Education: Finding ways to help young people reach their potential in developing countries.

After health, education is the cornerstone of a young life. Education allows people to achieve their potential as human beings. Societies depend on an educated population for their survival and growth. In some places where the education system is weak or nonexistent, living conditions tend to be poor and societies become fertile ground for despotic rule. Where education is missing, misery usually follows. And it’s such a shame.

In the world today, millions of children do not have access to basic education. A United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) study, published about 10 years ago, concluded that about a quarter of the world’s children are currently not attending school. The highest illiteracy rates are found in the developing nations of Africa, Asian and South America.

UNICEF writes in its web site that “if we took a snapshot of the state of education across the globe, the image would shock many of us. Current estimates place the number of out-of-school children at 93 million – more than the entire population of the Philippines. The majority of these children are girls, and almost 80 per cent of them live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Indeed, quality education remains a distant dream for many of the world’s children, even though it is a fundamental human right enshrined in international commitments.”

Fortunately, things are slowly improving. Thanks to global efforts, school attendance rates are rising. But the needs are great.

An American and Canadian organization, Schools for the Children of the World, is committed to building new schools in developing countries. In recent years, they’ve focused on projects in Honduras and have dramatically changed the lives of not only the children in small communities, but also of the volunteers. The Canadian branch of the organization produced a short video that provides a good overview.

See the Schools for the Children of the World video here.

Large corporations like Microsoft, are also committing resources to provide “social and economic opportunity” for young people. Microsoft recently launched an initiative to bring new products and programs to help an estimated 5 billion people who do not have access to today’s information technology.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is working on initiatives to help more girls in developing countries. It is also working on projects to extend education to children with disabilities.

There is much work to do. It’s essential that it continue and that well-developed countries find ways to support it. As the saying goes, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

The photo of a school in Honduras is courtesy of Ben Kaye-Skinner, who made it available at

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