People tend to associate educational poverty with less developed nations. Although Italy is a developed country, according to research in 2006, the education level among Italians ranked as one of the lowest among the OECD countries: average Italian adults only attained just over 10 years of education. The situation remains similar after a decade — according to the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Italy’s “attainment rates in upper secondary and tertiary education” did not reach the OECD average. The figures suggest that educational poverty in Italy is a pressing issue because it directly contributes to and accentuates poverty among the population, in particular, among children. Understanding the urgency of tackling educational poverty in Italy, the Italian branch of the international organization Save the Children partnered with an Italian banking group, Credem, to strengthen educational development among disadvantaged children.
Child Poverty and Educational Poverty
Child poverty and educational deficiency have an intricate relationship. In 2021, about 1.3 million children in Italy lived in conditions of absolute poverty, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated educational poverty in Italy due to a lack of technology to access remote education. According to UNICEF, in a survey of 1,028 families conducted during the lockdown in Italy in June 2020, about 27% of households did not have access to “suitable technology” and about 30% of parents reported a lack of time to “support their children with remote learning” due to work and other responsibilities. Across the world, this inaccessibility and disruptions to education have caused learning losses among children.
Without an education, children are unable to attain the skills and knowledge required to access higher-paying, skilled jobs, meaning cycles of poverty continue.
Credem explains that child poverty severely affects “the educational development of many children and adolescents: it compromises their performances at school, reduces their ability to learn and develop skills, talents and aspirations and deprives them of sources of stimulation.” This impacts both their mental and physical well-being, social abilities and future opportunities.
Save the Children Italia and Credem
In 2014, Save the Children Italia launched a project called “Illuminiano il futuro,” meaning “They light up the future.” In collaboration with Credem, a local bank group that had been in partnership with the organization for more than a decade at the time, the two-part project targeted impoverished children in Italy between the ages of 6 and 16. The two parts consisted of:
- An individually personalized program, “Dote Educativa.” This strategy “consists of providing children that live in extreme poverty with personalized educational tools and services according to their age and specific requirements.” This includes financing for the purchase of essential education supplies and resources, funding to cover transport costs and extracurricular activities plus access to computers and the internet. Additionally, children would receive extra education support from volunteers.
- A community-regional program, “Punto Luce.” These are centers for socio-educational purposes. With 23 centers in 18 cities in Italy, the volunteer-run centers provide parents and children with essential services. For example, homework support, workshops, technology training, educational sessions for parents and more. Gradually, the centers became a crucial part of the children’s lives, allowing them to discover their interests and potential. In turn, some students who had considered leaving school began to understand the importance of studying and decided to continue their education.
Every country has social issues. In Italy, educational poverty is one. The lack of education among the population also reveals the increasing child poverty in the country. In fact, the two have an inseparable relationship. Understanding that children are the future of Italy, Save the Children Italia and Credem worked together to tackle the issue. By setting up socio-educational centers across Italy, Save the Children and Credem encouraged children to believe in themselves and their futures.
– Mimosa Ngai