How often do you send a message on your phone or read a sign when you’re out and about?
Imagine not only being unable to text your friends but not even being able to call them because you couldn’t read their names on your phone.
January 24th is the International Day of Education, a time to reflect on the right to education and its importance around the world.
Education is a fundamental human right, recognized by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is essential for the full realization of an individual's potential and for the development of a just and equitable society.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to access quality education.
About 244 million children and youth are out of school, and 771 million adults are unable to read and write. That’s more than ten times the population of the UK!
Some of the barriers to education include poverty, conflict, discrimination, and a lack of resources. These barriers disproportionately affect marginalized and disadvantaged groups, such as girls, refugees, and those living in rural areas.
Less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and around 4 million refugee children are not in school.
In addition, more than half of the prison population in the UK have difficulty with basic literacy skills, so there is a direct link between literacy and crime.
As we’re seeing in Ukraine, the devastating impacts of the war have directly affected the country’s young people. Schools have been bombed, cities occupied, and people have been displaced. It has been a traumatic time for the country’s school-aged children.
Therefore, the work that ACET Ukraine does is life-changing. They give a safe space to children and young people to process their experiences, form friendships, and receive emotional support. This is equally important to encourage a positive attitude towards their day-to-day life including studies and future aspirations.
The impact of barriers to education is far-reaching. Lack of education can perpetuate the cycle of poverty, as those without an education are often unable to secure good jobs and provide for themselves and their families.
It can also lead to social and political instability, as those without an education may be more susceptible to extremist ideologies.
In South Africa, whilst schools were closed in lockdown, some of the young girls between the ages of 12-14 have fallen into situations with ‘sugar daddies’, men who give them material gifts or money in return for sexual favours.
When Thembi (* not her real name) was first offered a pencil case and some tomatoes, she had no idea that this ‘kind man’ would ask for payment a few weeks later, else she would never have accepted them - but she didn’t know.
No one told her that these types of people existed. ]
The men are often threatening and attempt to isolate the girls so that they won’t be able to report the encounters. The impact on their education is destructive, with many of them feeling anxious and more likely to struggle in school.
Poverty and a lack of opportunities heavily impact the education for some children around the world.
Investing in education is therefore crucial for the development of individuals and societies.
Education can empower individuals to make informed decisions, participate in their communities, and contribute to the economy. It can also promote social cohesion and understanding, as education helps to build bridges between different cultures and communities.
On this International Day of Education, let us reaffirm our commitment to the right to education for all.
This means investing in education systems and ensuring that they are accessible, inclusive, and of high quality. It also means promoting and protecting the right to education in all corners of the world.
Is there something you can do to impart your knowledge or encourage someone’s learning?
Even here in the UK where education is very well regarded, many people still struggle, it’s not just refugees, asylum seekers, and those in prison who need vital support, it could be someone in your work, a neighbour, or the person who delivers your pizza. One person can’t change the whole world, but you could change the whole world for just one person. What about starting a book club, regularly meeting up with someone who struggles with English, or just offering to help someone fill in forms or read an important letter?
Education is a powerful force for good, and by prioritizing it, we can create a more just and equitable world for all. Offer your support to someone and you might be pleasantly surprised that they take you up on it!