Christie was an Intern with Opportunity International in the Summer of 2013.
Primary School Students at The Ridgway School in Uganda.
In high school I remember bemoaning 7:15 a.m. classes, the monotonous homework assignments, strict teachers and subject matter I never found applicable to my life. It never occurred to me, of course, that I was privileged, that if I had been born in another place I might not have the opportunity to attend school at all. In the U.S. most teenagers see school as an obligation, if not a burden. Sometime today, I encourage you to stop for a second and consider the implications of a life without basic literacy skills, without knowledge of our country’s history or life in the world at large.
An estimated 57 million children worldwide are robbed of a basic education. Even more disheartening, 61 percent of these children are girls. In much of the developing world, girls and women are excluded from the education system almost completely. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, four out of five women do not receive any education, even on basic health practices. This lack of education has devastating effects on women’s health because knowledge of safer sex helps decrease the spread of diseases and viruses. And yet, women fortunate enough to have at least a primary school education are 13 percent more likely to know that condoms can reduce their risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
In addition, in developing countries, every additional year of education increases a person’s future income by an average of 10 percent. In many impoverished regions, that 10 percent could be the difference between eating and starving. Studies show that increasing access to education improves the health of people within the country, reduces unemployment, violence and epidemic outbreaks, and increases overall gross domestic product (GDP). Education is clearly key to economic sustainability.
At Opportunity International, we believe that every child—boy or girl—deserves an education. We see access to education as central to our goals of creating sustainable change, strengthening communities and empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty.
The problem lies in the fact that many developing countries do not have the means to invest in education. That’s where Opportunity International steps in. Through our Invest in One Child program, we support parents and school proprietors in getting and keeping more kids in school. Just $1 keeps a child in school for a day.
During my time as an Opportunity intern this summer, I learned much about life in the developing world—about how lucky I am to live in the U.S. and have access to education. Learning about the circumstances in these countries has inspired me to use the skills I have acquired during my schooling to work toward giving everyone that same opportunity. I believe in equal opportunity for everyone, and that’s why I am a committed ambassador for Opportunity International.
So, as we experience a new school year, I encourage you to feel grateful for the gift of education you have been given, and I invite you to partner with us to extend that gift to all children around the world.