Chiao Reflects on Education: A Pressing Global Issue

NGC Global Project, Sunshine Charity

NGC Global Project, Sunshine Charity

Education is a right, like the right to have proper food or shelter. Education serves as a passport to human development and it expands opportunities and freedom for everyone. It contributes to democracy and economic growth as well as improving health and reducing poverty among the people.

Since 2000, more girls have been enrolled in school than before, measuring from primary education to tertiary education. The number of secondary students has also risen substantially, more than four times that increase in the number of primary students. A major reason for the rise in school enrollments in Africa and Asia is the abolition of school fees and the prospect of a midday meal. However, it is also clear that many challenges still remain in creating opportunities for children to receive an education. Poverty remains as the major marker of disadvantage. Other disadvantaged populations include indigenous populations, street children and migrants, the disabled and cultural minorities. There is also an issue with the inability to recruit female teachers and supporting poor families to making the schools more girl-friendly.

Literacy and the equality of education remains among the most neglected of all education goals with about 796 million adults lacking literacy skills. Two-thirds of this number are women. Millions of children are leaving school without acquiring the knowledge and skills that will help them succeed in their futures. There are currently many different measures in increasing the number of enrollment to schools, like the United Nation’s Education For All program. They are striving to increase enrollment and subsequently increase literacy rates globally. Every citizen deserves a right to education and to be able to gain the proper skills and knowledge to succeed in life.

This post was written by NGC Team Mentor Chiao May Lee.

Compassion: Building A Path Towards A Better Future

The following post was written by New Global Citizens Director of Programs Lisa Glenn
Lisa with her class in South Africa

Lisa with her class in South Africa

The world needs more compassion.
After graduating college, I found myself in Johannesburg, South Africa, serving out of a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship at University of the Witwatersrand.
For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people unlike me in every imaginable way–a big departure from my small town Southern upbringing. Johannesburg is a city of roughly 5 million people, and like the rest of South Africa, has eleven official languages and multitudes of ethnic and religious groups. As a newly minted college graduate, I was definitely in a world I didn’t understand.
It was easy to become disoriented, homesick, or jaded by the bustling crowds and unimaginable poverty. But in this confusing new place, I was lucky to find a friend. Elizabeth was a middle-aged teacher from Botswana also studying education with me at Wits. She was also unlike me in many ways. She had grown up in Africa in a much more impoverished situation than myself. She spoke Setswana, English, and some Afrikaans. We had very little in common from a first encounter. But on one campus bus ride home from class, we found our common ground.
“Eish, I’m so homesick!” Elizabeth said to me. “It is so hard for me to leave my family and to be so far away. But who am I to tell you? Your family is even further away than mine! Shame! How are you doing with all this change?”
From then on, we spent rides home and evenings studying and giggling like elementary schoolers.
 
Lisa with friends in Mozambique

Lisa with friends in Mozambique

Elizabeth’s friendship and compassion, so unexpected, opened me up to see the similarities between my world and the new world that I had walked into. Through such an unexpected friendship, I was able to see that my hopes and fears weren’t that unlike those of others across the world. Elizabeth wanted to finish her degree, return to her family (she had two adorable kids), and make the world a little better as a teacher. My friendship with Elizabeth taught me that compassion shown to another human can open up doors you might never imagine. 

 
Being a humanitarian isn’t about saving the world or doing all the right things. It’s about being a human who is fundamentally “for” other humans. It’s believing that we are more defined by our similarities than our differences, and that when we find those similarities, we can see each other as partners and advocates instead of adversaries or competitors.
Compassion enables us to work toward a better future for all.  

Lisa right of Nelson Mandela stature

Lisa right of Nelson Mandela stature

 
Elizabeth and I were able to live out our compassion for each other by being around when the other was homesick. Elizabeth would make me traditional Motswana food while I edited her writing (English was one of several languages for her). We would make sure to meet each other at the bus. Years after leaving South Africa, I am still struck by Elizabeth’s compassion. She now works as the Head of School at a rural school in Botswana which has been hit hard by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Many of her students are orphans, many arrive without proper nutrition, and few have not been affected in some way by this terrible disease. Elizabeth lives out her days as a true humanitarian by offering compassion through the act of education to children who desperately need someone to be “for” them. 
 
Humanitarianism is ubuntu. I am because you are because we are. 
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