Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Poverty and Plenty Affect Intelligent Decisions

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Dear Friend,

I recently came across a fascinating article in Harvard Magazine. Its title, “The Science of Scarcity,” sums up an emerging topic among behavioral economists, the people who study why we make the economic decisions that we do.

What they find is that when any of us are poor—indeed when we face scarcity of any kind—we tend to make bad decisions. Poverty actually lowers our IQ by limiting what these economists call our “bandwidth.” When we are consumed with the problems of poverty—like where our next meal is coming from—we have less of our brain left over to think clearly in a long term fashion.

Ibrahim Nadashi, 66 years old, participates in a reading and writing class in Ruwawuri, Nigeria. The class is helping people learn these skills so they can earn a living with dignity. Photo by Michael Stulman/CRS

Ibrahim Nadashi, 66 years old, participates in a reading and writing class in Ruwawuri, Nigeria. The class is helping people learn these skills so they can earn a living with dignity. Photo by Michael Stulman/CRS

Did you know that in this country high school students’ SAT scores correlate consistently with only one measurement: household income? The higher the income, the higher the score, and vice versa. Some say this shows that the wealthy can afford test prep tutors. Others say it proves that our capitalist meritocracy works, that the smart are rewarded.

But it’s clear to me that students living in poverty do not score lower because they are inherently less intelligent. They score lower because the stress of poverty robs them of their intelligence. As the article states, people aren’t poor because they sometimes make bad decisions; people sometimes make bad decisions because they are poor.


Getting Refugee Children Back to School

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Dear Friend,

Zainab, 10, (L) Ola, 12, (C) and Evine, 12, Syrian refugees from Idlib and Aleppo provinces, attend a science class at the Good Shepherd Sisters Center in Deir al Ahmar, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. The Good Shepherd Sisters are supported by CRS funds. Photo by Sam Tarling for CRS

Syria refugees, from left, Evine, Ola and Zainab attend a science class at the Good Shepherd Sisters Center in Lebanon. Photo by Sam Tarling for CRS

There are many things we take for granted—water from our taps, food from the supermarket, a roof over our heads, a doctor to vaccinate our children. Yet these are often out of reach for the people served by Catholic Relief Services.

And there is another precious commodity I want to talk about this month—school.

Every September, as sure as water flows from the faucet, our children and grandchildren gripe as their vacation comes to an end and they must march into the hallways of education once again. But imagine if their school wasn’t there. Imagine if September came and went, and the school doors remained closed to our children.

The refugee crisis gripping our world makes that scenario a reality for so many children today. Millions are fleeing violence in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Some have left their countries. Some have sought refuge within them. I learned so much about their plight this summer—visiting refugees in Lebanon, Greece and Serbia.


God’s Fields Are Never Fallow

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Dear Friend,

There is no time like fall to appreciate the magnificent generosity of God. The fields that a few weeks ago were filled with plants reaching for the sky—full of grain and corn and beans and all sorts of other crops—have yielded their bounty.

In orchards’ tidy rows, the branches of trees that were dipping toward the ground as they tried to support the burden of their heavy fruits, have done the same.

In so many ways, the earth lets us know once again that its promise has been fulfilled as God intended. With fields harvested and those orchards picked, their abundance is now available to us, whether in farm markets or roadside stands or at your local supermarket. This is the time of year when we can see and smell and taste how good God is to us. There is no doubt. But when we think of the fruits of the harvest, let us not limit ourselves to this familiar yearly cycle. There are many seeds that are planted which do not bear their fruit according to that calendar. Some take years to mature.


Girls’ Education: Sierra Leone – Going The Extra Mile

Monday, July 8th, 2013
Sudan drilling

Young girls collect water at the pump in the village of Mongo Bendugu, Koinadugu district, northern Sierra Leone. Catholic Relief Services is now in phase two of its USDA-funded Food For Education program in 5 chiefdoms of the Koinadugu district. The area is one of the poorest and most remote in the country. Photo by Helen Blakesley/CRS

It’s amazing where life takes you; the people that are peppered across your path. Never would I have thought that one day I’d be sitting at a sturdy kitchen table with two missionary priests from the Philippines, high up in the leafy mountains of Sierra Leone, West Africa.

But that’s exactly where I was last week, eating sweet potato leaf stew and discussing the challenges of global development … and human emotion.
Father Patrick and Brother Joeven belong to the Xaverian Mission, a religious community inspired by the life of St Francis Xavier, one of the first Jesuits. They live in a village called Mongo Bendugu, in the district of Koinadugu – one of the poorest and most remote areas in the country. A district in which Catholic Relief Services is working in nearly 200 schools to improve buildings, provide nutritious meals for children and teachers and to train those teachers in better quality learning methods.

