country as well. According to the US National Head Start Association, early childhood education significantly increases the overall health of children.
6. Education = Safer Communities
The same report from the National Head Start Association also shows a reduction in crime rates due to early childhood education. Children who are educated are less likely to commit crimes and much more likely to be contributing members of society.
7. Education = A Healthy Planet
If you care about the planet, you should support education. Simple ignorance is behind many of environmental problems at home and abroad. Often it is the simple but significant changes to customary ways of doing things that have the most impact. And don’t forget that the person who could engineer the next revolution in energy use, or design a better solar panel, or move us all to action with her words, could be sitting in a dusty classroom in a far-off country.
8. Education = More Malalas, Mozarts, Gandhis, Einsteins, Curies, Mandelas
Indeed, we might well wonder how many inventions, masterpieces, and inspirations we have lost because children with great potential were not educated. Are you willing to risk losing the cure to cancer? Or the next great novel? Or a soaring thinker who could inspire change through his sweeping vision? All children have great potential, and education alone can allow us all to benefit from those hidden treasures.
9. Education = Hope
Finally, one of the most important benefits of education is hope. Children who have access to education truly have the world opened up to them – in terms of economics, health, and quality of life. But also in terms of dreams and confidence. A friend of mine worked with impoverished mothers, and so often these women had a very practical understanding of what they could do to better their lives. They could outline the steps they could take to get an education, get a better job, etc – but what they lacked was the belief that it could be done. Education can provide children with the confidence that their dreams can become reality, and that they can make a difference in the world.
IKEA Soft Toys and How You Can Help
One amazing organization that supports children’s education on a global scale is the IKEA Foundation. If you shop at IKEA (as we often do!), you will probably have noticed their snuggly soft toys. Now through January 3, 2015, buying one of these or a children’s book at IKEA will support childhood education! For every soft toy or children’s book sold, the IKEA Foundation will donate $1.00 to children’s education through UNICEF and Save the Children.
Thanks to the IKEA Foundation, since 2003, more than 11 million children have benefits through 99 projects in 46 countries, with a total amount donated of $90.4 million (67 million euro). This year it is likely they will take this grand total over the $100 million mark.
How are the donations used? They help UNICEF and Save the Children train teachers in child-friendly teaching methods, improve child protection systems, supply educational materials in the schools, help rebuild schools, provide better water and toilet facilities, and increase school attendance rates.
So while you are shopping for your child this holiday season, think of other children as well, and buy a toy that everyone will really love – a softy, snuggly toy or fun children’s book for one, an educational benefit for life for another.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.