By Janella Nelson, ChildFund Education Technical Advisor
This blog post was originally published by the Global Campaign for Education’s United States chapter.
As many children return to school this month, it is an exciting time for parents and students. There is an assumption by many that school is a safe place, but there are children around the world, including in the United States, who will be returning to school and wondering if their school is really safe.
Children have the right to learn in a physically and emotionally safe environment that is conducive to learning. When we think about “safe environments,” there are several things we consider, but usually physical safety is at the top of our minds. Globally, children are exposed to several forms of violence in the classroom, on school grounds and on the way to or from school. They include corporal punishment, bullying, sexual gender-based violence, gangs and political unrest.
These forms of violence, which can be physical or psychological, can prevent children from learning and staying in school. Evidence shows that corporal punishment by educators increases dropout rates and perpetuates a cycle of violence. Bullying is linked to poor mental and physical health, school absenteeism, lower test scores and higher crime rates (bullies are four times more likely to engage in serious crime, according to a study in 28 countries published by the American Psychological Association in 2013). Sexual violence based on gender has a detrimental effect on girls’ attendance and completion of basic education, which contributes to the large gender gap in secondary school. Gang-related and political violence prevents children from even attending school, causing schools to close and teachers to resign.
ChildFund International and our partners in the ChildFund Alliance are committed to contributing to a world where every child is free from violence and exploitation. We support children in exercising their rights and work to create environments where children can not only participate as advocates against violence but also lead efforts.
In Timor-Leste, ChildFund’s Children Against Violence program has prioritized the push for a legal framework prohibiting violence against children in schools, as well as community-based awareness activities. Students have created Child Advocacy Groups, which have conducted research on violence against children; group members have used this research to advocate for a national policy forbidding corporal punishment in school. A cadre of young advocates has grown out of the groups, and they promote the protection of children’s rights, as well as the education of teachers and parents about positive discipline practices.
Students, parents and teachers need to work together to tackle all types of violence in schools, and one essential step is to provide support to children so they can raise their voices about this issue and make schools truly safe.
Interviews and Photography by Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia
Last week, we heard from Aisyah, a 12-year-old girl from Jakarta, Indonesia, who had just received a Dream Bike from ChildFund. Today, Nurul and Selfila, two more girls from Jakarta’s slums, talk about their lives before and after receiving bikes. You can help girls achieve full educations and escape everyday hazards by making a donation to ChildFund’s Dream Bike campaign.
Nurul is quite a shy one. She is 12 years old and in third grade, behind where she should be in school. Because she has dyslexia, Nurul finds it difficult to read and retain information. She has repeated grades several times and even moved to another school. Her mother always accompanies her to school to protect Nurul from bullying. Nurul doesn’t talk much, and looks to her mother to answer questions.
“She always wanted to have a bicycle,” Nurul’s mother explains. “She saw her friends with bikes. One time, she wanted to ride a bike and tried to borrow it from a friend, but the friend wouldn’t let her. Nurul asked, ‘Mama, when can I get a bike?’ ”
But the family didn’t have the money to buy a bicycle.
“We need to pay about US$8 per month for the school fee, which I haven’t paid for four months. I don’t know how much a bicycle costs, but I guess it is about US$100. We can’t afford it. It is way too much for us. I only work as a daily laborer, and my husband works as a security guard,” Nurul’s mother said. “What we earn is only enough for food and to pay the electricity bill. Before she received the Dream Bike, it took her about 45 minutes to walk to school. She often arrived late, and it was quite tiring for her. I am really happy now that Nurul has been given the bicycle from ChildFund. Praise the Lord!”
“I ride the bike to school,” Nurul says shyly. “I am really happy I don’t have to walk to school anymore! It is much faster for me to get to school than walking. I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I am going to be a dentist!”
Selfila, at 14 years old, is in her second year of junior high school. She is the oldest of three children. Her father supports them with daily construction work. Her mother is a housewife.
“I used to walk to school for about half an hour each way, starting early — at 5:30 a.m.,” she explains. “I walked by myself, as my friends don’t live in the same neighborhood. When I was younger, I was a little scared to walk on the big roads, because there were many cars. Sometimes I arrived at school late because I had to wait for the rain to end. It was quite hard when I returned home too, because the sun was so hot, and I carried so many books. So sometimes I felt too tired to help my mom at home. But now I have the bike, and I get home faster, so I can help her more. I also have more time to do my homework!”
Reporting and Photography by Sagita Adesywi, ChildFund Indonesia
Many children who benefit from ChildFund’s Dream Bikes program are in isolated communities and face long journeys across rough rural terrain. It’s a little different in south and east Jakarta, the huge capital city of Indonesia. Children there live in dense, crowded slums, and to get to school, they have to walk or take the public bus or a motorbike, a big daily expense for families living in poverty.
Because their homes also are small, 125 children in Jakarta’s slums received foldable bicycles from ChildFund’s local partner organization, Perkumpulan Marga Sejahtera, which hosts after-school activities.
