Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Education: A Right Not a Privilege

Education: A Right Not a Privilege

Emma Baldwin

Year 7, North Sydney Girls High School

Aditya's silent tears leave tell-tale tracks down his dirty face. A lifetime of working in a Punjab brick kiln stretches endlessly like a prison sentence before him. Dust and chemicals fill the air making his breathing laboured and, despite the searing summer temperatures, there is no access to running water. Aditya's soiled clothes cling to his malnourished body as he reaches the end of another gruelling nine-hour shift. Aditya is only 6 years old.

Trapped in a life of poverty and hardship, Aditya's parents have no option but to sacrifice his education so that he can help support the family. Aditya has never seen the inside of a classroom and without any schooling is unable to hope for a better future.

Although being entitled to an education is recognised as a basic human right, millions of children across the world are not able to learn due to the necessity to work. An education has the ability to transform these children's lives through providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to access better opportunities. It enables the cycle of poverty to be broken and families to be lifted out of the life of drudgery they lead. Education matters.

Amira is a young girl living in Syria. Her school was destroyed during an airstrike and replaced with a military base. With no other schools close enough for Amira to be able to safely travel to, she no longer receives an education. Amira spends her days cowering in the basement of her home, trying to block out the sound of gunfire that peppers the air and the images of war that will forever remain etched in her memory.

Providing children with an education during wars and conflict is vitally important. It enables the children to have a sense of security, calm and normalcy from the violence that ensues around them. The refuge of school can serve to mitigate against some of the psychological trauma and helps save and sustain lives.

In the longer term, an education fosters peace as children gain a greater understanding of different cultures and the value of diversity and inclusiveness. Schools also provide the opportunity for children to develop critical social skills including tolerance, empathy and the ability to resolve conflict. An education enables children to strive for a better future and to dream of a brighter world. Education matters.

Aliyah watches as her younger brother gathers his books and sets off along the dirt track towards school. A wave of hopelessness washes over her. Like many other girls in South Sudan, she is prevented from receiving an education due to gender discrimination.

Aliyah removes herself from the doorway and starts the chores that will fill her day. Unable to read or write, Aliyah tries hard not to think about the future that has been chosen for her. She closes her eyes, trying to hold back the tears that threaten to escape.

The right to an education is universal, yet girls continue to be severely disadvantaged or excluded from education programs in many countries. An education has the ability to significantly change lives through enabling young woman to gain work, earn higher incomes and make choices over the lives they wish to lead. It provides the opportunity to reduce mortality rates through improved health awareness and transform the lives of whole communities. Education matters.

Education is not a privilege but a fundamental human right. It is the key to reducing poverty, preventing needless deaths, boosting economic growth, promoting gender equality and fostering peace.

Education has the power to change the world.

It matters.