We all have treasured memories from our school days. That fresh smell of a new text book, writing your name ever so neatly on the front cover, of school dinner treats, of the excitement of carpet time reading “the Hungry Caterpillar” and that feeling of great pride when you’re rewarded with an oh so shiny sticker which you handpicked yourself. However, many children around the world do not have memories of any school or education experience. The issue of education is one I started to understand the true importance of during my ICS placement in Senegal with Y-Care International. This enriching experience has inspired me to spread awareness of how crucial new opportunities can be in breaking the poverty cycle and developing sustainable futures both in international development and here in the UK.

2015 is a crucial year for planet and people as the Millennium Development Goals are replaced with the Sustainable Development Goals. Education is a key global development issue and many complex sub-issues are involved within this from providing access to education, to monitoring what is actually taught and how it is taught, along with how students are tested throughout their education. However, I have learnt that there is a lot more to education and we can all contribute to providing valuable opportunities in our own ways.

I witnessed street children who don’t have access to a state education. Met children who live in the Darah’s (Qu’ranic schools) – where they can be mistreated, exploited and sent out to beg on a daily basis. Volunteers of the YMCA Kaolack provide regular presentations within various Darah’s on the causes, symptoms and treatments of various life-threatening diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and TB. This form of sharing knowledge and educating them on these illnesses could save lives. Additionally, the YMCA have recently set up micro-farms within a few Darah’s in order to create food security, providing these children with an entrepreneurial opportunity to sell their produce instead of having to go out and beg. The YMCA aim to empower young people through projects like these, providing opportunities that will educate them, become shared experiences and hence maintain sustainable long-term development, demonstrating the importance of providing opportunities in order to tackle education issues.

Yes, there are issues around education that need to be improved, discussed and debated on a global scale. However, it doesn’t just have to centre around a formal system where politicians and education ministers make these crucial decisions. We all have the means to share our own knowledge, skills and expertise. I have had the pleasure of meeting various inspirational individuals who volunteer their time in sharing their knowledge. As rewarding as the end result is, the process is a challenging one. Education volunteers hopefully encourage and inspire others to make a change and difference within their communities. For this they should be celebrated. So teach someone something new – no matter how small, you never know what opportunity it could provide them with and where it could lead to. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

By Nimisha Vara, action/2015 Youth Panellist

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For more information on the action/2015 campaign and youth click here. The action/2015 Youth Panel is co-facilitated by British Youth Council, BOND, Islamic Relief, Progressio and Restless Development and Y Care International.

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