Social Equity through Education and Knowledge Sharing
With the gap between rich and poor ever widening, how can this be resolved?
Education gives access to a wider variety of better paid jobs, but getting access to better education can be difficult.
“There aren't many people who are poor because of their lack of ability. ... The wealth gap leads to an opportunity gap in education, university admissions and career advancement. Like this, the education gap repeats itself again and again. … The poor have less time to study than the rich, often because they need to work more, have less money for tutoring and after-school classes, go to less-qualitied schools, and even suffer discrimination. Wealthier students can just focus on studying and hire individual tutors to get better grades. They have the resources to get extra help and usually learn above their grade level.”
- Jee Won Eva Paik, South Korea
Both Jee Won Eva Paik and Oufan Hai (Singapore), have put themselves forward as volunteer tutors to less affluent students, either one-to-one or via video platforms. They recognise that this would benefit them too – an incentive for them to learn subjects well, achieve school volunteer credits or projects, and have also found that this interaction alters their perceptions of others.
““One’s greatness is measured by one’s kindness.” Joining a charity organisation to tutor the needy children may not seem like a feat, but it changes the lives of the tutees.”
- Oufan Hai, Singapore
Alice Min Seo Kim (South Korea), is raising awareness of poverty and child labour amongst her friends and family.
“Have you ever heard about the child Iqbal? … He worked in a carpet factory since he was 4 years old, working more than 10 hours everyday in a small, unclean place. He worked but was paid only 22 cents. He became so exhausted that he finally decided to escape from the factory…”
“People around me don’t know enough about child labor. If I ask them about, “Do you know how serious child labor is?”, they answer that it is not happening a lot, so they don’t think it’s a big problem. But it isn’t true, there are tons of children laborers in most poor countries. Also, people do not know that some objects they use, and food that they eat are made by children laborers. Chocolate is one example of it. A lot of children work days and nights in cacao farms. We eat chocolate and say it’s delicious and sweet, but children who work all day at cacao farms had never eaten a piece of chocolate. The problem can’t be solved if people are not aware of the seriousness of child labor.”
- Alice Min Seo Kim, South Korea
Kelerayani Vorakitaki (Fiji), offers us the perspective of a less wealthy student and the hope of a better life, for all her family, through her education.
“We don’t have electricity supply at home. … I had exam next day and my father had to go fishing in the night. He took benzene light with him and there was no way I could study without it. Then, my mom made a kerosene lamp of a coco tin. She lit it up, so that I could study. I can still remember how she used to say that I am her light and that I am the one who will bring changes in the family.”
““Education is the key to success”, my teachers tell us every day. It is the way to fight poverty. I make sure that I study hard and make maximum use of whatever resources I have available around me. … I am aiming to get scholarship for higher studies. As soon as I start working, the first thing I will do is shift my family to a better place where there is access to better facilities such as road, water supply and electricity. That will be a better place for my family. My siblings won’t have to struggle the way I do. They won’t have to study in that kerosene lamp. My dad won’t have to walk miles for drinking water. And most of all, my mum won’t have to beg money again.”
- Kelerayani Vorakitaki, Fiji
It is important that not just individuals but whole communities are lifted out of poverty. In the Philippines, an inspirational social science professor declared:
“This university is funded by the public so we can use our education to help the country. But many of our graduates forget this the moment they get their diplomas. Instead of helping the country’s poor, they work in foreign lands to get high wages. They use their education to enrich themselves. And when they return to the Philippines, they are quick to complain that the country remains poor! Ask yourselves, what have you done to help the country? And who will help the country’s poor when all of you are gone?”
This led Kent Harry Perez Cumpio to realise:
“… that education has a much deeper purpose. … Its purpose is not to enrich ourselves with material wealth, but to learn to question why we’re obsessed with material wealth to begin with. We must learn to see the bigger picture and ask the tough questions. What is our role in society and how can we use our education to help?”
As an engineering student, at the University of the Philippines, he has applied his knowledge and skills to benefit the people of his country.
“My project was to build small biodigesters that convert food waste into gas for cooking and heating. … This project can help farmers and households save on costs. Instead of buying expensive gas, families can generate their own fuel at home from food and animal waste.”
- Kent Harry Perez Cumpio, The Philippines
When you think of education do you imagine young people? In most countries, our elders are separated from society and their knowledge often neglected. In India, a society rooted in extended families, two essayists comment on this trend for separation and how both generations, young and old, can learn from one another.
“… bring back the old [after retirement] to teach the new generation. … These elder teachers would also offer life experiences and lessons other than those in the books. … This little idea would change the life of elders as well. Their regular interaction with the children and young adults would keep them informed about the present times and situations. Their suggestions and advice would increase the influence of the older generation on modern life.”
- Bhaskar Mishra, India
Shreenabh Moujesh Agrawal called these teaching groups ‘Oldy-Goldy’ Clubs.
“There can be ‘oldy-goldy’ clubs of old scientists for the teenagers and the college students to guide them on innovative projects. There can be ‘oldy-goldy’ clubs of grandmothers for the young daughters who want to equip themselves for a happy married life. There can be ‘oldy-goldy’ clubs of artists to colour the life of the young.
I wish I could start ‘oldy-goldy’ clubs all over the world not only to make my oldies live healthy and happy but in turn help the stressed, disoriented, self centered, unsympathetic youth live their life with internal satisfaction. Only the experienced can shape the inexperienced!”
- Shreenabh Moujesh Agrawal, India
Sharing knowledge, making education accessible to all, and applying our skills for the good of everyone, can change our societies for the better – giving people a sense of self-worth, contentment, interest in life and other people.
May Peace Prevail on Earth
Interested in the issues raised? Find out more using the following links:
SolarAid and other charities are providing lights for study at night, see their website
Alice Min Seo Kim suggests helping the following charities:
‘UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to save children’s lives, to defend their rights, and to help them fulfil their potential, from early childhood through adolescence.’ See more at their website
‘Good Neighbors’ expertise in education, child protection, health, water and sanitation, income generation, child rights advocacy, and community partnerships engenders change in communities and strengthen their self-reliance. Good Neighbors pursues the sustainable development of communities through empowerment, leadership, ownership and harmony with their environment.’ See more at their website
We wish to thank all the contributors for the positive power of their thoughts and actions.
This is one of five journal entries summarising and highlighting the ideas in the International Essay Contest for Young People 2018. To see these essays in full and all sixty-six finalists, go to the Goi Peace Foundation website.
We wish to apologise to those essayists, whose work was not translated into English, for not being able to include their words.
The thumbnail picture is by Selena Chen, Canada, for the Peace Pals International Art Exhibition and Awards 2018. See more on their website.