Charities & Global Education
There are a number of non-profit charity organizations that focus on bringing education to underdeveloped people groups and areas around the world. These organizations may be involved in activities such as purchasing school supplies for needy students, training teachers, or networking international schools together. Because education is hindered by significant problems such as poverty, hunger, war, and discrimination, many of these education-focused organizations work to remove barriers to education along with providing access to and resources for education. However, research has shown that, when successful, educational charities can vastly improve the health, safety, and economies of the communities with which they work.
Keywords Charity; Extreme Poverty; Higher Education; Non-Governmental Organization (NGO); Non-Profit Organization; Primary Education; Secondary Education; Underdeveloped Countries; Vocational Education
International Perspectives: Charities
In his book, Bill Bryson's African Diary, Bryson (2002) tells the story of a group of CARE workers in Africa. The workers built water wells and pumps in various villages but they discovered that the villagers would automatically turn back to CARE when problems with the new equipment developed. Since CARE built the pumps and wells for the village, the villagers did not see the new equipment as something they owned. Eventually CARE workers changed their focus and instead helped villages to build their own wells and pumps. When they were included in the process, the villagers would take complete ownership of the new water-supply system and started running it as a business. CARE project officer Phillip Makutsa stated that, "It's amazing how long it took aid agencies to figure out that people really, really don't want dependency. They want to help themselves" (cited in Bryson, 2002, p. 45).
This response by CARE mirrors many charities worldwide today that understand giving a needy person food, shelter, or clothing is a temporary solution to a much greater problem. To truly be helped, people need to be equipped and given resources to make permanent, beneficial changes to their lives and environment. One of the best ways this can be accomplished is through education.
Lack of education lies at the heart of many global problems today. The uneducated and illiterate are open to exploitation and are largely powerless to better themselves and their surroundings. Education is one of the few equalizers attainable by almost all. It can reduce prejudiced behavior, provide alternatives to war, overcome disease and famine, and link together people in a way that few other forces can. Education can answer many of the catastrophes plaguing the world today, particularly health-related tragedies. Education and health are intimately linked – educational opportunities lead to lower child mortality and better nutrition for children and adults. The World Bank has stated that "Education may be the single most effective preventative weapon against HIV/AIDS" (World Bank, 2007).
Barriers to Global Education
Sadly, there are a number of challenging barriers to education throughout the world, and these challenges must be met in order to bring education to all people. Education-based charities and non-profit organizations must cope with and overcome many difficult circumstances as they seek to spread education to different parts of the world.
In particular, education is extremely important for females. Better educated women tend to have few children and lower rates of maternal mortality. Educated women are better able to care for their children and are also usually healthier than women with multiple children. Education leads to more employment opportunities for women and less stigma against their gender (World Bank, 2007).
Gender discrimination also plays a role in education. Traditionally and culturally, women have often been barred from education and even today, illiterate women outnumber illiterate men two to one ("World Literacy", 2005). Girls in particular face barriers to education as they are more likely to be employed than boys, particularly in domestic situations, and therefore have less time to devote to education ("Global Task Force," 2007). Because of this, some organizations and charities, such as CAMFED, are focused on the specific challenges girls face in their pursuit of education.
Poverty, particularly extreme poverty, is quite possibly the greatest barrier to education. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as the state of people living on less than one US dollar a day and being unable to meet their basic needs. In 2004, this accounted for about 1 billion of the world's population (World Bank, 2007). Those who suffer from poverty, particularly extreme poverty, have few resources with which to survive the present day, much less plan for the next; poverty forces one to live in the moment whereas education demands long-term focus and planning. The problem of poverty often forces children into labor in order to support their families, which takes time away from their educational pursuits. The poor also are generally located in more rural areas and consequently do not have much access to education or technology.
Environmental factors also play a role in education. War and natural disasters destroy educational facilities, separate students from teachers, use up or destroy valuable resources, and make it difficult for students to continue pursuing education. Disease and famine disable and kill students and teachers alike. Additionally, it can be a challenge to move teaching resources and technology to people in rural and remote areas. An unstable environment is a severe hindrance to education.
Lack of Educational Resources
Education is also hindered by lack of resources or instructors. A teacher or resource shortage significantly impacts the learning experience. The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has projected that 18 million new teachers will be needed in the next decade in order for everyone in the world to have access to a primary education by 2015 (Teacher Shortage, 2002). Presently, teachers in different parts of the world sometimes have large numbers of students they are responsible for instructing, which hinders the educational experience. Teacher education is a significant issue; some teachers have little training and are in desperate need of further pedagogical instruction. Teachers and students alike also often face a severe lack of basic resources such as paper, textbooks, or school desks.
The Role of International Charities
Thankfully, there are a number of international charities that are specifically focused on creating educational opportunities for people in different regions and social structures. These types of organizations are concerned with
• Providing school-related funding for disadvantaged students,
• Establishing new educational facilities,
• Providing resources for existing facilities, and
• Creating educational opportunities for students, both children and adults.
Many of these charities are focused on a specific region of the world; others are concerned with a particular segment of society, such as the female population or the physically handicapped.
A great number of international charities are concerned both with providing educational opportunities and overcoming the many barriers to education. Education may be a major focus for a particular international charity while another charity organization is centered on improving education along with overcoming gender discrimination or distributing food to the hungry. A charity often works in cooperation with another charity, so that all the needs of a people group or region can be met, which helps education be furthered.
In fact, almost all international charities are involved with the process of education at some level, and education is not confined to children and the typical classroom setting. While some charities concentrate on improving education for primary and secondary students, other charities focus on vocational education, education and literacy for adults, and what may be termed "life education" (environmental, economic, social, cultural education). Education does not stop with primary, secondary, or vocational training. Some charities are involved with higher education, helping fund the college educations of people in disadvantaged areas and promoting academic freedom and opportunity within international universities.
While the work performed by different education-focused charities is quite broad, it can be split into two broad categories: direct work and networking/information sharing work. Some education-focused non-profit organizations are involved with direct "on the ground" activities such as distributing school supplies and training international educators. The other non-profit education-focused groups tend to be involved with networking and linking school systems and educators together in order to disseminate knowledge and improve the learning experience. These networking organizations may also help fund international students and educators in order that these people can further strengthen their abilities and talents.
A final note is that education-focused charities and non-profit organizations are either...
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