Educating ourselves in order to understand the lives of others.

 

Let's not give up on the world's poorest children

Let’s not give up on the world’s poorest children

“Education is a fundamental right and the basis for progress in every country. Parents need information about health and nutrition if they are to give their children the start in life they deserve. Prosperous countries depend on skilled and educated workers. The challenges of conquering poverty, combatting climate change and achieving truly sustainable development in the coming decades compel us to work together. With partnership, leadership and wise investments in education, we can transform individual lives, national economies and our world.”             

 BAN KI-MOON, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL

This week could prove to be important in the lives of many of the world’s poorest children. I have written several times on this blog about the Education for All goals, established to improve the lives of children and families around the world. At times I have discussed the alarming statistics, such as those contained in the 2014 UNESCO Global Monitoring Report, that suggests that whilst progress has been made, this is at an alarmingly slow rate. Too many children continue to live in poverty, have no opportunity to go to school and are subjected to hunger, violence and a lack of adequate health care.

In New York in the coming days, representatives of United Nations member governments will be coming together to discuss the updating and future monitoring of the EFA goals. National governments are being asked to identify their own priorities and the actions they plan to take towards implementing change. High on the agenda is the development of universal education and  an assurance that all children have an opportunity to learn and acquire the skills, knowledge and understanding to contribute to the lives of their families and countries.

Education alone cannot address the ills of the world. Natural disaster, conflict and political instability are all factors that impact upon the potential for improving children’s lives. However, without education the task is so much greater. A new publication from UNESCO, Sustainable Development Begins with Education: How education can contribute to the proposed post-2015 goals, provides both interesting statistics, and evidence for the ways in which the provision of education can impact upon a vast range of issues. These include the rights of women, environmental stability and climate change, economic well-being and poverty reduction, all of which are so dependent upon an educated population to ensure progress.

It is, of course easy to become cynical and to sink into despair when considering the state of the world, and the apparent indifference often shown to such overarching issues. However, if change is to occur, we must surely begin by educating ourselves about the current situation and the impact upon the lives of those who either receive an inadequate education, or no education at all. Whilst many of the  EFA goals have not been achieved, we should acknowledge the tremendous commitment made by some governments, non-governmental organisations and dedicated individuals that have resulted in positive change for many children.

A few days ago a colleague proposed that the setting of new post 2015 goals would have little impact and that some countries will sign up to these with no intention of effecting change. In ten years time, he suggested, the same countries will be in the same decrepit state or even worse.  He may be right, but the alternative is simply to ignore the challenges, claim that this is not our responsibility and to remain in ignorance of what needs to be done.

Change through education begins when we educate ourselves, and recognise the significance of the difficulties faced by many of the world’s children. It must obviously not stop at that point, but unless we equip ourselves with this level of knowledge we remain unaware of the starting point for change and less likely to work towards improving the lives of those in the greatest need. There is a great danger in believing that the situation experienced by the poorest people in the world has little to do with us in our state of relative comfort. However, history shows that conflict that begins in those states where people are dispossessed or feel that they are oppressed by corrupt and uncaring regimes, quickly spread and impact upon the lives of those much further afield.

To suggest that this is not our problem is both disingenuous and naïve. If you also believe that educating yourself about the challenges faced by children living in poverty and without adequate education is important, you might take a few minutes to read the latest UNESCO document, and to watch the brief attached video recording.

Click on the link here to read the UNESCO document

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT BEGINS WITH EDUCATION

 

Click below to see a video made to publicise this issue

 

4 thoughts on “Educating ourselves in order to understand the lives of others.

  1. Richard this is a really thought provoking argument you are making; suggesting that the need to educate oneself as a prelude to action is also a requirement for action, a motivation for action and action in itself.

    The title could have be altered to say “educating ourselves through understanding the lives of others” this is because you are pointing to the social nature of learning.

    It is through engaging with and trying to understand others that we grow. Without the positive disruptive influence of others we would be doomed to endless repetition. Your posting combined this disruption with a “moral”purpose to, in turn, make a difference (disrupt) in the world. A very challenging posting.

    • Hi Niall,
      On reflection I think your title for this piece far better than mine. Your sequence of actions is significant. Much of the action that we see today is a reaction to ignorance. For example, the anti-Islamic rhetoric that is so apparent at present is largely created by those whose understanding of the Muslim faith is almost non-existent.
      I’ve always felt that education was a necessary pre-cursor to effective action. But I like the fact that you emphasise education as being an essential factor at all phases of the action. Thanks for a very interesting response.

  2. Hi Richard,
    Reading your post, particularly the part where you mention ‘National governments are being asked to identify their own priorities and the actions they plan to take towards implementing change.’ brought to mind a recent post I read on an Oxfam blog: http://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/why-is-a-mars-mission-easier-than-educating-indias-children-guest-post-from-deepak-xavier/ making references to initiatives such as the RTE Act, and how despite the progress, it will still take about another 63 years to achieve full compliance. The point I want to make, is that it is all very well for targets to be set, but I am afraid I agree with your colleague, that really, unless there are drastic measures of accountability put into place with regard to their achievement, the cynics among us might yet be proven right.

    • Hi Saneeya,
      Compliance is all very well, but there needs to be support provided in order that this can be achieved. Saying that all children should go to school is, of course, an honourable aim. However, unless schools are provided and teachers trained, this will not be achieved. Governments need to be held accountable as well as teachers and local administrators.

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