By Teresa Rugg and Willie Dickerson
Around the world, 57 million primary school-aged children are not in school. The majority of these children are girls, the very poor, and children in areas of conflict. In addition, many more children who are in school are failing to acquire even basic reading, writing, and math skills. We may think that access to a quality education system is only a problem in developing countries. However, upon hearing that the Everett School District failed to approve their bond issue, it makes one stop and reflect on the fact that we all are responsible for our children’s education, not just our local, state and national governments. We, as individuals privileged to live in the United States, decide what is important, and we show this by voting for our priorities.
As the Everett School District begins to inquire about why this bond for new construction projects and upgrades did not pass, similar actions are being taken by communities in developing countries to ensure that all children have the resources they need for academic success.
The good news is the world has made steady progress toward universal education since 1999, when 108 million children were out of school. Unfortunately, this effort has stalled, with the poorest, mostly rural and children in areas of conflict, still difficult to reach. Unless more effective policies are implemented, and there is greater international financial support, the numbers of children out of school will start to increase. This lack of recent progress is due in part to donor nations reducing financial support.
All children deserve the right to an education, whether they live in Everett or Ethiopia. Education strengthens families, communities, and countries by reducing poverty, increasing incomes, fighting HIV/AIDS, saving the lives of mothers, and more.
Enter the bi-partisan Education for All Act introduced in the House by Washington Rep. Dave Reichert and Nita Lowey of New York. A thank you to Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen for responding to constituents in Snohomish County and co-sponsoring this legislation. The Education for All Act seeks to ensure that the United States join with other nations, providing resources and leadership necessary for a successful international effort to provide all children a quality basic education.
To achieve this goal, the Education for All Act creates an efficient U.S. policy that includes working with other countries, international organizations, and civil society to assist developing countries and strengthen their educational systems. According to the United Nations, developing countries pay almost 90 percent of the cost of education in their countries. Education for All’s sustainable plan promotes education as the foundation for community development.
One successful international organization that the Education for All Act supports is the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Housed at the World Bank, the GPE works directly with developing country governments to create and fund national education plans. This process has increased the number of children in school, as well as the number of children completing school.
This coming June, when we will be wrapping up our school year here, our country will be part of the Global Partnership for Education replenishment conference. This is a time in which countries and other donors from around the world show their commitment to education for all children.
In 2011, America made a first pledge of $20 million to the GPE. Other countries have pledged 10 to 20 times that. This year America can make a pledge that shows true leadership, helping insure other countries will pledge in a way that will address the needs of all children. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the benefits of education include reduction of infant mortality, fewer deaths of children under age 5, less malnutrition, increasing individual earning power and lifting people out of poverty. With education for all children, communities begin to flourish, bringing peace and prosperity. Without education for all, we will continue to pay consequences in the areas of health, security, development and human rights.
As the Everett School District begins to examine how they can accommodate the overcrowding that will inevitably happen in their schools without a boost in funding, the call for advocating for comprehensive and effective educational systems throughout the world is stronger than ever. Hopefully our local and global communities will see that we must invest in our children’s education from preschool to secondary. The more we understand why our community is investing in our children, the more important education becomes.
Teresa Rugg, MPH, is a health educator. Willie Dickerson is a retired teacher. Both are members of the Snohomish County RESULTS group.