As thou­sands of chil­dren in UAE go back to school, Ju­mana AbuHan­noud, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lages In­ter­na­tional in the Gulf, has a re­minder about the mil­lions who don’t have ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion

Friday - - Contents -

Ed­u­ca­tion is vi­tal for whole­some child­care, says Ju­mana Abu-Han­noud of SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lages In­ter­na­tional, Gulf of­fice.

At least 220 mil­lion chil­dren across the world are fright­en­ingly alone – shut out from a car­ing fam­ily en­vi­ron­ment and some­times even re­jected by their com­mu­ni­ties and de­prived of ba­sic needs like food, cloth­ing, shel­ter, ed­u­ca­tion, health care, pro­tec­tion and love.

Pro­vid­ing ac­cess to a school ed­u­ca­tion is only one step to help­ing these chil­dren, but it is an im­por­tant tool for break­ing the cy­cle of ex­clu­sion, poverty, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and fam­ily break­down.

Ed­u­ca­tion is es­sen­tial to help chil­dren in con­flict sit­u­a­tions and strengthen fu­ture so­ci­eties. Re­al­is­ti­cally, we can­not undo the past and some of the ter­ri­ble things that chil­dren have been through, how­ever ed­u­ca­tion is one of the key ways we can all help. SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lages In­ter­na­tional’s re­cent work with cor­po­rate part­ners has been hugely valu­able in pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tion and men­tor­ship pro­grammes. This kind of work is es­sen­tial to ed­u­cate chil­dren and youth and pro­vide them with guid­ance for the fu­ture. If we do not do this, we will sim­ply be nur­tur­ing the ground for the next cri­sis.

Many fac­tors lead to a de­cline in ed­u­ca­tion, but among the most detri­men­tal ones are poverty, in­sta­bil­ity and the lack of fund­ing, which also af­fect the qual­ity of teach­ers, class­rooms, learn­ing ma­te­ri­als, and fa­cil­i­ties for dis­abled chil­dren. But un­for­tu­nately, fund­ing is not the only ob­sta­cle to ed­u­ca­tion – things like in­equal­ity, con­flict, child labour and dis­crim­i­na­tion still pose a great threat to ed­u­ca­tion around the world.

Ev­ery coun­try comes with its own chal­lenges – be it po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic or cri­sis.

In 2015, world lead­ers adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment, which in­cludes a set of 17 Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight in­equal­ity and in­jus­tice, and tackle cli­mate change by 2030. SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lages works with part­ners and states to achieve the SDG tar­gets with the big­gest im­pact for chil­dren. Two of the many SDGs we adopt at SOS are cen­tral to ed­u­ca­tion, namely SDG 1 and 4.

The first Sus­tain­abil­ity De­vel­op­ment Goal is to end poverty.

The num­ber one rea­son why chil­dren are ad­mit­ted to SOS fam­ily-strength­en­ing pro­grammes is poverty. We help poor fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties break the cy­cle of poverty by build­ing their ca­pac­i­ties and re­silience, and by im­prov­ing ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and vo­ca­tional train­ing.

Sus­tain­abil­ity De­vel­op­ment Goal 4 is tremen­dously im­por­tant to en­sure that ev­ery child and young per­son has ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, re­gard­less of their back­ground. Ed­u­ca­tion not only im­pacts the in­di­vid­ual, but also the in­di­vid­ual’s com­mu­nity and so­ci­ety.

Glob­ally, 263 mil­lion chil­dren be­tween 6 and 17 years were out of school in 2015. Chil­dren and youth with­out parental care and young peo­ple in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions of­ten face ad­di­tional chal­lenges when try­ing to ac­cess ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties. Ev­ery child and young per­son re­ceiv­ing sup­port from SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lages is helped to ac­cess ed­u­ca­tion – from nurs­ery school right up to univer­sity or vo­ca­tional train­ing.

SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lages is an or­gan­i­sa­tion that is driven by pro­tect­ing the rights of the child, in­clud­ing the equal right and ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion as a fun­da­men­tal hu­man right and a key com­po­nent for a life of dig­nity, re­spect and in­de­pen­dence. We truly stand with the UN’s Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights, which states: ‘The child is en­ti­tled to re­ceive ed­u­ca­tion. He shall be given an

ed­u­ca­tion which will pro­mote his gen­eral cul­ture and en­able him, on a ba­sis of equal op­por­tu­nity, to de­velop his abil­i­ties, his in­di­vid­ual judge­ment, and his sense of moral and so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, and to be­come a use­ful mem­ber of so­ci­ety.’

As an or­gan­i­sa­tion that has been run­ning in­ter­na­tion­ally for more than 65 years, 50 in the MENA re­gion, we have helped many chil­dren through pro­vid­ing an ed­u­ca­tion that may not have been pos­si­ble. Ev­ery year, we place 296,800 chil­dren and youths in ed­u­ca­tional pro­grammes world­wide. While there are many ex­am­ples of how ed­u­ca­tion plays an im­por­tant role in com­mu­ni­ties, we must con­tinue to raise aware­ness of the dan­ger of when ed­u­ca­tion is not pro­vided.

Our main aim is to cre­ate a safe and em­pow­er­ing en­vi­ron­ment for chil­dren where they can grow to their full po­ten­tial.

