Education is a fundamental human right, developing well-rounded citizens of the world. It has the power to lift children and adults out of poverty and integrate them into society. For that to happen, education must be equally available, accessible, and enforceable.
However, UNESCO reports that, if nothing is done, 30% of adults and 20% of young people will remain illiterate across the globe, especially in developing countries. In fact, a recent study found that 262 million children had been forced to leave school; most of whom are located in sub-Saharan Africa.
Fortunately, strides are being taken to close the education gap, with educational organisations and government institutions around the world taking the lead. Here’s what’s being done.
With the coronavirus pandemic, schools and universities were rapidly forced to conduct their classes online. And while this is a viable alternative until the safe resumption of in-person classes, online education has long been utilised to supplement or even replace face-to-face learning. In fact, pre-pandemic, a study published by the Statista Research Department informed us that the global online e-learning market was already worth around 101 billion USD, with virtual classroom and online e-learning technology contributing a significant amount to the total market revenue.
In online learning, students are provided materials and avenues for interaction remotely. This has made it possible to reach students in remote locations, provided that the internet is available in the area. And while we’re still far from being able to provide connections at every corner of the globe, private companies such as the International Finance Corporation and Google’s parent company Alphabet are making a collective effort to provide the internet to remote locations. Meanwhile, Bridge Uganda offers the Bridge@Home programme to ensure students continue learning even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The daily learning guides, digital storybooks, self-study activity packs, and mobile-friendly quizzes enable parents to track and manage their children’s academic progress with ease.
Online learning also makes it possible for students with walking disabilities to receive Education on a more equal footing. There are also online assistive tools such as text-to-speech and listening systems that can provide dedicated learning support for the disabled, helping ensure that no student will be left behind.
Students are more likely to absorb the material in a conducive learning environment. Unfortunately, many children in developing countries lack access to decent educational facilities. They are often crammed in overcrowded and dilapidated classrooms, with untrained teachers and a lack of school supplies.
Aside from that, some schools in Malawi and Chad, for example, also lack basic facilities, including running water and sanitation facilities. This presents a great barrier to learning, especially to girls just starting puberty, who would rather miss school than risk their health.
The good news is, more non-profit organisations are dedicated to addressing these barriers to education. Asha for Education funds programs that help children in India access materials and provides them with tutors if they’re unable to attend school due to distance and other factors. In response to specific issues for adolescent girls in Kenya, ZanaAfrica Foundation delivers menstrual health management tools like sanitary pads — as well as rights-based reproductive health courses for both boys and girls — through their schools and local organisations, which empower students all-around.
There are also organisations like Teach for Malaysia, which help children get into the school that best supports their career dream professions, like IT and nursing.
Because of a lack of resources, especially adequate financial support, millions of students are forced to leave school. After all, although higher Education is a ticket out of poverty, it also becomes more expensive, year after year.
That is why schools, universities, and even private organisations offer scholarships and grants to students who are set on finishing their Education. The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program gives full postgraduate and undergraduate scholarships to disadvantaged African students and the results have been promising. Half of the scholarship recipients return to Africa, implementing change in their hometowns by taking jobs in private businesses and universities. We at Guardian Academy also offer scholarships for enthusiastic learners around the world.
Government bodies also encourage students from developing countries to pursue tuition-free education, some even at the postgraduate level, with programs like the UK Commonwealth Master’s Scholarships and Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange.
Education is often called a multiplier of human rights, as the degree of access to it directly impacts the degree of enjoyment one has of their basic human needs. By making education accessible, the global youth is given equal opportunity to reach their full potential and embody their inherent dignity.