Health initiatives, for example, have received tremendous support, and as such have shown incredible progress. Now I’m not saying that health initiatives aren’t crucial to fighting extreme poverty- of course they are. And I’m definitely not saying we need to turn our attention away from these other issue areas. What I’m trying to say is this- education is an equally important component to ending extreme poverty, and it needs our attention now. To make my point, here are 11 reasons education can’t wait:
1. Primary schools still lack basic materials and qualified teachers.
Current aid has been focused on increasing access to primary school. This was a great first step, but it’s not enough.
2. 58 million children still don’t have access to education.
While it’s true that more kids are in school than ever before, this number is far too high.
3. For those in school, the quality of their education is questionable.
We often use attendance as an indication of progress, but unfortunately that’s not the whole story. In places like Malawi, for instance, a rapid increase in enrollment has led to a lacking of classrooms, textbooks, and trained teachers. Case in point: 250 million children are still not able to read or write by the time they reach Grade 4.
4. Many schools lack clean water and clean, safe, toilets.
For girls, this is especially troubling. According to UNESCO, 1 in 10 girls miss school when they have their period because facilities don’t exist to cater to them, eventually causing them to drop out as a result.
5. Secondary education is not yet an objective, but it needs to be.
In 2000 secondary education for all might have been unrealistic, but that’s no longer the case. We need to make sure it’s prioritized when the United Nations meets with international leaders to plan the agenda for the next 15 years.
6. We need to focus our efforts on girls.
Educating girls improves a country’s social and economic well-being. In fact, evidence shows that countries with less gender disparity have higher economic growth. Countries that succeed in educating girls at the same level as boys can gain more than $1 billion a year.
Right now 31 milion girls don’t have the opportunity to be in school for a variety of reasons. In Africa, for instance, 1 in 10 girls misses classes or drops out entirely due to their period. We need to address these barriers.
7. Girls that receive just one year more of education see major payoffs.
They’ll see an increase of up to 25% in future earnings, and their children will be twice as likely to survive past the age of 5. For families living in poverty, these numbers have huge implications.
8. Girls who are educated have more control over their bodies.
They are 3 times less likely to contract HIV, and less likely to have unwanted pregnancies.
9. Children who aren’t in school all too often end up performing dangerous jobs to support their families or are forced into slavery or early marriages.
According to the World Bank, one third of girls in developing countries marry before the age of 18. School could change that.
10. Children and teens that are educated are less vulnerable to being manipulated by extremist ideology.
Not only do they have the ability to think for themselves, but youth who attend school have less time to get into trouble.
11. Education donations are easy to track and we know where the money goes.
Donations fund infrastructure, teacher salaries, school materials and equipment, running water and sanitation. The Global Partnership for Education is also diligent about requiring donor countries to set quantitative goals and milestones to ensure that money is spent wisely and responsibly.