23 October 2023

Educational poverty: understanding the challenges and importance of education for boys and girls

Educational poverty represents one of the most serious challenges of our time, but, unfortunately, it often remains in the shadows, not receiving the attention it deserves. This challenge, complex and multifactorial in nature, has its roots not only in material poverty, but also in other factors that limit access to education. Depriving children of fundamental educational opportunities means compromising their potential and limiting their prospects.

The urgency of addressing educational poverty

The fight against educational poverty has also been recognized globally. In their 2030 Agenda, the international community established the ambitious objective of "guaranteeing inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting continuous learning opportunities for all". Yet, a 2022 UNICEF report revealed that 64 million school-age children are still excluded from the education system, with a majority represented by the most vulnerable and marginalized groups.

Let's see what is meant by educational poverty, what the causes are, its consequences and how the Valter Baldaccini Foundation is actively combatting it.

What is educational poverty?

The term "educational poverty" refers to a problem that affects large portions of the population, in particular children, preventing them from accessing fundamental educational opportunities. This lack of access to education is not only limited to a lack of academic knowledge, but also extends its negative impact on the personal and social formation of individuals.

Without adequate education, people find themselves without the tools necessary to develop their essential skills, talents and competencies to face future challenges, both in their professional and personal lives. In other words, educational poverty not only limits present opportunities, but also compromises prospects, reducing the individual's potential for growth and fulfillment in society.

Why is education denied in many countries?

Even though education is a fundamental right, it is denied in many countries due to a complex interaction of factors. These obstacles, often intertwined, prevent millions of children and young people from accessing quality education.

  • Wars, armed conflicts, and political tensions make it dangerous or impossible for children to attend school. In war zones, school infrastructures are closed, used for military purposes, or even destroyed.
  • Material and economic poverty represents another significant obstacle. In many families with limited resources, children may be forced to work rather than study, especially if school involves costs that the family cannot afford.
  • Discrimination, both gender and ethnic, plays a crucial role in the denial of education. In some cultures, girls may be discouraged or even banned from attending school. Likewise, ethnic minorities in certain countries may not have the same educational opportunities as the mainstream population.
  • The lack of adequate infrastructure, such as schools, teaching materials and qualified teachers, can make education inaccessible or of low quality. In many rural or remote areas, the simple absence of a nearby school can impede education.
  • A political and cultural vision that does not consider education as a priority can have devastating effects. If education is not valued or supported at a national level, the resources and efforts needed to ensure access to education may not be put in place.

The denial of education is often the result of a combination of these factors. Consequently the countries most affected by educational poverty tend to be those with situations of conflict, political instability, extreme economic poverty, and discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or religion. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, some regions of South Asia and the Middle East are among those most affected by this phenomenon.

The importance of education and school

We often underestimate the privilege of having access to a comprehensive, quality education, but it is through education that we acquire the tools to realize our potential, follow our aspirations and proactively participate in community life.

School plays a crucial role in this process. It is the place where children and young people learn not only academic subjects, but also life lessons, such as teamwork, conflict resolution and mutual respect. Furthermore, the school offers a safe and structured environment where students can explore, experiment and grow, both intellectually and emotionally.

In addition to individual benefits, education also has an important collective impact. An educated population is more inclined towards innovation, creativity and solving complex problems. It helps reduce inequalities, promotes peace and stability, and stimulates economic growth. Highly educated societies boast well-informed and engaged citizens who are actively committed to collective well-being.

It is crucially important to understand the value of education and school, indispensable tools that lay the foundations for actively participating in society and economic life.

How to fight educational poverty?

Given the complexity of the phenomenon, fighting educational poverty requires collective commitment and a well-articulated strategy. At the heart of this strategy is the need to invest in robust infrastructure, teacher training and the creation of high-quality educational programs. However, the social, political, economic, and cultural conditions that characterize some countries make an immediate and complete resolution of the problem particularly difficult. In addition to these tangible aspects, it is essential to promote a culture of equality, ensuring that every child, regardless of their socioeconomic, ethnic, or geographical origin, has the same learning opportunities.

The socio-educational projects of the Valter Baldaccini Foundation are deeply committed to this objective: to combat educational poverty through initiatives that guarantee children and young people in situations of fragility and difficulty access to education.

Among the Foundation's initiatives are:

  • The distance support project in Kenya started in 2006 which supports children and young people living in the Mathare slum, in Nairobi. Here many people live in conditions of extreme poverty, without clean running water or toilets, while crime affects children who are the most vulnerable. The project follows children and young people in their education and training journey, offering them the opportunity for a better future.
  • The distance support project in Burkina Faso, an initiative like the one launched in Kenya, with the aim of ensuring education for children in extremely vulnerable situations. Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world and marked by internal conflicts, where educational poverty is a tangible challenge. Thanks to the project, boys and girls can attend school, which, in addition to providing the skills and knowledge to build a future, guarantees them a hot meal a day, clean clothes and a safe place where they can play and grow.
  • The education and job placement project in Kosovo, an initiative launched in 2016 which aims to support young people in a country marked by conflicts, clientelism, corruption and profound gender discrimination. Many of these boys and girls come from marginalized backgrounds, families marked by extreme poverty, mental health problems, prostitution, and prison. Faced with these challenges, the project aims to offer young people opportunities for personal and professional growth, through training courses and work opportunities, allowing them to build a better future.

Fighting educational poverty is a commitment that requires our united efforts. Every contribution, small or large, can make a difference in the life of a child and young person by offering them the opportunity for a better life.

You too, with your gesture, can become an active part of this mission.

Donate now and support the Valter Baldaccini Foundation: you will concretely change the lives of many children and young people in vulnerable situations.

Don't underestimate the importance of your help: every donation is one more step towards a world where education is a guaranteed right for everyone. Fighting educational poverty is essential to ensuring a fair and promising future for tomorrow's adults.

Photo credit: Francesca Boccabella

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