Education is the most essential tool that can change people’s lives. Just think about the ways having an education improves the human condition – it helps you live a healthier, longer, and happier life, as seen in Mauritius. An educated mind is wired with knowledge and rationality instead of superstitions and misinformation. And correlation between education level and survival rates in the aftermath of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami shows that education can literally save lives.
If education gives great benefits, then the lack of education can do even greater harm. It has been argued that the rise of the Nazi party in Germany was due to the poor quality of secondary education in the country, compared with other parts of the world. And today, fake news threatens to misinform and mislead, ending in most cases with violence. In the end, only education can stop the spread of fake news, as an educated and scientific mind will always analyze the evidence behind a story before believing the story at face-value.
So we know that education can empower societies, free communities from the clutches of fake news and superstitions, and save lives. Then how exactly are we doing in bringing education to everyone around the world, especially those who need it most?
Even a small increase in literacy can make a massive impact. Take for example the 0.23% increase in literacy from 2015 to 2016 translates to more than 11.5 million people. This steady trend continued in 2018, bringing the global literacy rate to approximately 87%. For the communities that now have schools, books, internet access, and a better understanding of their world, education brings brand new opportunities that will make them more independent and less vulnerable to exploitation.
Scaling up education from 1 to n number of students, classes, and schools, is a massive undertaking, but it is even harder to start and go from 0 to 1 in a community where no schools exist. While it is extremely important that developed countries keep their education systems up-to-date, the hardest part of eliminating global illiteracy is bringing that same level of education to the most remote areas of the globe. You can find talented and dedicated teachers in all parts of the world, like Richard Appiah Akoto in Sekyedomase, Ghana. But it is difficult even for teachers like him to help students succeed if they are not given the latest teaching methods and supplies.
Even something as simple as basic literacy can change a village, and at the center of that change are children. Giving young minds access to education and technology gives them the confidence and skills to try new activities that their elders could never have dreamt of. A heartwarming example of this can be found in Dharavi, India, the “world’s biggest slum,” where girls, usually found either cooking or collecting scrap metal and plastic to sell for a small profit, were asked to join a programming class. This class was the girls’ first encounter with a computer and the internet, but in just a few weeks, the young girls had learned how to code and publish their own smartphone apps!
Now, these girls are solving the most pressing issues in their community and have become a source of inspiration for other girls and boys in Dharavi, who have enrolled in the program, which now also teaches science, mathematics, and language. Just imagine what the next generation of Dharavi will be able to achieve!
And this is just the beginning – education is a life-long journey for us humans. All we need is one little spark – a spark of dedication in Sekyedomase, a spark of creativity in Dharavi – to light a mind and change the world. And all we need is a spark of ambition to help them.
If you would like to help bring education to communities around the world like Sekyedomase and Dharavi, here are a few fantastic organizations doing incredible work to creating a better future for all of humankind.
The Ekal Foundation is an organization that opens volunteer-run schools in villages where there are none, at an operating cost of just $1 per day.
I mentioned Khan Academy earlier but it is worth mentioning again. Their online platform allows anyone in any corner of the globe to learn and practice topics from almost any subject — all for free.
Girls Who Code is an initiative to close the gender gap in technology, helping girls who would otherwise shy away from programming to develop a career in Computer Science and related subject areas.
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.”
~ Kofi Annan