Breaking the shackles of poverty

4 Sep 2012   |   Blog   |   Long-term Development

Tags:  Poverty, Caritas Australia, education   |   4 comments

Student at Caritas Environmental School in Jelepala, Bangladesh

“Only the educated are free,” said Epictetus (AD 55-AD 135), a Greek philosopher who began life as a slave. His words ring true, even today.

We know that education is one of the best ways to free a person from poverty; but conversely, poverty is a direct barrier to education. It is a cruel and unjust self-perpetuating cycle for 61 million primary school-age children, who every day, are unable to attend school because of hardship, poor health and conflict.

To release people from this cycle of injustice, Caritas Australia has programs for youth and adults in many countries around the world; including Indigenous Australia. We also have a wide Diocesan network and an in-house education team that informs Australian young people and adults about social justice.

Australia is lucky to have an education system that is compulsory for everyone and offers children a great start to life.

As human beings, we must stand in solidarity and pray for our brothers and sisters around the world and promote their basic human right to an education. We must demand that all children have access to primary and secondary education, just like Australia.

On 8 September every year, we acknowledge the International Day of Literacy. The figures on global literacy are staggering. According to the United Nations, 793 million adults – most of them female – are illiterate. A further 61 million children of primary school age are not in primary school, and 71 million adolescents of lower secondary school age are also missing out on their right to an education.

As human beings, we must stand in solidarity and pray for our brothers and sisters around the world and promote their basic human right to an education.

Proverbs 24:4 states, “And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

Precious and pleasant riches are not necessarily riches in the sense of money and grandeur. But rather, wisdom and the ability to live a dignified life, free from the terrible burden of poverty. How wonderful that would be.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), South and West Asia account for more than half (51.8%) the world’s adult illiterate population, ahead of sub-Saharan Africa (21.4%), East Asia and the Pacific (12.8%), the Arab States (7.6%), Latin America and the Caribbean (4.6%), North America, Europe and Central Asia (2%).


8 September: International Day of Literacy

In 1967, UNESCO inaugurated its official observance of International Literacy Day. On this day, a community of nations host local and national events to recognise the value of literacy to individuals, families and communities.

5 October: World Teacher's Day

The United Nations’ (UN) World Teachers’ Day commemorates the work of teachers and their contributions to society. It’s been held every year since 1994.

14-20 October: Anti-poverty Week

On 15, 16 and 17 October there are three United Nations (UN) recognised days that are aimed at raising awareness for people in developing countries – International Day of Rural Women; World Food Day, and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

To read more articles about how education and literacy can break the shackles of poverty, see our latest edition of Caritasnews - 2012 Spring .

Find out more about Caritas Australia's education programs on our Education and Global Poverty page.

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  • Maria Doldo

    “Beautiful website, thank you so much. Blessings”

  • Ron

    “I agree that fundamentally this message that education can break the cycle of poverty is true. There is however a massive proviso. So called education can and does lead many young people from rural areas into cities where competition for 'educated' jobs is extreme and can often lead to great disillusionment and tragedy. I sense that it is far more important that education is promoted in very close relationship and context with community needs, especially rural community needs, so that community can grow and develop in a rational way according to community needs and aspirations.”

  • Caritas Australia Team

    “Hi Ron, Many thanks for taking the time to comment on our blog. Caritas Australia helps with education in many communities worldwide; we work with our local partners to ensure children/youth receive culturally appropriate education. They also take part in livelihood training such as vegetable growing, chicken raising or jewellery making which paves the way for future income generation. If you would like further information, please visit our education issues page:”

  • Julio

    “TerryAs a strong beeliver that education is the greatest equalizer in life , I think the time has come for Canadians to stand up and recognize we need to be held accountable for the children and youth in these schools. We cannot sit back and expect the same investments for children who live privileged lives will address the systemic issues facing these families and children. Hamilton Community Foundation has lead the way and is recognized nationally for helping to create a community culture that acknowledges and embraces this responsibility. Good luck with you blog.ML”