Martine de Luna
September 17, 2013
Imagine having to swim through a river each day to get to school? No, not wade; not slosh through with
wellingtons and a waterproof jacket: I mean swim
doggie-paddle style through a deep, running river.
This is the reality for young students in the small town of
Casili, a region north of the capital city of Manila, here, in the Philippines
where I live. Here, the children of Casili literally swim towards an education.
Due to lack of infrastructure and bureaucracy issues in the local government,
the kids arrive at their school house drenched (and likely at-risk for flu, if
we are to be honest) every day.
And yet, they do so with smiles. They are among the lucky ones
with access to education.
They should — and they do — consider themselves blessed. I, too,
consider them privileged, because at least they have access to accredited
teachers, government-approved curricula and even a chance at a college
scholarship. They are not among the 57 million children globally,
who are currently out of school.
As a former member of the education force, this number astounds
and appalls me. Approximately half of the out-of-school youth, a majority of
whom are girls, are located in sub-Saharan Africa. UNESCO predicts this number
will skyrocket by 2015, if no action is taken by local governments and NGOs to
provide education access to these children.
I used to teach children how to read. These were children from a privileged
upbringing, from some of the top schools in our country. And when I think of
the 40 some students I used to tutor, I have to reflect: How fortunate is this child to be able to read, write or pick up a
book and engage in a conversation! This is because I understand that
literacy and basic learning skills (reading, counting, etc.) are foundational
to a child’s overall development.
There is a clear correlation between illiteracy and poverty. That
is why #2 of the Millennium Development Goals of the UN focuses on the right to
primary education for all children. Here are the current targets:
Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able
to complete a full course of primary schooling
• Enrolment in primary education in
developing regions reached 90 per cent in 2010, up from 82 per cent in 1999,
which means more kids than ever are attending primary school.
• In 2011, 57 million children of
primary school age were out of school.
• Even as countries with the toughest
challenges have made large strides, progress on primary school enrolment has
slowed. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of out-of-school children of primary
age fell by only 3 million.
• Globally, 123 million youth (aged 15
to 24) lack basic reading and writing skills. 61 per cent of them are young
• Gender gaps in youth literacy rates
are also narrowing. Globally, there were 95 literate young women for every 100
young men in 2010, compared with 90 women in 1990.
Let’s go back to that number
again: 57 million children without access to education or hope to one day be able
to read or write. Fifty-seven million
children with lack of life skills that can equip them against disease, early
pregnancy, abuse and exploitation.
We have to step up to meet the Millennium Development Goal for
Education because schools give children
the building blocks for practical life skills. We have to actively engage
in efforts to build sound school structures, invest in quality books and teachers, and
clamor for the strong support of governments, corporations and communities.
We have to teach our own
children — those who have the privilege of a quarterly report card and a
lunchbox — to care. Unless we teach our own children to be grateful for their
schooling, and ultimately fight for children’s right to education the world
over… then, as moms, our own children’s good grades will be for naught. In
communities such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, a school is more than a place
to learn how to read or write: It is safe haven for support and socialization,
access to clean water and even vaccines. It is a mecca for young people to
start life right.
I’ve seen three children in Casili sharing one tattered textbook,
with a more eager longing in their eyes than any students in the top schools in
the country. And it makes me think: What
if they were my children?
What would I sacrifice so that my child could open up a book and
learn the ABCs?
What would I do to give my son the privilege of raising his hand
in a classroom filled with other students as hungry for knowledge as he?
What can I do, as a mother to help meet the millennium development
goal promoting the right to primary education?
As a former
teacher, I will always be a champion for a child’s right to education. Moreover,
as a mother, I will not just advocate for each child’s right to learn; I will ultimately fight for
each child’s right to a life that
will afford him or her with opportunities. The most basic of these
opportunities being a quality primary education, teachers who will champion
them, and systems that will compel them to succeed–even if poverty dictated
How about you? What would you do to champion each child’s right to
Keep the conversation going
on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and help save the world — share this
post and join World Moms Blog and Save the Children for two #Moms4MDGs Twitter
Parties! Wednesday, September 18th,
from 1-2 pm EST and again at 9-10 pm EST, go to www.tweetchat.com and enter the
hashtag: #Moms4MDGs to join in! This month we’ll be focusing our chat on MDG2,
the right to a universal primary education.
Martine de Luna is a writer,
a former educator, an attachment parenting advocate and work-at-home mother.
She blogs at www.daintymom.com, and is a Managing Editor for the Asian regional
writers of the World Moms Blog.