By Maria Navarro, Junior, Oakland Catholic High School
You just read the first sentence of this article. With ease, your eyes skimmed over the familiar letters while interpreting the infinite words formed by their sharp, soft, or clicking sounds. However, while you effortlessly look over these sentences, 775,000,000 other people live without the ability to decipher these words. They are illiterate.
Education must command the attention of the global community in order to progress, and in order to provide millions with the right to education every human being deserves. Young leaders of tomorrow from around the world at the One Young World 2012 Summit voted education as the most prominent topic for the summit, and throughout the education plenary session, they shared their own insights and projects regarding some of the dilemmas facing education systems in their specific countries.
Viridiana Zuniga, a delegate from Mexico, points to the lack of positive government as a prime factor hurting the education in her country. Though there are many talented students in Mexico, the leaders of the country do not pass sufficient education laws or regulations to address the areas that need attention in order to help these capable students. She suggests that in order to protect their own power, government officials do not prioritize education in order to prevent more people from rising up to demand their rights. To combat against lack of positive and effective governing officials, Virdidiana insists that citizens must get on the offensive. “As citizens we have to push our leaders, we must push harder,” says Viridiana.
Sujit Lalwani, a delegate from India, states that is impossible to point to any one defining factor hindering quality education. “If one person is
uneducated, that is one problem,” says Sujit. Poor infrastructure, lack of funds, poverty, and numerous other factors all play a prominent role in contributing to the widespread illiteracy in his country, a problem he works to combat as the founder and manager or Inspiration Unlimited, an organization dedicated to reducing illiteracy. He advocates action in order to fight against illiteracy and the other infinite factors affecting quality education. “It’s great to live as human beings, but great to die as humans doing,” smiles Sujit.
Two delegates from Kenya expressed concern over the insufficient funds their schools receive from the government. The inadequate funds negatively impact
the quality of the materials and resources the children receive, and hinder their educational opportunities. In addition, they would like to see a more holistic system of education that encompasses more extracurricular activities.
Andrew Dolan, a delegate of the United States, worries about schools funded by local property taxes, especially in inner-city areas. “Properties in this area are less valuable so schools suffer because of this,” says Andrew. Schools in these areas often possess insufficient resources due to their light funding, which detracts from not only the quality of education, but also the safety of the schools and kids. Andrew believes this a particularly urgent problem because for many of these underprivileged kids, schools are the only haven they possess. “Many of these kids come from broken families, so school is the only place they can come to escape that, and if the schools are having these problems, then the kids lose out.”
One delegate from Sri Lanka proudly reports that her country maintains a 99% literacy rate and an affordable education system where schools and books are free. The schools encourage a holistic and diverse education by obligating dance and art lessons. However, only Buddhist schools provide this free service, leaving individuals of other religions who would like to go to institutions more oriented to their religion to search for private, more expensive options. The Sri Lanka delegate stated that she would like to see more free institutions that were more adaptable to other religions, like Christianity, in her country.
Raseeka Rahumathulla, a delegate from Canada, identifies the reliance on the government as the sole entity responsible for education as harmful to Canada’s education system. Raseeka urges a more pluralistic investment in education, including factors such as greater parent involvement with the education system. The over-reliance, says Raseeka, puts pressure on the government which, in turn, finds itself motivated by bottom line cost structures. These cost structures result in overpopulating classrooms at the expense of a quality education.
Through no fault of their own, millions of individuals lack access to proper resources or adequate teachers that would allow them to gain not only the valued skill of literacy, but a quality education in general. Numerous unique and diverse challenges affect the standard of education in both underdeveloped and developed countries. Because we live in a complex world with a vast range of needs and situations, the problems facing education in each country are equally complex and vast. The primary goal for sharing the issues faced by millions throughout the world at this One Young World 2012 Summit is to empower youth to take on the challenges. This can be accomplished by setting up grassroots organizations such as Inspiration Unlimited or by ongoing advocacy and compassion on the part of individual delegates. Through collaboration with other countries and careful attention to the needs of each region, education can be globally improved.
Perhaps the day will come when everyone will be able to read this sentence. Everyone will have the basic right to education.