6 lessons to learn about… Quality Education

Much of the world takes education for granted but for others, it’s a struggle even to get to a school building. Who is suffering, and what is being done to help?

1. Knowledge is power

According to the United Nations, obtaining a quality education underpins many of the most basic development drivers: “When people are able to get quality education they can break from the cycle of poverty. Education therefore helps to reduce inequalities and to reach gender equality. It also empowers people everywhere to live more healthy and sustainable lives. Education is also crucial to fostering tolerance between people and contributes to more peaceful societies.”

2. We are making progress

Much has already been done towards achieving universal primary education. Total enrolment in developing countries hit 91% in 2015, and the number of children out of school has been reduced by almost half. However, 57 million kids of primary age are not in school, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

3. The multiple barriers to education

Even when schooling is free, many families can’t afford the extras, such as uniforms and textbooks. Sometimes, there isn’t a school nearby, or war has destroyed the local infrastructure. Perhaps extreme poverty means the child needs to get a job instead of going to school. Or even, the child is simply female. Many countries still don’t value educating women, and instead the girls end up married and pregnant before they’ve completed secondary school. Two thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women, and 16 million girls will never set foot in a classroom.

4. Refugees suffer more than most

Once displaced from their homes, only 50% of refugee children are enrolled in primary school. According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, 4 million refugee children are not in school. Children uprooted by war and other major crises have lost their homes and are at higher risk of losing their education as well. Only 1% of refugees attend university.

5. Lightening the load

One company is working to improve the situation for women and children across Africa, by linking two keys global goals. Hippo Roller was established in 1994 by Pettie Petzer and Johan Jonker, two South Africans who grew up on farms and witnessed women carrying water balanced on their heads in heavy buckets. They would carry these buckets for many miles, a process which could take hours out of their days. Petzer and Jonker came up with the idea of replacing the buckets with wheelbarrows holding tanks, but the wheels were too expensive. Petzer thought: “Let’s put the water inside the wheel!” Their rolling barrels allow users to transport five times as much water, and to date 50,000 HippoRollers have been distributed across 20 countries. The effect for women and children has been profound. By saving hours transporting water every day, they can focus on their education.

6. Bikes for schools

In Mali, only 42.8% of girls attend secondary school. Reasons for this include household poverty, early marriage, or simply the distance they have to walk to get there. In order to curb the dropout rate among young girls, the World Bank has funded the Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend – which gives girls bikes to ride to school, as well as books, bags and sanitary kits. Meanwhile, their parents receive grains and other foods. So far, 900 young girls at 75 different schools have been able to continue their education thanks to the program. Before getting her bike, student Déboura Goita walked six kilometers to the Waki school in Kimparana, before dropping out completely. “On evenings, I was very tired when I got home and I had neither the time nor the energy to study,” says the 16-year-old. Now that she is back in the classroom, her dream, she says, is to become a teacher.

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