Educational Needs

Poverty and Education: The Future of Illiteracy

Education is essential for helping children escape the cycle of poverty. However, hundreds of millions of young people lack the basic skills needed to take advantage of opportunities to help them succeed.

According to the United Nations, 20 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 17 are not in school, and 617 million young people lack basic literacy and math skills. They represent the future of illiteracy, unless something is done to help them overcome the obstacles keeping them uneducated and out of school.

Barriers to Children's Education When Living in Poverty

Poverty affects education in many ways. A child's parents may not have attended school. They may not understand the importance of education. Financial barriers can make it difficult for a family to prioritize education.

Children from low-income families are four times more likely to miss out on an education than children from high-income families. Even if public school is free, some schools require uniforms and supplies to be purchased. If lower-income children can't afford the items, they are not allowed to enroll. Unlike the United States, many countries have no laws to ensure that children have a right to an education.

When a family is very poor, the parents may feel they have to send their children to work rather than attend school. For many, this choice is the only way they can afford to put food on the table — an issue not common to families with higher incomes.

Lack of access to health care and good hygiene practices can keep children at home as well. Missing school because of frequent sickness can put a child behind his peers and increase dropout rates. Widespread disease, such as the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic, can halt the learning process altogether. If a child does not have access to technology and the ability to attend classes remotely, or if schools close outright, they are unable to continue their education.

Poor nutrition can interfere with a child's ability to learn. Without proper meals and nutrients, a child's brain has a harder time with cognitive function, creating challenges with focus and memory. Some schools can supply meals for children, which can help. Still, if meals are not available, and families cannot provide food, a child's learning can suffer.

Gender is also a barrier to education. In low- and middle-income countries*, girls are more likely to be denied school and equity. Girls who are denied a quality education are more likely to marry at a young age, have more children and experience higher infant mortality. They are also more likely to become victimized or enslaved.

Children living in war-torn countries are often unable to pursue an education because it's not safe for them to get to school or be in a classroom. School is a lower priority for families trying to survive. Even if their children are in school, the trauma of the conflict and fighting can be a barrier to learning.

All of these barriers loom larger for special needs children, who may struggle to keep up in a classroom in the best of circumstances. Globally, 95% of children with disabilities will drop out of school before high school.

Only 49%
actually attend school

4.5 Million
are unable to attend school

not attending school are female


The Impact of Poverty on the Education System

Poverty affects much more than low-income students and families. It shapes the quality of a country's education system and its school districts as well.

Poorer areas may lack the infrastructure necessary to provide equity in education. Without proper funding, they cannot create a safe and effective learning environment or provide current textbooks and supplies. Therefore, student enrollment remains low, especially at government-funded public schools.

Teachers in impoverished areas may also have less training and lack the skills needed to attend to varied learning styles and abilities. Schools offering low pay for teachers are not likely to attract high quality teachers and student academic achievement suffers as a result. But quality teachers are a powerful influence in keeping children in school. In today’s rapidly changing, interconnected and interdependent world, teachers shape the lives that shape the world.

How Education Can Break the Cycle of Poverty

Education helps level the playing field, removing inequalities defined by an income poverty line, and opening up a world of opportunity and possibility for children. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Simply by improving literacy and math skills, kids build the foundation necessary to succeed in life.

Educated kids learn how to ask questions and challenge unhealthy norms. They can help provide solutions to the problems in their own communities and beyond. Learning about other cultures helps promote understanding and acceptance toward other people groups, creating a generation of peacemakers.

Education helps bridge the gender gap by giving skills to girls. Educated girls benefit communities because they make healthier choices, pursue careers before marriage and have fewer children. They can teach their families better lifestyle options, setting the next generation up for future success. By striving for equity in education, girls can be given a chance to thrive in communities where they have been marginalized.

Early childhood development initiatives focusing on learning can help prepare a child for success in the classroom later in life. A young child's brain develops at an amazing rate. Teaching from a young age helps train the brain to embrace learning and ensures a better school experience.

According to UNESCO, global poverty could be cut in half if adults completed high school.

Give an Education to a Child in Poverty

Education is a major component to fighting global poverty. Our holistic child development model helps break down the barriers that prevent children from receiving an education. From tutoring, health care, purchasing school supplies and uniforms, and other supplementary educational benefits, we work to ensure that all children have access to the tools they need to minimize the impact of poverty in their lives.

Help reduce the effects of poverty on children. Your donation to our Educational Needs fund will help children all over the world break the cycle of poverty and take advantage of all the opportunities that await them.

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* In 2015, the World Bank began phasing out the term "developing world" in its publications and databases. The use of the developed countries and developing countries categories was "becoming less relevant" with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and their focus on targets for the whole world.


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