Today marks 25 years since the United Nations declared 17th of October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. But the history of the day traces back even further, to October 17th 1987, when over 100 000 people went to the streets of Paris responding to Father Joseph Wresinski’s call to end extreme poverty, violence and hunger.
In the past 25, years close to one billion people have fled away from poverty. Despite that fact, we are still far away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 1: ending poverty in all its forms and everywhere. Poor people are the ones affected most severely from other types of challenges, such as human rights violations, diseases, natural disasters and wars. Fundamentally, poverty is an everyday struggle.
Particularly, in East Africa poverty remains a major challenge. According to the United Nation’s Human Development Report in 2014, the East African countries have very low human development (Kenya ranks 147th, Tanzania 159th and Uganda 164th out of 187 states). While the East African economies have grown steadily in the past years, things like life expectancy, quality of life and level of education remain poor (In Uganda and Tanzania less than 20% of the children continue to secondary school, in Kenya just over 30%). Also, inequality is big in East African countries. This includes, for example, the gender pay gap, health disparities, unequal access to jobs and education.
Education is the main way out of poverty. For example, UNESCO’s 2016 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report stated that if children learnt how to read in the lower income countries, the world’s poverty would be cut by 12% (171 million people). Education is the key to long-term economic growth, as it generates more capable people to develop societies and work in productive jobs.
Also, the knowledge that children acquire from education offers children a chance to dream about a better future, which can lead to them going to further education and achieving their desired field of employment. Education also impacts positively on everyday life and future generations, because educating today’s children means that they can later pass their knowledge to their own children.
Poverty hampers children’s education, and thus their future prospects, in many ways. For example, the parents might not be able to pay the school fees, transportation or materials. In addition, many children are forced to work from an early age to help their poor parents to earn enough money for living. These things often result in children dropping out of school. This most of the time results in unemployment, as the children lack important skills to get employed. The enduring poverty most often transforms into the next generation.
COCO’s work is strongly centred on breaking this cycle of poverty through quality and inclusive education. COCO’s Schools for Life programme works to provide quality education and to tackle issues that prevent children from accessing education. Sustainability and cooperation with the local communities are COCO’s strong focus.