Education is crucial in the fight to eventually end world poverty. Around the world, there is a correlation between areas of high poverty rates and the low education rates in those areas. In Uganda specifically, more than 80 percent of children attend primary school. However, these numbers plummet to less than 20 percent when it is time for secondary schooling. It has been proven that when children continue on to secondary school, their earning potential as adults dramatically increases, which holistically affects their community as well as lifts them from poverty. But, it is even simpler than that; 171 million people could escape the grasp of poverty by simply providing basic reading skills to children in low-income countries. Such is the power of education in ending world poverty.
One School at a Time
At an organization based in Colorado, Bay Roberts and Patty Gilbert have been working tirelessly to improve education in Uganda, a country where poverty strikes hardest and education rates appear high, but the quality is severely lacking. The organization is called “One School at a Time,” and its goal is to provide better educational opportunities for impoverished areas in Uganda. They currently partner with five different schools in Uganda, working with more than 2,250 students using their unique model to invite entire communities to come together.
The main areas of focus include: teaching the existing schools to identify their own needs and develop and implement a five-year plan; securing water, sanitation and menstrual pads for older girls; starting community gardens; providing school lunch programs; training teachers in nonviolent communication and helping first-generation girls avoid early marriage and pregnancy. They have been working to end education poverty in Uganda for 13 years.
Bay Roberts of One School at a Time
The Borgen Project interviewed Bay Roberts about the current situation of “One School.” When asked about the importance of education in the fight against world poverty, Roberts said, “Educated students learn to read and write and do basic math, they learn why it’s so important to wash your hands, they learn how to prevent disease and take care of their bodies, they learn how to plan for their futures and hopefully how to problem solve and how to think […] Current data indicates that in Sub-Saharan Africa, every extra year of schooling can equate to a 10 percent increase in wages throughout life.” Education is not just about reading, writing and math. For these children, it is about teaching them the basics of taking care of themselves as human beings. These skills stay with them throughout their whole lives.
Roberts then spoke specifically about the education of young girls, “Girls who do not have the chance to go to school are the ones that are hurt the most. They are sold early into marriage as parents often do not see the value in educating their daughters. These young women never have the chance to meet their potential, work a paying job, have access to their own money, etc.” Not only are young girls less likely to receive an education, but the impact that they have when they do is larger.
Roberts continued, “Girls who go to school are more likely to enter the workforce, earn higher incomes, delay marriage, plan their families and seek an education for their own children […] Women put 90 percent of their earnings into their families, compared to men’s 40 percent […] The World Bank has found that when a country improves education for girls, its overall per-capita income increases. Improvements in girls’ education lead to higher crop yields, lower HIV infection rates and reduced infant mortality.” In fact, a woman’s income has the potential to increase by 20 percent for every year of school she completes.
Building on Uganda’s Existing Education System
With that being said, the main goal of “One School” is not to provide access to education for children in Uganda. In 1997, Uganda implemented Universal Primary Education, presumably providing access for all children to receive primary education. However, due to woeful underfunding, the schools had almost no resources, direction or ability to educate properly. Therefore, the goal of “One School” is to partner with these underfunded schools and help provide them with tools, resources, and techniques to properly educate their students.
When speaking about this process, Roberts said, “One School at a Time addresses this situation by working with stakeholders of a selected Ugandan government school to create a 5-year strategic plan to improve their school and then providing support to that school to implement their plan. Typically, in the early stages of the partnership, schools focus on infrastructure improvements: clean on-site water at school, latrines, health and sanitation, new classrooms and teachers quarters. Towards the end of the partnership, schools focus on programs to support older girls to stay in school, teacher training, small income-generating projects and farm and school lunch projects. The overall results are that these schools are markedly improved, stakeholders are energized and happy and students are having a vastly improved educational experience.”
As for the future, “One School at a Time” has plans to expand their programs further throughout Uganda, providing even more students with education and the opportunity for a better life. “Our plan is to expand this network to 10 schools and then replicate this process in another Ugandan district.” It is the hope of the organization that this program, with its capacity for growth, can be used throughout the world, giving every child a chance for success and ending world poverty through education.
– Zachary Farrin