Education for all
‘Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow.Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human’- Malala Yousafzai
It wasn’t until I spent four weeks in the small village of Ruaha in Tanzania as part of UCDVO that I began to understand the true meaning of the power of education and importance of access to education for everyone. ‘Elimu kwa wote’ was wrote on the walls of the classroom which I taught in and it wasn’t until the second week a teacher at Tundu school told us what it translated to in English, ‘education for all’.
My volunteering experience in Ruaha was incredibly eye-opening and showed me the importance of education and the importance of promoting the SDG’s in particularly goal 4, to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Education paves the way for a better life,more opportunities and provides a means of supporting one’s family. It also showed me how lucky I am to be able to go to university and that it’s not something seen as a challenge here in Ireland as about 76% of students who completed the leaving cert went on to college in 2016. However, it is still important to note that students from disadvantaged areas are still much less likely to progress to higher education and as much as one might want to avoid it there still remains a social divide in Ireland as there is a stark contrast between the numbers going to college in affluent and disadvantaged areas of Dublin. However, there is a government plan ‘The National Access Plan for Higher Education 2015-2019’ to boost the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds at third level by 1500 over the next three years. It also aims to increase the number of those under-represented such as those with disabilities and mature students who have never been to college. Plans such as this plan show the advantages we have by living in Ireland in contrast to those living in Tanzania as the government in Ireland continuously tries to create plan to make education as access to many people as possible.
My role as part of UDCVO’s Ruaha group involved teaching English and computers in the local primary school to both pupils and teachers and running the after-school summer camps. The main focus of the English classes for the teachers was grammar and for the pupils was mainly teaching new vocabulary through the means of song, dance and art. However, what I quickly discovered was that I would never be able to rival their dance skills and that to the children’s amusement I looked more like an eighty-year-old trying to move in comparison. Every day when we would arrive at the school by bike, wearing helmets something which both the adults and children found incredibly funny however, despite the fact us “muzungus” (the Swahili word for white people) wore funny hats while cycling and had funny accents, from the very moment we landed in the first school we were greeted with a warm reception with smiling faces and giggling children eager for us to play soccer or to dance with them but mostly they were eager to learn. (A picture of the outside of Tundu school) The teaching was difficult at times but was extremely rewarding at the same time as many of the students shared their aspirations and hopes with me of becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers. This showed me despite the limited resources and funding for third level it did not stop these children from hoping and aspiring to better things. The lack of school funding resulted in a lack of resources as in Ireland in most schools parents pay a contribution fee and any many schools are assisted by government funding. However, in Ruaha the school received very little government funding therefore, it was up to us to fundraise before we left for the resources we would need in order to teach and run the summer camps. Resources such as paint, copies, school books and many other resources.
It was these hopes and dreams of the students that showed me how important achieving our sustainable development goals is and how we the people of Ireland must use our educational resources and social media to inform people about these SDG’s because the SDG’s need everyone if they are to be achieved. It is everyone's responsibility, to ensure that the Goal 4: To ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning is achieved. Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to improving people’s lives and ensuring development that is sustainable. However, we must not overlook the fact that there has been a great improvement in access to education however, greater efforts are need to improve access but also the resources in order for developing countries to receive a high standard of education. There are many reasons for the lack of educational resources in Tanzania and this is mainly due to the current Western dominance of political and economic structures that are in place. These are beyond the control of the government of Tanzania as they continue to try to cope with tax injustice, trade injustice and illegitimate debt.
On the last week in the school, we had a ceremony and presented all the teachers and locals who completed our computer programme with certificates it was so humbling to see how proud they were of their achievements knowing that we were a part of their learning and showed how important it was for them to learn skills such as computers in order for them to progress. The small village of Ruaha taught me many life lessons and I made friendships that will last a lifetime. From the day of our arrival, I knew that both the students and teachers were going to teach me more than I could ever teach them. I left Ruaha with a new love and appreciation for education, something I had previously taken for granted.
Name: Eilis Regan
Award: Bronze Award
Sending organisation: UCDVO