Growing up in Singapore with my relatives living in Bangladesh meant that school holidays would be spent basking in the love and doting nature of excited grandparents and relatives. Amidst the beautiful memories, some thought-provoking images are still etched in my mind. Outside our car, at every traffic junction, would be children with unkempt hair and faces covered in soot – selling books, towels, magazines, balloons and flowers or just pleading for money. It was always a strange feeling, wondering why children like me had such different lives and hardship. I was always told that it was because they did not have an education or could not afford it. That triggered my belief that providing free schools for children will solve this problem and hopefully my own children will not have to see what I had seen outside our cars.
Gradually, I understood that free schools are only a stepping stone for enabling universal quality education, but definitely not the final solution. From Bangladesh to Trinidad and Tobago, primary education has been made free for children in these countries. Yet, globally, UNESCO reports show that 263 million children are still out of school. Of which the majority are girls.
In this article, I lay out the case for a multi-step approach to helping children out of poverty and into education. Read my full article published on Voices, Theirworld, here!