This article was originally featured in the RAGFP’s January 2021 newsletter. To read the full article featuring each Rotary Area of Focus, please click here
Education is one of the most important investments a community can make for its future peace. Education improves health and livelihoods, contributes to social stability, and drives long-term economic growth at the individual, community, and national levels. Proper education allows individuals the opportunity to reach their true potential and will be better suited to support themselves, their families, and their communities. For women and girls in vulnerable populations, each additional year of school can increase a woman’s earning by up to 20%.

For many of us, the children in our lives have gotten used to online or distant learning curriculum. As difficult as this transition has been on many families and students, most of our children are still obtaining a quality education with the online tools we utilize most every day. For communities without internet access or technological resources, many children are left with little to no schooling during nation-wide lockdowns.

By April of 2020, 91% of students worldwide were impacted by temporary school closures. That’s 1.6 billion children not attending physical school. According to Human Rights Watch, most children in the African continent have not been learning in an academic context since March of 2020. Some children are given their textbooks and left to learn on their own instruction due to their inability to convene in a physical classroom with their teachers. Due to the pandemic, more than 250 million primary and secondary school children in Africa are not attending school. In addition to missing opportunities for education, children are losing access to ancillary school services like meals, sanitary pads, and immunization. For children living in extreme poverty, not attending school leaves them with fewer opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and are more likely to be forced into the workforce as minors.

Due to varying access to the internet and technology in Sub-Saharan Africa, teachers, governments, and non-profit organizations collaborated together to find new (and not so new) means to engage their students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nations including Ghana, Senegal, Madagascar, and Rwanda have resorted to radio schooling to keep students learning from home. Because of a radio’s easy access and simplicity of use, radios have a wide-reaching impact on creating relevant educational programming for students across a region. Radios are a simple solution to providing students with educational programming, but it does not allow for students to connect with their teachers and children can easily fall behind if without teacher assistance. Until the infrastructure for the internet, phone data, access to digital equipment, as well as adequate teacher training become readily available, radio and television educational programming will be how some students continue to learn during the pandemic.

Through empowering students through educational opportunities, we empower young people to be prepared to use vocational service for peace in the future.

Rotarian Intervention Inspiration

Education is far more complex than getting children into a classroom. Proper education requires regularly trained teachers, proper nutrition, educational resources, sanitation, and healthcare among a long list of other details. Similarly to the concept of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, for students to engage in a successful learning environment, they must be healthy in all aspects of life.

To better support students during the pandemic, it is essential to understand where the education gaps are. Every community has different needs, and every child has a different situation. Partner with local schools and education non-profits to know the missing education gaps for local students. For students in Western nations, these tools may be access to high-speed internet, headphones, and tablets. For students in other nations, children may need access to ancillary resources like food, healthcare, and smartphone data. To learn more about the educational gaps for students in conflict zones, coordinate with local Rotary Clubs to understand the local needs or contact organizations like UNICEFUNESCO, and Global Partnership for Education.

Inspiration for Vocational Service

  • Support teachers and schools on their mission to provide quality education
  • Volunteer with local groups to help students in need gain access to food, hygiene products, books, and studying materials such as notebooks, pens, and pencils
  • Use your vocational skills to engage students in your community and abroad to help continue quality education during this pandemic. Read this Rotary Voices blog post for more information