I am from one of those richest countries in the world. I grew up with the opportunity for many years of schooling which was taken for granted.
As a kid, I did not know or realized how hard it was to obtain a good 12- or 16-year of education in many situations in different parts of the world. I learnt in history text books, that girls got the right to go to schools; that a country decided 9 years of compulsory education for all kids. Those facts did not tell me much at the time.
At GlobalGiving, I had a chance to visit an after school program in a township in Johannesburg, and also as a part of my role, I get to read lots of evaluation reports from GlobalGiving’s field travelers who conduct site visits to the organizations with educational cause (and a lot more, of course).
I just thought to bring up three instances in my life that made me contemplate about the opportunity for education:
My 9th grade teacher at my junior high school told us (me and my classmates) some sentences, when we were in this time period called “Entrance exam season”. Japan has two intense entrance exam seasons, when you take exams to enter “good” high school and university. She said to us, “Study only if you want to keep studying in higher education. Your compulsory education is ending, and you can choose your future. Think for yourselves.” She held us accountable for our choice. I still remember that moment she’d given me, that I was going to school not because someone told me to.
I visited GlobalGiving’s partner organization called IkamvaYouth in Johannesburg (one of their branch) which held after school program. I had chance to talk with the students who came to study after school. Each one of them had the teenage shyness or outgoing-ness, but they all had a dream to name. Poverty in family, insecurity of the society, cultural values, and other conditions that I would not have had may hinder their ability to complete their schooling or desire to study. Yet the hope I’ve seen in the students simply shook my heart.
One of the GlobalGiving’s field travelers, Neha, who visited our partner organization in India wrote a report on how they support their community. The organization is called Association for Social and Environmental Development, whose project on GlobalGiving provides solar-powered lamps for students to study in non-electrified rural India. In the report to GlobalGiving, Neha wrote about “the gifted girl who is a school topper” who spoke to her “in some English and was very cheerful.” But then Neha “learned that her father had passed away and her mother works in Delhi as a maid in a hospital in order to support her education.” The girl is staying at her aunt’s place while her mother is away. The girl’s face showed emotional as she told Neha her stories “in such a matter of fact way”, but that also made Nena realize that “these lamps have such a significant impact in people’s lives beyond just the fact that it is light.” I envisioned the girl and was encouraged by her strength of hope and will.
All those anecdotes are what made me situate myself as a person who has a stake in education. Nothing is given for granted.