“When they fold the bike, it won’t take up as much space,” explains the organization’s director, Liest Pranowo. “These children walk every day to school, and also when they join some activities out of school. Having a bike hopefully will help them to get to school easier, get in on time and be more active as well in out-of-school activities. It would save their parents some costs too. Usually, it takes about US$2 for a rental motorbike. It is just too much for them. As children are very active, we also provided them with helmets. If they fell, their heads would be protected.”
Let’s meet Aisyah, a 12-year-old girl who likes watching the news and hopes to be a doctor one day. She received a bike and helmet, and it’s making a difference already. These are her words:
I walked to school and back every day with my younger brother. He’s in the second grade. I leave home around 5 a.m. and get to school by 5:30 a.m. Often I came late to school, especially on Mondays and Fridays. On Mondays, we have a morning ceremony where we need to be ready a bit early, and on Friday we have group study and exercise that I need to come early for too. On those days, often I came late.
Once, there were other kids in the street from another school who made fun of me. They would say something bad, like “Oh, you are a hobo! Even your school is the school for hobos!” They were boys, four of them. I would tell them to please not to say something like that, as they wouldn’t want other people to say something bad in return, right?
Another time, when I came home from school, these boys said something bad to me again. One of them pulled my hair from the back and pushed me down. I fell down and cried. A taxi driver stopped them. When I got home, I told my mom, and she then went to their house, but they still didn’t want to say sorry.
I am not afraid of them, though, but I try holding myself hard to just ignore them. My brother always says to ignore them.
Since I am in the sixth grade now, there are days where I stay longer in school for extra classes. That’s fine, as I need to be prepared for the exams. I take extra classes in math, science and Indonesian language. But sometimes when I got home, I was too tired from walking under the hot sun to study again or do my homework.
When I finish school, I am going to be a doctor! I want to help people who are sick. But if they don’t have money, I will do it for free. It’s all right. Even though our government has health insurance, it is not enough to cover everything.
One day I saw in the news that a mother had just given birth. The hospital kept the baby longer as the baby was born premature, and the family couldn’t afford the cost for the treatment. That’s why I want to be a doctor, to help people in need like that.
I really am happy I was given the bicycle by ChildFund. I will ride the bike to school. The bicycle lets me get to school on time, and now I have more time to do my homework. I will even take my brother in the back saddle!
You can help girls like Aisyah by donating a Dream Bike. One bicycle costs $100, and its value is priceless. Stay tuned for more Dream Bike stories from Jakarta, coming soon.
By ChildFund Vietnam Staff (first used on ChildFund Australia’s blog)
Bui Thi Nhu grew up in a remote village in Hoa Binh, a rural province in northern Vietnam. Her parents were both farmers who worked hard to provide for the now 28-year-old Nhu and her two siblings.
“I was born into a poor family,” Nhu remembers. “Like many other people living in the same village, we relied on agricultural activities for our living. Life was difficult, and the local economy was weak. I still remember the image of my parents working and sweating in the paddy fields on hot summer days.”
When Nhu was 13, she was sponsored through ChildFund by an Australian sponsor, Brendan, and his family. Nhu felt like she had another person watching over her. “I was very motivated by my sponsor through our letter exchange,” she says. “From my perspective, the most important benefit of being an enrolled child was the huge encouragement I received that encouraged me to strive for my future.”
As a child, Nhu dreamed of treating the sick. Today she is turning that dream into a reality. After graduating from a medical college in 2008, she now works as a health-care worker in the community where she grew up.
I want to express my deepest appreciation to my sponsors. They made me what I am today.
“I feel proud of what I can do as a health officer,” Nhu says. “I love to give treatment to children and take care of them. Children are the most vulnerable and need proper care. This is my passion.”
Nhu has watched her community in Hoa Binh transform over the past 20 years, when ChildFund began its work there. “Sponsorship has made community development programs possible,” she says. “There have been big positive changes in our communities. Schools have been rebuilt with sufficient facilities so children have better access to basic education. Today, 100 percent of the children in my community are able to go to school and receive a good education.
“With ChildFund’s support, many roads were reconstructed using concrete. This has made traveling more convenient. Canal systems have been improved to enhance agricultural production. Clean water supply systems and sanitation facilities have also been constructed.”
As if her job as a health worker didn’t keep her busy enough, Nhu also has also worked with ChildFund Vietnam as a sponsor relations volunteer for the past five years. It is her role to deliver letters from sponsors to the children in her area and help them write letters back, as well as encourage all of the children to get involved in ChildFund-supported activities.
“To me, volunteering for ChildFund is very meaningful since I can make a significant contribution to child development,” Nhu says. “I see this volunteer job as a way that I can help other children to enjoy the same opportunities I had when I was small.”
Although she has aged out of sponsorship, Nhu continues to feel motivated by her friends in Australia. “I want to express my deepest appreciation to my sponsors,” she says. “Thanks to them, I received a good education and had the will to strive for success in my study and my work. They made me what I am today. As a grown-up, I am trying to devote my little effort to help the local community and children, just as my sponsor helped me before.”
You can learn more about ChildFund’s work in Vietnam over the past 20 years and read about sponsor and race car driver Pete Olson’s efforts to help a community in Hanoi.
