Poverty and Education

The link between poverty, and education and the lack thereof, is a no-brainer.

Unemployment is incredibly high in South Africa, but it goes without saying that those who have a matric or a university degree have a better chance of being employed than a person who has neither.

This is a worldwide challenge in developing countries, where access to education for the poor, in particular the rural poor, is limited or of very poor quality – a problem that needs to be tackled from all sides.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Quality education is one of the key United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. There are 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for achievement by 2030.

It is interesting to note that while there are 17 very important and relevant goals, quality education sits in place number four on the list, below: 1. No Poverty; 2. Zero Hunger; and 3. Good Health and Wellbeing. It is just ahead of fifth-placed Gender Equality.

The UN’s aim is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all.”

While there has been a lot of progress across the world in terms of primary-school education, there is still so much to be done. According to the UN website, “At least 22-million children in 43 countries will miss out on pre-primary education unless the rate of progress is doubled.”

The plight of girls and young women was recently under the spotlight at the CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) DFID event held in New York on the 12th of March, where UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore pointed out some rather shocking statistics:

  • Worldwide, girls aged 10-14 are spending nearly twice as many hours as boys on housework — and in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, the disparity is even wider.
  • Globally, less than half of girls aged 15-19 are in school.
  • And young women aged 15-29 are three times more likely than young men to be out of school or unemployed.

“No country can afford to short-change half of its population. Half of its learners. Half of its potential workforce. Half of its future,” said Fore.  “As leaders, as policymakers and as advocates, our duty is to go where the evidence takes us. We must learn from programmes that work … and scale them up to reach more girls and women, to close these persistent gender gaps in the services they access … in the education they receive … and in the careers that they build,” she said.

According to the UN website, the benefits of gender equality will have far-reaching effects. “Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will nurture sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.”

Read her full presentation at CSW 2019:

Education and Life Expectancy

Not only is education essential in terms of empowering people to make their way out of poverty, not being educated can have detrimental effects on one’s health. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum website: “A lack of education can literally be deadly.

A blog article on the site by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) states that poverty and low education levels are directly correlated to life expectancy around the world. “Men with a lower level of education live shorter lives on average than their better-educated counterparts domestically.”

In the greater scheme of things, these gaps create a loss in the labour force, which has knock-on effects.

“Poor health leads to disruptions in employment, which results in lower lifetime earnings. Also, a labour force with poor health hurts a country’s productivity and economic growth,” according to the IMF.

The fund recommends greater standardisation of health-care provision not just across incomes, but geographies, for instance, in less-developed or rural areas.

The Rural Areas

Back home in South Africa, while children may have a better chance of going to a decent school in the urban areas, it is the rural areas where families really battle to get their children into quality schools, where a decent education is guaranteed.

For many families in deep rural areas, simply getting to school in terms of transport can be a major challenge in itself. Failing infrastructure is another problem that plagues rural schools. Things like outdoor classrooms under trees and pit toilets are still a reality.

While various interventions by government, NGOs and the like, continue to try to make a difference, education needs to be the priority. Much noise is made at government level, but it is important to note how this will be rolled out effectively, in particular for the rural poor.

The WDB Training Academy

WDB’s Training Academy has done much over the years to facilitate the training of clients in Computer Based Literacy and basic business skills. Besides training of the trainers for WDB’s programmes, the Training Academy will soon launch health and education services in the community through its HES (Health and Education Services) programme  that will be rolled out this year.

The WDB Training Academy is also launching a girl-child programme, to reach and teach young girls, as well as a financial literacy programme for kids.

A tip of the iceberg perhaps, but certainly an opportunity to make a difference in the rural regions where WDB is active. Watch this space!

A Commitment to Education

Education and job creation need to be at the top of the agenda in order to make a difference to poverty levels in the country and around the African continent.

The message is clear that companies, NGOs, government organisations and communities all need to be on board to ensure that education initiatives are rolled out efficiently and effective in the rural areas. While the United Nations might be spearheading the Sustainable Goals initiative, it’s up to every individual and organisation to make a difference in their part of the world.

And as the hashtag says we need to ensure that we Leave No Girl or Woman Behind.

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