Dimulagala, Sri Lanka. Jayanthini listens to the teacher during her year 11 maths class. PHOTO: Maureen Bathgate/OxfamAUS

Realising people’s potential

If you’re reading this you’re already ahead of the game. Around 770 million adults worldwide are illiterate, most because they were denied a basic education in their childhood to equip them with skills we take for granted.

Every single child – girls as well as boys – has the right to a free, good-quality primary education. Why? Because school helps children develop the skills they need to make themselves heard in the world, to make positive changes in their lives, and finally break free from poverty.

It’s an enormous challenge – getting every child a primary education – so we work in different ways, with local organisations, to get results.

Providing bricks and mortar

It can be tough getting an education when your school has no roof, walls, desks, chairs or books. That was reality for children in Nong Por village, northern Laos, until February 2007, when their new school opened – the result of our partnership with the community and district government.

The school has five classrooms complete with blackboards, desks, benches and teaching materials, and a library filled with books.

Partnering with schools and local care organisations

We’ve partnered with Vhutshilo Mountain School in South Africa’s Limpopo province to ensure that underprivileged children who are HIV positive take their medication while they get an education.

In Durban we’ve partnered with Refugee Social Services to provide a day care facility that teaches crucial life skills to vulnerable refugee children while providing a safe place for them away from the dangerous streets.

Challenging attitudes

In poor tea estates in Sri Lanka, many adults haven’t attended school and see little value in their children getting an education. Instead, children help with household chores or work on plantations, perpetuating the poverty cycle. Our partner Rural United Foundation of Deniyaya runs a school for about 40 children, providing basic literacy, numeracy and language classes. Many parents have since seen the benefits and enrolled their children in government schools to continue their studies.

Realising rights

Life is a daily quest for survival for stone quarry workers in India but they are fighting for change with the help of our partner SANTULAN.

SANTULAN trains and organises the workers to fight for their rights, including their right to an education.

Children who once worked alongside their parents breaking stones are now studying at SANTULAN’s “pashan shala” schools and dream of becoming teachers, doctors and world-class cricketers.

“We were always taught that school is a big thing that is not meant for us and so our generations have been going into the mine,” student Kavitha says. “But with the pashan shala schools, we have got access too. Now I can dream of becoming a better person in life and can get a job and succeed.”

Together with Kavitha we’re learning a powerful thing: optimism.

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