In a recent article on Human Rights Watch, we saw this item:
The benefits of education to both children and broader society could not be clearer. Education can break generational cycles of poverty by enabling children to gain the life skills and knowledge needed to cope with today’s challenges. Education is strongly linked to concrete improvements in health and nutrition, improving children’s very chances for survival. Education empowers children to be full and active participants in society, able to exercise their rights and engage in civil and political life. Education is also a powerful protection factor: children who are in school are less likely to come into conflict with the law and much less vulnerable to rampant forms of child exploitation, including child labor, trafficking, and recruitment into armed groups and forces.
196 member states have adopted legal obligations towards all children in their territories, and countries that ratify specific international and regional conventions are legally bound to protect the right to education and to follow detailed parameters as to how to do so.
(https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/06/10/education-deficit/failures-protect-and-fulfill-right-education-through-global — June 15, 2016)
We’d encourage everyone to read this carefully crafted and educational piece. In light of this piece and others we thought we would tie this idea of education into all the other items that we have our webpages about “why we do what we do.” Education is at the very heart of it all. Why is it that we don’t only work in water and sanitation? Why not work building toilets? The short answer is that while those efforts are valiant and necessary, they do not come with built in “collective impact.”
Working in Education (in short) allows us all to create a larger and leveraged foundation from which communities can begin to launch themselves into solving their own problems in a variety of areas (water, power, economic development, food-water-energy nexus, women’s issues, politics, social and civil engagement, agriculture, environment, and the list goes on and on). Education builds up the communities themselves to take on their challenges.
It’s a sad fact in the development world that too often systems (water pump, toilet, etc.) breaks after the implementation and the community can’t fix it themselves. The implementation dies. That money was only good for X years or months. Then another FIX is needed with more money. And that cycle of dependency is not only continued. It is reinforced. That is the tragedy — the cycle being reinforced to continue and on and on.
So why Education?
Because education is another step closer to breaking the cycle of ongoing dependence and failing ‘interventions.’ Realize that having to have an “intervention” is entirely wrong to begin with. Communities around the world should and could be dealing with their own issues. In most developing worlds this is the role of government, civil/social organizations, non-profits and other groups who aggregate wealth, desire and ability to make change. Want/need a new school — make it happen.
Whereas in many developing countries some part of that system is broken. It isn’t always the wealth question along. Dropping money into situations ISN’T always the answer. It may be part of the issue. This is why donors trust nonprofits/NGO’s in many ways MORE than donating to governments to get things done in foreign countries. There is more than applying money to an “intervention.”
If however, we had a controlled small country where we could begin to apply the educational process to the people living there, where they were built up as a civil organization themselves, where they cared about AND could make their own change in education, social change, and fundamental development, THEN we could see change. We could see people who could begin to raise money, craft community solutions, execute on plans, and maintain, repair and replace their own solutions. International development agencies would be out of business.
And that’s fundamentally why we work in education and trying to make education work in rural parts of the world. We want to find the right mix of the model that makes us as an NGO obsolete. We want to be able to say — we’re no longer needed. Let’s close it up. If we can activate students, parents, community members around education and build their capacity to take on issues in their own community (not just the school house) we are breaking the dependency (not reinforcing it).
So education is important just as it is. Girls need school buildings so that they can learn. Yes. But that isn’t the only thing we’re doing and that isn’t the only objective we have. We are building TWO things at every implementation. We are 1. building a school building (or a water point or toilet or dormitory, whatever) and 2. we are building the community’s ability to take on change (in the future). That’s ‘why education?’ for us.