Education Allows the Seeds of Hope to Grow

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Dear Friend,

We are all so familiar with the rituals of going back to school, finding the right lunchboxes and notebooks as we get ready for the excitement and, yes, sometimes dreading that first day. Whether you are letting go of the hand of a 5-year-old starting kindergarten or hugging goodbye an 18-year-old college freshman, the end of summer and beginning of fall always mark an emotional benchmark of life.

Education has been at the center of my life since the Maryknoll Sisters first welcomed me to elementary school in Hong Kong. I came to this country to attend Purdue University, got my Ph.D. there and made my career in higher education before coming to Catholic Relief Services. I am so proud of my two boys, graduates of the University of Notre Dame who continued their studies: one in medicine, the other in theology.

Sri Lanka: From Bombs and Bunkers Back to the Classroom

Friday, March 23rd, 2012
Sri Lanka class

Tamil children learn letters, numbers, songs and dances at a preschool in northwest Sri Lanka. Jesuit Refugee Services runs several such preschools with funding from Catholic Relief Services. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

By Laura Sheahen,

“When the bombing was bad, we didn’t go to school. We were in the bunker,” says 10-year-old Anthony.* “I put my fingers in my ears to shut out the shelling.”

Huddled in a hole dug quickly in the ground, with sandbags to protect them from blasts and tree branches screening their “bunker” from view, Anthony and his mother waited hours with their neighbors until the bombing stopped. Across northern Sri Lanka, thousands of children were doing the same thing, over and over, day after day.

A decades-long civil war in this island nation near India brought tremendous suffering to both sides. It also robbed children of an education. Bombardments destroyed schools and frequent evacuations uprooted students. Eventually, even makeshift classes held under trees became impossible.

Education in Afghanistan: Up Close with CRS

Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Afghanistan Education

As her classmates look on, a young girl in the village of Bahar-e-Olia completes an art lesson on the white board. CRS organized this class through its Community Based Education program, which launched in Afghanistan in 2006 to make education accessible to Afghanistan’s children, many of whom were cut off by mountainous terrain and poor roads from formal education institutions. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

By David Snyder,

I’m wrapping up five days up here in west-central Afghanistan with CRS, and I have to say it’s been an amazing week. I’ve been to Afghanistan once before but I was only in Kabul. Ghor Province, of which Chakhcharan is the capital, is like a different world.

CRS has been working here since 2006 and much of their programming centers around water and education. From a photographer’s standpoint they are amazing projects to photograph—clear running spring water against a parched and seemingly desolate landscape, and the cherubic faces of Afghan children in dimly lit village classrooms.

But beyond the visual elements of the last few days, the work being done here helps to put Afghanistan in a different context for me. Before this trip I knew only the TV news version—suicide bombings and casualty figures, nightly tragedies that run the risk of inuring us to the plight of human beings in this country.

Education: Afghanistan’s Women Welcome Wake-up Call

Thursday, August 11th, 2011
Afghan sewing

CRS helps women’s groups make dresses, jam, and other products. The money they earn helps buy food, clothing, and school supplies for their children. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

“It’s like we were sleeping and now we’ve woken up.”

Rahima, a woman in western Afghanistan, is talking about what it’s like to be able to read: to read a medicine bottle, a sign at a vegetable market, your own name. In Afghanistan, where many men and vast numbers of women are illiterate, learning to read feels life-changing.

Malawi School Conference

Monday, October 4th, 2010
Malawi school

Children attend an outdoor school in Malawi. A CRS sponsored Malawi Education Symposium brought together government officials, the church, NGOs and civil society to discuss the changes needed in Malawi’s current education system. Photo by CRS staff

As I lifted the last box of poster board and markers into the truck, it suddenly occurred to me that it was over. The two day education symposium titled “Solidarity in Action to Improve Education” I had helped organize as part of a CRS Malawi taskforce was now in the past. Upon my arrival in Malawi to begin my assignment as an International Development Fellow, I was immediately assigned to assist with the organization of a symposium focused on pre-university education.

Since 1990 Malawi has witnessed a 136 percent increase in primary school enrollment. While this increase is encouraging, student-teacher ratios have exploded as a result. Currently there are 80 students to every 1 teacher, which means a decrease in the quality of education and subsequent learning achievement. Actual learning time is low. Each year 20 percent of Malawian students repeat a grade. That’s the highest among the countries monitored by the Southern African Development Community. School attendance expectancy in Malawi is only 7 years. It is not uncommon to find a group of 100 or more children competing for shade in their outdoor classroom, with their teacher sparingly distributing what few books they have.

Congo Video: Development – The New Name of Peace

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009