We should all be education activist; here’s how!Ides Ofune 25th February 2019 0 COMMENTS
Poverty is a major cause of children not gaining access to school. It is also a major cause of children not completing school and not learning once in school. For many of the children and young people who are not in school or not learning today, the causes of their educational exclusion or disadvantage lie far beyond the education system. According to the Education Commission report, in low-income countries, up to 500 million school days are lost due to ill health each year, often from preventable conditions. This situation is saddening but we can do something about it as individuals and collectively.
Many people ask how they can contribute their own quota in improving access and the quality of education in Africa. I say, no matter how little, in your own way, you can do something. If you live in any part of Africa or want to help a child in any of the countries in Africa, I have outlined different methods of supporting education:
Pay School Fees and other associated fees: the first thing I would recommend is to pay the fees of a child from an indigent family. There are many families who can hardly feed and whose children do not go to school.
Paying the fees of the child will remove a huge burden from a poor family and their meagre earnings could go into other factors that help education: good food, shelter, clothing, health, etc. In Nigeria there are many low fee private schools which studies have shown, perform better than public schools. I am not an advocate of private education because it seems the proliferation of low fee private schools has made the government abandon its responsibilities. However, pending when we get it right, children need access to quality education.
Pay one off exam fees: entrance exam fees into primary and secondary schools are exorbitant and are usually the reasons some children do not transition from primary to secondary school or continue to higher education. If you do not want the hassle of paying fees quarterly or are not able to do that, you could do the one off payment for a child or for a group of children who really need it. Knowing that a benevolent person paid the fees usually spur beneficiaries to perform better. You could do this every year.
Support organisations working to improve education: there are many organisations set up specifically to support children in school. These organisations are doing a great job in ensuring that children stay in school. If you have concerns about the efficiency of such organisations, you should be specific on how you want the funds used. For example, you could state that you do not want the funds going into payment of staff salaries or administrative expenses. Or, you could state the percentage of how you want the funds shared: 90% for school fees and 10% for other expenses because such organisations need funds to run. In addition, established organisations already have a formula on how this works. Please demand accountability and don’t assume that they would do the right thing.
Volunteer to teach: if you are knowledgeable in a subject area, you could volunteer to teach during your free time or during the holidays where summer schools are organised. You could also volunteer to teach students preparing for qualifying entrance exams. Some churches and non-government organisations organise these sort of programmes. I remember teaching children preparing for WAEC exams during the week in a church programme. I am not a professional teacher but those after school lessons go a long way in supporting students who would not normally get enough lessons from regular school. For obvious reasons, they were students attending public schools.
Donate books: those books that are no longer useful either for yourself or children could be donated to other children who cannot afford to buy. You could also donate to organisations who collect such books and distribute them to where needed. There is no need keeping books your family would no longer use when someone else needs desperately them. It has been established that having textbooks at home go a long way in improving the literacy of children.
Demand accountability from government: do not be complacent and satisfied with a life of sending your children to elite schools or attributing laziness to children from poor backgrounds who do not do well in school. The world is building an inclusive and equal education system. Moreover, if the government was doing its job, it would have provided an education system and a platform where every child gets a decent opportunity to learn.
I believe education is a public right and the benefits transcends the individual. Everyone benefits when education is of a good quality. During elections and at every opportunity, let’s demand accountability from policy makers and government ranging from the lowest levels of government to the president. When education is high on the citizens agenda, the issue becomes salient and draws the attention of the leaders. We don’t have to be altruistic to do what benefits the society.
If you are having issues locating organisations to support, please send a mail to info@desertbloomadvisory and we will put you in touch with credible organisations.
Ides Ofune is currently a PhD Student at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on civil society and accountability in improving the quality of education. She is the founder of Desert Bloom Initiative and editor of Desert Bloom Advisory. Ides is very passionate about education and creating an inclusive society. She speaks French and English fluently. She can be reached at email@example.com