Today, January 24, is the United Nations’ International Day of Education which was adopted in December 2018 to celebrate the role of education for bringing global peace and sustainable development.
At Bread and Water for Africa®, we recognize and appreciate today’s overarching goal of global peace and sustainable development, but for us it’s much more personal as we work to provide an education for hundreds of orphaned and abandoned children in Chad, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe and elsewhere year after year, enabling them to realize their fondest wish of attending school.
While primary and secondary school-age children and youth in the United States take for granted that they can attend public school FREE OF CHARGE for 12 years (not including preschool as well), that’s not the case in many, if not all, countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Instead, for millions of children in the region living in dire poverty, they can only watch as others fortunate enough to have parents who can afford to pay their school fees, purchase mandatory school uniforms and other expenses pass by them and enter a classroom.
And as for of them – especially girls – not only are they not getting the education they need to succeed and mature into a self-reliant adulthood, they are either wasting their days away doing essentially nothing, or even worse, being forced to work fetching water for their families or damaging their young bodies doing manual labor.
But thanks to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®, through our school fees support program, we are able to pay those fees, purchase school uniforms and provide orphaned and destitute children with the materials they need to give them the opportunity to attend school and fill their minds with knowledge, instead of filling buckets with water.
For example, in Chad, working with our longtime partner Hope International Foundation and its founder and director Esther Ndichafah, through our school fees support program a total of 188 children and youth (85 girls and 103 boys) were able to attend school last year.
“This program is laying a very solid foundation for a long term positive impact in Chad,” Esther stated.
“This program is a miracle in the communities of Lolo, Dobem, Souga, Bah, Koloum, Belabe, Taye and Moundour where many children stay out of school because their guardians cannot afford their school fees.
“In concrete terms, 188 members of the country’s future generation are being educated.”
Our education support program also includes funding grants for the salaries for teachers themselves.
“Most of the schools cannot afford to pay teachers regularly,” says Esther, noting that as Bread and Water for Africa® pays the school fees upfront to the schools so they are also able “to raise money to help pay for the teachers’ meager salaries.”
In addition to enabling children to go to school, we at Bread and Water for Africa® recognize the need for an actual school building for them to attend classes.
Starting in the 1990s when we constructed the KipKeino Primary School in Eldoret, Kenya, we have supported other capital construction projects to build new schools or increase capacity with additional classrooms. or expand educational opportunities with school libraries and laboratories in Kenya, as well as in Sierra Leone.
Most recently, we are working on constructing a school building in Chad for students who currently are having classes outside on wooden benches under shade trees which we expect will be completed early this year.
“Education is a fundamental human right,” states UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “It is the bedrock of societies, economies, and every person’s potential.
“The theme of this years International Day of Education reminds us that ‘to invest in people, prioritize education.’”
For 2023, our education budget priorities include increasing school fee support for students in Chad and Zimbabwe, general education program support in Kenya and Zambia, and support for school construction projects in Kenya and Sierra Leone.
In addition, our in-kind education support includes tens of thousands of text and reference books shipped to our partner program schools for classroom and library use, as well as shipping school desks and furniture to remote village schools.
At Bread and Water for Africa®, along with meeting the basic needs of orphans including food and shelter, providing lifesaving medical services and clean water in rural communities without such basic amenities, education is and will always remain among our key priorities.
And as Esther puts it so eloquently:
“As the years go by, we realize that more and more children depend on this program to trace a beautiful path to their future.
“The impact of this program is tremendous, and we will fully understand in a few years to come when these children are spread across the society living their dreams and hopefully, multiplying the impact tenfold.”