As children across the UK return to school this week, and International Literacy Day (8 September) is marked, child development charity Compassion UK is highlighting the urgent need for more children, youth and adults worldwide to receive an education and be taught to read and write.
Despite more children than ever before receiving an education the latest statistics from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) show that one in every five (about 263 million) children, adolescents and youth worldwide are out school.
UIS also states that there are still at least 750 million adults, including 102 million young people (15-24 years old), who lack basic literacy skills.
Justin Dowds, CEO of Compassion UK, comments: “In our work to support thousands of children around the world, we have seen time and again that education is vital in empowering someone to lift themselves out of poverty and access the opportunities they deserve.
This International Literacy Day we should remember that education is a basic human right. Proverbs 31:8 says: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. This is why Compassion UK works to support children, youth and adolescents where we work to be able to access the support needed to learn to read and write.”
For thirteen year old Odupoi from rural Kenya, being part of Compassion’s Sponsored Child Programme has meant that the uniform and supplies he needed for school have been provided. He is the first of 11 children in his family to attend school, but this means that the dreams he has for his future could become a reality.
Odupoi explains: “When I grow up I wish I could be a newscaster and use my voice to share stories all over the world to the Maasai community.”
Compassion UK has also seen that the education a sponsored child receives can benefit the wider family. Compassion Graduate Jane Sheikh explains:
“My sponsor completely transformed my life and, to be honest, it scares me to think what my life would have been, where I would have been, had he not chosen to sponsor me that day. The hard work and dedication of Compassion, my local church, my parents and my sponsor ensured I received an education, I was well nourished and my family was looked after. As I learnt to read and write I also taught my parents, changing their lives in the process. Today I have a first class master’s degree in International Business from Manchester University.”
However, for some, the opportunity to go to school is no longer possible. UNICEF figures show that young women account for 59 per cent of the total illiterate youth population.
This was the case for SueMue from a village on the Thai-Myanmar border. As is traditional in her village SueMue was married at the age of 12, ending her education and dreams of obtaining a high school diploma.
A year later she gave birth to her first child. SueMue was registered into a Compassion Child Survival project, where she found herself part of a group of women who, like her, had also missed out on their education. Having been taught about hygiene, child care, parenting and nutrition at the Child Survival project, the mothers asked to be taught to write their names in Thai, explaining the embarrassment they felt having to put a cross or a thumbprint on hospital and legal forms.
The staff arranged literacy classes for the mums, held at the church and in their homes to provide a more informal relaxed environment where they could learn while taking care of their children. SueMue is now pursuing her high school diploma through an adult learning programme. “The main thing I want to be able to do is read, so I can read stories to my baby girl and boy,” says SueMue.
Child sponsorship through Compassion is enabling thousands of children like Odupoi and Jane across the world to have a different future. It enables children to be part of their local Compassion project where they will receive nutritious meals, emotional and spiritual support, medical attention and the chance to get a good quality education. However there are still thousands more who need support so they too can realise their dreams for the future.
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Compassion UK Christian Child Development, registered charity in England and Wales (1077216) and Scotland (SC045059). A company limited by guarantee, Registered in England and Wales company number 03719092. Registered address: Compassion House, Barley Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 2UT.