Our fam­ily-based pro­grammes pro­vide in­di­vid­u­alised care and pro­mote the de­vel­op­ment, ed­u­ca­tion and health of each child. In com­mu­ni­ties that lack ed­u­ca­tional in­fra­struc­ture, we run kinder­gartens, schools and so­cial cen­tres, and we strengthen pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion by work­ing in part­ner­ship with au­thor­i­ties and other ser­vice providers.

Through ad­vo­cacy ac­tions we work to in­flu­ence ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies and prac­tices. This network of mu­tual sup­port is im­por­tant to cre­ate a car­ing and sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment, im­por­tant for chil­dren who need special sup­port and pro­tec­tion.

For us, ed­u­ca­tion also means pro­vid­ing the chil­dren with prac­ti­cal skills for the work­place, so they can con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety and grow the econ­omy. This is some­thing we ac­tively en­cour­age within our own ini­tia­tives, such as YouthCan!.

YouthCan! is a ‘Light­house Project’ of SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lages’ Strat­egy 2030, which in­cludes a strate­gic ini­tia­tive specif­i­cally fo­cus­ing on em­pow­er­ing youth. A part­ner­ship that brings to­gether cor­po­rates, sup­port part­ners, young peo­ple and SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lages in pro­vid­ing train­ing and job op­por­tu­ni­ties to those who need it most. We im­ple­ment our ini­tia­tive through:

En­sur­ing ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion re­gard­less of gen­der, eth­nic­ity, faith, abil­ity, health or any other at­tributes

Work­ing to­gether with part­ners and stake­hold­ers to en­hance ca­pac­ity of pub­lic kinder­gartens and schools at­tended by chil­dren within our pro­gramme

In­vest­ing in qual­ity teach­ers to es­tab­lish a pos­i­tive and sup­port­ive re­la­tion­ship with them

Pro­mot­ing child-cen­tred ed­u­ca­tion, where the in­di­vid­ual is re­spected as a re­source­ful and ac­tive agent

Long-term im­pact goes beyond the num­ber of peo­ple we help; it also means that we aim to im­prove the lives of peo­ple sus­tain­ably. To help us mea­sure our im­pact, we carry out as­sess­ments run by an in­de­pen­dent re­search or­gan­i­sa­tion to de­ter­mine di­men­sions of care, in­clud­ing phys­i­cal health, so­cial and emo­tional well­be­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and skills, pro­tec­tion, liveli­hood, food se­cu­rity and shel­ter. This pro­vides us with a pic­ture of how the SOS chil­dren are do­ing later on in life.

We also mea­sure through fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment, for in­stance the ben­e­fits to the com­mu­nity in terms of in­creased life­time in­come. The SOS So­cial Im­pact As­sess­ment pub­lished in 2017 shows that SOS pro­grammes pro­vide a so­cial re­turn on in­vest­ment of at least €14 for ev­ery €1 in­vested (Dh60.5 for ev­ery Dh3.4 in­vested).

So what can you do? Rais­ing aware­ness of the key is­sues is al­ways a good place to start – many peo­ple are un­aware of the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion and its role in har­bour­ing peace in cri­sis ar­eas. Aware­ness helps us gain sup­port for the work we do across the re­gion, and en­ables us to con­tinue to pro­vide a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, in a safe en­vi­ron­ment, for ev­ery child.

As the UAE cel­e­brates the Year of the Giv­ing, in­di­vid­u­als and phi­lan­thropists are em­pow­ered more than ever to get in­volved and play an im­por­tant role in pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to de­velop ed­u­ca­tion, schol­ar­ships, men­tor­ing, em­ployee en­gage­ment and vol­un­teer­ing. We con­tinue to work with and wel­come in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions who vol­un­tar­ily sup­port and en­gage in our work.

Re­spon­si­bil­ity lies on every­one’s shoul­ders: Par­ents, gov­ern­ment and pri­vate en­ti­ties. It is not the job of one per­son or a par­tic­u­lar group of peo­ple, but the job of ev­ery in­di­vid­ual. It is im­por­tant that we all play our part in en­sur­ing a brighter fu­ture for our chil­dren, grand­chil­dren, and gen­er­a­tions to come af­ter them.

A child strug­gling in the streets of our cities and get­ting in trou­ble is the same child that with the right sup­port can pur­sue his stud­ies, re­alise his dreams and grow into some­one strong and self-con­fi­dent enough to help oth­ers.

In other words, our sup­port is a moral obli­ga­tion as well as an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture. Be­liev­ing in a bright fu­ture is dif­fi­cult for chil­dren who’ve grown up in a war zone and were left alone on the dan­ger­ous jour­ney, ex­posed to vi­o­lence and abuse. Where will they find trust in oth­ers and con­fi­dence in their own po­ten­tial if we don’t help and sup­port them? Chil­dren are chil­dren ev­ery­where. We all have to pro­tect them as we pro­tect our own chil­dren. The price of not do­ing so is far too high.

The So­cial IM­PACT As­sess­ment 2017 shows that SOS pro­grammes pro­vide a SO­CIAL ROI of at least €14 for ev­ery €1 IN­VESTED

Ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and vo­ca­tional train­ing is key to build­ing pos­i­tive and pro­duc­tive cit­i­zens

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