“Voices from the Field: Education as a Human Right” by Dhara Naik

In this age of development, it was stunning for me to learn that countless children around the world are being denied an education due to their gender, economic status, or they are living in a war torn country. According to UNICEF data, the number of illiterate youths (ages 15-24) is at 115 million, with the most concentrated in the least developed countries and 59% of the illiterate youths being women. Around the world, 91% of youths are literate, but is simply having the ability to read and write equate to education? Learning to read and write is necessary, but should not the goal be bigger than that? In teaching children to simply absorb information and repeat, what will they gain? It is the application, the practice, and the understanding of the “why” and “how” that makes information important. Critical thinking skills are the key to solving the world’s problems; understanding that if children are taught how to think, rather than what to think, is imperative. By doing this, they will gain the skills necessary to improve our communities, countries, and the world. However, if we leave children educationally handicapped, they will not be able to contribute to society, and the issues of poverty, pollution, and violence will continue. This is especially true in regions of the world that are at the highest disadvantage. Providing food aid or money to these regions is simple, but without eliminating the cause of the problems, we are just treating the symptoms rather than attacking the disease.

ConnecTeach is making an effort to treat this disease. By partnering with schools in underprivileged communities, students are learning critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as learning what they can do to help their community. I was able to do my part by talking to students who were sharing their thoughts on the discussion boards in response to these lessons. In the brief time I spent reading and commenting on the students’ discussion posts, it became clear how a few skills and encouragement can give a student the motivation to address problems in their community and take initiative to generate improvements. For example, one student expressed how she made an effort to discourage her uncle from putting his son to work and rather, send him to school. She explained to him that an education was key to his son’s future and by putting him to work, he was depriving his son of the ability to build an improved life for himself. Her belief in the value of education and, additionally, her drive to bring that realization to her uncle, was exciting. With students like her learning how to reason, finding solutions, and implementing what they already know within their own community, it is obvious that a higher education gives a student the ability to change the world. Although this is just one response and one story, if we multiply the access to this kind of education the impact will be clear.

Though my contribution to these students seems small, I was able to encourage and praise students who were putting in great effort despite the challenges they face. My role in ConnecTeach did not require me to put my life on hold, give up my life savings, or put in much commitment. ConnecTeach is one of many organizations committed to promoting education in an effort to cure one of the diseases of the world, but they require support.  If we all create or recognize roles for ourselves, no matter how big or small, the solution will come about more effectively. It is purely a matter of taking responsibility for the future and realizing that, regardless of the conflicts around the world, we will win or lose together.

Empowering children through education and critical thinking skills is the cure to the diseases that are plaguing our world. We all should be remembered for providing the solutions, rather than the problems. Therefore, it is necessary for government officials, students, CEOs, teachers, scientists, parents, and anyone who values the future of their country or their world, to support education, wherever they are and especially in the places that are the most burdened. While the inequalities of the world may not directly affect you or do not seem prevalent in your country, that does not indicate their absence around the world. There are still people living without clean water, sleeping with empty stomachs, and suffering from treatable diseases and the solution to all of these inequalities is EDUCATION.

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