Stephany Yong's Blog

Lesson 2: Coming to class prepared

Do you remember your first day of school? Maybe a cartoon-inspired backpack, a clean pair of red sneakers, and a sandwich with the crust cut off. Or maybe it was a tearful rights-of-passage of letting go of your mother’s hand. Sure, you were frightened of what was to come, but you knew you had the tools needed to make it in the classroom. Your pencils were sharpened and binder was abundant with wide-ruled paper.

Now imagine this. It’s your first day of school. But this time, you forget your backpack. And that backpack had all your school supplies in it: the books, the assorted folders, your pocket dictionary, and pencils. How are you going to write, follow along with the lesson plan, and complete your assignments? It’s rather simple: you can’t.

This is an issue that too many children in developing countries face, namely in Africa. When people are compelled to think of the obstacles facing children in Africa, images of poverty and sunken eyes tend to prevail. But that cycle of poverty can be broken through education by fixing the shortage of books and school supplies.

While the number of children enrolled in primary school in sub-Saharan Africa grew from 87 million in 2000 to 129 million in 2008 (a 48 percent increase), the public expenditure on education grew only by 6.1 percent per year. And similarly to what happens in the United States with cuts to education, the quality of the institution suffers. Larger class sizes, less textbooks, less investment in technology, and less learning. The lack of growth in investment in the education sector offsets any gains in school attendance by hindering the quality of instruction each student receives. How many of these kids are being left behind because they lack basic tools needed to succeed? You wouldn’t expect a plumber to fix your sink without a wrench nor a cook to prepare a proper meal without a stove or grill. A child’s performance in the classroom is no different.

It’s a concept similar to teaching a man to fish and feeding him for a lifetime. Give a child a school supplies, and you give him or her the chance to have the world.


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