Everyone has a right to an education
7 Sep 2012 | Blog | Long-term Development | South Africa
8th of September is International Literacy Day, a day to recognise the importance of literacy to individuals, families and communities. Education is a human right, however there are millions of children who are unable to attend school due to poverty and other barriers.
In the latest issue of Caritasnews, Sr Ivy Khoury, Africa Program Coordinator of Caritas Australia, tells us about the Creating Caring Schools program, a program for vulnerable children to overcome barriers to learning and remain in school longer to gain a quality education in a safe environment.
Since 2006, Caritas Australia has partnered with the Catholic Institute of Education (CIE) to deliver the Creating Caring Schools program. With seven offices throughout South Africa, this program is helping thousands of orphaned and vulnerable children, including those that Caritas Australia is already supporting, in 23 schools.
Many children have said to me: ‘If we didn’t have the support of Caritas we wouldn’t be able to go to school"
Poverty and the impacts of HIV/AIDS have created serious barriers to learning for 3.7 million children throughout South Africa who are left without parents. With a high percentage of the region’s population still only teenagers, if they aren’t living on the streets, many of them are already the head of their household. This means that instead of completing homework, they are often cooking and cleaning for their other siblings, or walking long distances to collect water or firewood. By the time they actually walk through the school gates to start the school day, they are already hungry and tired.
In South Africa there is a saying that ‘everyone has a right to an education’, and yet concerningly if you’re poor in South Africa, and you can’t afford a uniform, you’re not allowed to attend school. To solve this, Caritas Australia provides school materials and uniforms.
“By providing a uniform and materials, children can go to school,” said Sr Ivy.
“They have a sense of dignity, confidence and self-worth; and other children will accept them and treat them with respect.”
Caritas Australia also assists children’s nutritional needs by supporting school vegetable gardens. “The school staff and volunteers look after the gardens, which provides lunch for many of the students. Often this is their only meal for the day, and some of the vegetables are taken home to their families.”
We also supply medical support through health screenings; as well as assistance with transport to the clinics which has been a great success giving children access to healthcare.
“Many children have said to me: ‘If we didn’t have the support of Caritas Australia we wouldn’t be able to go to school.’ They are always very grateful and this makes me feel good about what I do.
“The decisions we make with our family members changes the lives of children. I am an aunty and great aunty to nieces and nephews, and if I hear them complaining about their food or having to go to school, I always remind them how lucky they are.
“On my last visit, I met a young girl who said to me, ‘If I was not here I would be on the street’. The Creating Caring Schools program has given her a sense of dignity. But, not only that, it has created positive changes in so many children’s lives. It’s incredible to know they are not going to be left behind.”
Your support for Caritas Australia means thousands of children, born into poverty, are given the opportunity to learn. They now have a future through education.
Find out more about the Creating Caring Schools Program
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