Monday, June 2, 2008

A Thought Piece from Richard - Can Education be Sustainable?

When I first saw The Dhaka Project, I was amazed by what I saw (and to be honest I still am today). But I couldn’t help but think how is this all sustainable? This worrying thought is what led me to eventually offer the team, and more importantly the kids, my time and services here.

The smiles on the kid’s faces, the thirst and desire that they have to learn is not what dragged me back to Bangladesh, rather it was the thought of these kids losing these benefits and liberties granted through education with The Dhaka Project; benefits and liberties that we in the developed world take for granted. I was afraid that if one large sponsor pulled out of The Dhaka Project these kids would be forced back into the unfortunate circumstances of child marriages, garment work, rickshaw pulling, day labouring or begging.

The more I thought about it, the more it got to me. How can we make education sustainable? You cannot give kids loans, nor can you exploit them to do work to pay for their education. It really began to annoy me – Why isn’t the government doing more? Should corporations be more responsible, if so how do we make them? Why don’t the rich Bangladeshis care? I even read a book on how the US has spent $3 Billion on the wars in the Middle East – thinking “that could school 2 million Bangladeshis for their entire schooling.”

Instead of getting caught up in who was responsible, I began thinking about how and why I got a free education in Australia. My parents (and now I) pay taxes to provide benefits to our community – with an educated society obviously being one of those benefits. So therefore, as a part of belonging to that community and paying taxes, I got a free education. With the belief that an investment into my education would be recouped by the community once I was educated, through both financial means (taxes) and social means.

Now I don’t need to waste more blog space saying what I think about the Bangladesh Government, but it was clear who I think is the major contributor to 56 million kids under the age of 15 not receiving a reasonable education here. But again, I have to look past who is to blame and try and work out how education can become sustainable in this unfortunate environment. Even if the government would be capable of organizing schooling for that many children, who would pay for 2/5ths of their population to be schooled? The other 3/5ths are definitely not earning enough to support schooling 56 million through taxes.

That’s where it hit me – and I finally worked out how The Dhaka Project is sustainable.

We are all part of a wider global community, just because boundaries and governments divide us into groups, we are still part of a global community. Donating to a cause like The Dhaka Project is just like paying an optional global tax; it is a payment to make a better and more prosperous global community.

In my view there is no need to focus on making this project sustainable today, nor is there any problem that it is run purely on charitable donations. Education should be a right, just because developing countries’ governments are corrupt and unable to give these kids an education doesn’t mean that we in the developed countries should give up on these kids.

Whilst we will not see distinct and obvious sustainable benefits straight away – they will happen. We have to be comfortable knowing that we are investing in tomorrows change.

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