School Supplies Give Needed Structure to Learning

by Allison Young

While most people can agree that education is a good thing, impoverished regions face a challenge in supplying basic school supplies to their children. Literacy is hands-on – students need books, pencils, uniforms and computers to help with learning.


Education is a human right and a crucial resource. Literacy improves health, income, and livelihood, but in 2012 the Global Partnership for Education estimated that 61 million children across the globe do not attend schools. These children find themselves disadvantaged. Without access to learning, they become trapped in the generational cycle of poverty suffered by their families and those before them. The same report noted that even when children in lesser developed countries go to school, the quality of their learning leaves them many grades behind the students of wealthier nations.


The result: illiterate children, teacher attrition, and student absenteeism. Without the tools for a standard education, schools cannot keep students engaged.


Education is one of the core goals of Transformational Community Development (TCD). A community that can learn is a community that can control its future. It can adapt, developing skills to break from the cycle of poverty. We have to focus past mere charity to understand what has been preventing literacy in villages across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. A building is not enough to draw people to learn together; people need to have the supplies to make it worth their time.


Student Barriers Prevent Learning

Basic needs like pencils, pens, paper, and textbooks help students engage in lessons, as they gain knowledge they can bring back to their community to improve overall welfare. Projects in school can translate into better lives for families in extreme poverty. A student can learn to research hygiene from a textbook, and share this information, reducing disease and increasing life expectancy. A child can learn to use a pencil and paper to manage finances and plan for new sources of income. Education and its resources encourage a lifetime of problem-solving for young learners.


School uniforms are often a highly debated topic in industrialized nations, but are important to providing an appropriate learning environment to children of conflict. Proper clothing restores the dignity of groups worn down by world crises. It aids school attendance, helping children to overcome instability and identify as students. Providing uniforms lowered truancy by 44% in a 2009 study of Kenyan students -- by removing the financial obstacle from clothing, families could more easily send children to school. Another important benefit of uniforms to education is reducing gender disparity. The World Bank Group estimates that 16 million girls will never enroll in school, a staggering statistic when compared to half that for boys. Hygiene items and uniforms will help lower that number. The safety these supplies provide is unseen, but substantial, as they reduce alienation many girls experience when they reach puberty. In addition, uniforms can increase safety against sexual assault. A 2007 study found that the rate of sexual assaults were much lower in schools with uniform policies than those without, suggesting uniforms may be an effective preventative measure in nations already struggling to keep their daughters safe.


When families are left responsible for providing school needs to their children, it discourages school attendance. UNESCO’s 2011 Global Education Monitoring Report found a disparaging gap in the rate of primary school completion for wealthy children versus those in the poorest households, especially in countries experiencing conflict: only 39 percent of impoverished children in low to middle income countries were able to complete their primary schooling, but the rate for more advantaged children was 77 percent. Not having access to basic needs can prevent school from being an option for children.


Educational Transformation in Action

GHNI works with villages in extreme poverty in finding solutions to obtaining school supplies. In Dafyaneh for instance, one Syrian family could not send their children to school because they could not afford uniforms. In this instance, GHNI provided uniforms so parents could use their income to continue to grow in other areas of their home life.


As communities develop, some families generate enough income to overcome financial burdens that hinder education, like Kitty and Ibrahim in the Alishow Village in Ethiopia. Income from the farmland they cultivated after TCD progress was made allowed Kitty to buy school supplies for her children -- something she had never accomplished before. In the same village, Mariya, a widow with five children, accomplished the same feat. Income was newly invested by the village into its own development as parents sent children to school.


“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” ― Malcolm X


Whether by intervening or training in education, GHNI works to ensure individual children can have needed school supplies. We do this through generous donors, people who see how our plan for progress guides thorough change, rescuing our brothers and sisters in Middle Eastern, Asian, and African countries from the darkness. Meeting basic needs in a sustainable way breaks the trap of sickness, violence, and uncertainty that poverty illegitimately sanctions.


Help Children Make Progress

We cannot forget that education is supported by making sure children in extreme poverty have their own school supplies. School is more than a building and a teacher. In developing nations, it is a game changer. It is the key opening prosperity for the next generation, a door too often kept shut by the strain of daily labors to survive. Looking beyond the building ensures a better global future for today’s youth.