Friday, September 21, 2007

My Contribution to the debate – Breaking the cycle of poverty through education

This week, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has launched a charity initiative to educate more than a million children worldwide, reported Gulf News. 'Dubai Cares' will run throughout Ramadan, with the goal of raising money from across Dubai's diverse community to provide primary education for poor children across the world.
Here is a talk I had with someone about the advantages education gives to the young.

RLF: Why would you say education is crucial in the fight against poverty?
AN: For the very simple reason that a poor education or a total lack of any formal education are both sure signals to the world that poverty exists. In countries in which people live below the poverty line, the accompanying characteristic is the absence of schooling from a child’s day.

RLF: So you are saying that were we to help provide those children with an education, poverty would decline?

AN: I am saying exactly that. If you consider what an education does for a child, it follows that poverty can only decline – first for that individual, then for the family and for society at large as education becomes the norm.

Education gives a child many, many important things.
Learning gives anybody confidence – a child learns why the sun rises every day, why the grass grows greener in Spring, browner in autumn, why it rains and very soon that child begins to put things together in his mind and start to work things out for himself. He starts to connect with everything, and in that act of connecting, he comes to realize his place in the world. That gives him confidence – the realization that although he’s no different from other kids, he is special – to his mother and his father, sure, but also to everyone he meets. His personality develops rapidly because of what he has learnt, what he is continually learning, and the knowledge he gains locates him in his world – the more he learns, the higher up in the world he moves – in his own eyes and in the eyes of those around him.
Knowledge is not the same as wisdom – wisdom is the ability to manipulate knowledge in ways that accord with how the world is, and a child can only gain wisdom accompanied with knowledge. Wisdom can hardly be created in a vacuum. Wisdom is said to be an innate characteristic, but when applied to knowledge, it becomes apparent, it develops and forms that person’s intellect.
Wisdom has been defined as various things – as accumulated philosophic or scientific learning-knowledge, as the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships-insight, and as good sense and judgment. It cannot, they say, be taught, or indeed learned, but what can be done is to develop wisdom by constantly exercising the mind, that is to say, by continually learning.
Opportunities do appear out of thin air, but more often than not they have to be forged, worked at until the opportunity that does come is almost inevitable – the outcome of diligence, resulting in some recognition by others.
A chance to interact
A child’s life, were that child to stay near its mothers apron strings would surely be a disjointed one. It is in going to school that children learn how to relate to others outside the family circle. Within that circle, learning how to be does occur, but it is always coincidental with relationships that have been founded. Outside the home, first at school, then in the world of work, the person has to work out what is acceptable and what is not. School is a place where a child is socialised into the normality of the world in which he is about to enter.
Pure and lasting enjoyment
The young scholar, finding, discovering for herself what is all around her, is bound to find real, lasting enjoyment of the kind that does not come merely from a sweet taste in the mouth, or from the cooling feel of water. Lasting enjoyment comes from those discoveries that expand the child’s mind so that she comes to learn that which she has not actually been formally taught.
The chance to break with deviant behaviour
Such behaviour that derives from sloth, from boredom and from a reliance on pleasures that can easily be got, not from diligence, but from superficial stimuli, is easily avoided once it is seen by the educated for what it is – nothing more than a trick played upon the mind by those who would have you fall into the same pit they themselves are entrapped.
Physical health
Physical health comes from purity – from good, wholesome food, eaten in moderation, and from exercise. Healthy are those children who, having finished their school day, run out into the sunshine and recreate the ideas they have been unconsciously forming – which is play. Play is the more enjoyable, delightful and jolly if it is contrasted by some more disciplined activity such as learning. If play was all there was in life, it would soon not be play at all but worthless drudgery – or it would not exist.
Mental health
Using the mind, moving away from the inward feelings that prey upon us, is best found in those mental exercises that seem to have no other purpose than to tax us. Removed from the world of interrelationships between self and fear, mental health is the product of reacting to phemonena that are no less real, but are, as I have said, one step removed from us.
A chance to realize your fullest potential
There is but this one life on Earth, and our next in the Hereafter whence we will be judged. The potential in all of us to do and to be, to become and to achieve is present. What is less so is our taking those opportunities, chances, if you will, to use what God has given to their highest extent.
Wealth measured in more than just monetary terms
Wealth, that word that is synonymous with money, means far more than figures in a bank account, fine raiment and jewelry, but rather should be measured in other ways, but is usually not measured in those ways. Wealth is man’s estate, found and used to its highest and its fullest – it is to be gotten by work, not by merely sitting back and accumulating.

Life itself
Life is for living, it hardly needs saying, and yet there are many who never get to realise it until it is too late. That realisation should come early rather than late in one’s life, and learning brings it so much earlier into a young life.
Robert L. Fielding

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