This is Esther. At nine years old, she’s never had an opportunity to go to school. Esther was born in a time of war, and for much of her young life, she’s run from conflict and has spent time living in and out of internally displaced persons (“IDP”) camps.
In the last couple of years, the fighting in her village has calmed down enough for her family to return to their home. However, she and her family still face extreme poverty. While struggling to survive, it has been difficult for Esther’s family to see the value and importance of sending their daughter to school. “She’s already nine and has never been to school,” they would say, “why start now?”
At home, Esther is charged with caring for her baby sister and young brother, adding yet another barrier to her education. “How can she attend school when she has to watch her siblings?”
But Esther is determined to receive an education. When our new school opened its doors in Esther’s village, our teachers reported to us that she was coming to school every morning. She would often sit outside of the class window, and Esther would hush her siblings quiet so she could listen to the teacher’s lesson.
Each day she comes to school, and each day she learns from the outside.
So how are we responding to students like Esther?
When we first shared stories of kids learning from the outside, many people sent in emails asking how they could sponsor children just like Esther: Can I sponsor so-and-so’s education and put them in school?
For many kids like Esther, however, the problem isn’t merely a simple fix of sending a child to school. Esther is a daughter of a woman who has survived war, and for her, the survival of her family is the only priority. In that equation, Esther plays a key role in taking care of her siblings while her mother works the field to put food on the table. It would be easy for us to put Esther in school and pay for her school fees, but it fails on two key levels:
1. We would be forcing Esther’s mother to abdicate her parental role and responsibility to help pay for, support and encourage her education. Or simply put, there wouldn’t be any “skin in the game.” And without ownership, there’s no real value.
2. Without understanding or buy-in from Esther’s mother, Esther won’t be free to pursue higher levels of education. The conversation would simply shift from, “Why does she need to go to school?” to “She knows how to read. It’s time for her to be stay at home.”
What we’re going after is a cultural shift in the community’s attitude towards education. For Esther’s mother, the key hurdle is… “Why Education?”
Our schools already offer students and their families low-cost education, and yet for many children who come from poor, uneducated families, it’s difficult to see beyond the immediate challenges in front of them.
Change requires a shift in mindset.
This is why our amazing team works hard to work with the community at the household level, running community workshops, making door-to-door visits, and talking to parents and community leaders on the “Why?” of education. The BIG picture.
Our staff will explain to various community members on how education can help decrease the likelihood of their daughters becoming child mother, or the risk of their sons joining extremist causes. Our staff might explain that each additional year of schooling will translate into increased wages for their daughters in the future or how it can help reduce infant and childhood mortality rates.
We dream of disrupting cycles of conflict and poverty. We believe it starts with education.
Once parents buy into the “Why?” of education, the work of training and educating the next generation of peacebuilders becomes much more viable and sustainable. It takes a village.
If you, too, believe in the “Why?” of education, consider joining us in our mission to transform war zones through education. Instead of sponsoring a child, commit to a monthly partnership of $10, $20 or even $50 to help support community transformation. Your gift will help support community leaders and teachers and builders working hard to make sure that when Esther’s mom is ready to get behind her daughter’s education, that she has an INCREDIBLE school to attend.
Join us today!