Photos from ChildFund’s offices in Bolivia, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico and Timor-Leste
In the lobby of ChildFund’s international headquarters, we don’t have your typical office décor. Instead, we have a sparsely furnished Kenyan classroom, a world map mural with paper dolls holding hands, and homemade toys collected from around the world. A lot of the toys are made with what some people might call trash: used plastic bottles, twine and bits of rubber and metal. But the toys themselves are not junk and are often prized by the children who made and played with them.
In these pictures below, you’ll see the ingenuity and creativity of children who play with what they have — animals, traditional games and toys made from available materials.
By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
Raimani lives with her family in Tangiri, a small village in India. She has three sisters and one brother, and is in the 8th grade. Not long ago, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to keep going to school. She used to walk more than four miles every day to get to class, often alone, which wasn’t very safe. Sometimes she was late, or she just didn’t make it to school at all. Her grades suffered, and, because her parents couldn’t afford transportation for her, she considered dropping out altogether.
But thanks to ChildFund’s Dream Bike program, things have improved for Raimani. Now, she regularly attends school, arriving on time and with plenty of energy, and her performance has dramatically improved. She no longer has to walk to school, which allows her time to invest in her studies. Her siblings are also attending school more regularly because Raimani gives them rides on her bike, too. Having a bike also enables Raimani to participate in club meetings and other events organized by ChildFund and our local partner organization in Tangiri.
“I am very happy my daughter received a bicycle,” Raimani’s mother says. “It has turned out to be very useful as my other children can also use it to go to school. The gift of a bicycle has ensured that Raimani can continue her education. We are very thankful to ChildFund.”
If you would like to make a girl’s dream of an education come true, consider giving the gift of a Dream Bike today.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
Like many organizations, ChildFund is on a fiscal-year calendar. As part of our review of FY15, which ended June 30, I’ve compiled the top five most-viewed blog posts written since July 1, 2014. Here they are, in ascending order:
5. A Recipe for Liberian-Style Jollof Rice. This post was part of our October 2014 food and harvest theme. It was nice to post something positive about Liberia, which was in the thick of battling the Ebola outbreak at that time.
4. A Show of Hands for Nonviolence. The most recent entry on the list, this post shows how committed our staff members and enrolled children are to the ideal of child protection. Over the past year, ChildFund Alliance has been working to make sure that the United Nations’ post-2015 agenda (also known as the Sustainable Development Goals) will include a goal to help children grow up free from violence. Children in several countries showed their support by making green-handprint butterflies, the symbol of the campaign.
3. Zambia Video Wins ChildFund Contest. We held a contest for the best video from a community last year. This video, the winner, is the unforgettable story of Tinashe and her river, which is polluted and the home to frightening crocodiles. Watch here:
2. Dominica Launches National Effort to Curb Sex Abuse. Gelina Fontaine of ChildFund’s Caribbean office wrote about the federal government of Dominica’s admirable effort to get more people talking about the problem of sexual abuse against children, which affects almost everyone on the island either directly or indirectly. ChildFund is taking a leadership role in these communities to support victims, encourage reporting of abuse and address the roots of abuse.
And drumroll, please…
1. ChildFund Opens Care Center for Children Orphaned by Ebola. In October, there was daily bad news from West Africa about the spread of Ebola. ChildFund works in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the center of the epidemic, and like many organizations, we were trying to help families and communities stop the spread of the deadly virus. Meanwhile, our staff members in Liberia and Sierra Leone saw the need for child-focused quarantine centers where children — many of whom had lost family members — could live in comfort, with access to caring adults, learning resources, games and toys while they were observed for symptoms of Ebola. The first Interim Care Center was opened in Monrovia, Liberia, in October, followed by more centers in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Today, as the countries are free from Ebola, we still are checking in on the children who stayed at the centers, many of whom are adjusting to new homes and families.
By Himangi Jayasundera, ChildFund Sri Lanka
Nine-year-old Lojana dreams about having a bike. She wants one not just to ride to school, which is 2 kilometers away, but also because she would be able to live again full time with her grandmother in Sri Lanka.
Lojana lost her mother to cancer when she was just 3, and her father, who has remarried, lives separately with his new wife, while Lojana and her sister have lived at their grandmother’s house until recently.
An elephant trampled their home, and now all three live in Lojana’s uncle’s house, which is miles away from school. During the week, Lojana stays with a relative who lives closer to her school and stays with her uncle on weekends. Buses run infrequently, so a bicycle would help Lojana travel from her uncle’s home to school and require less moving around.
That’s where ChildFund’s Dream Bike project comes into play. We are working to raise money to provide 3,400 girls in 12 countries (including Sri Lanka) with bikes, which will allow them to travel to school safely and quickly, instead of walking long distances through sometimes dangerous terrain. Snake bites are very common where Lojana lives, and the hospital is a long distance away. Sometimes people die before they can get medical help.
Lojana is sponsored and receives financial support for her books and other educational needs from her sponsor, which is a “big relief,” according to her grandmother, who is struggling to make a livelihood. “I have a few chickens and sell about five eggs a day,” she says, noting that the family depends on help from Lojana’s uncle and ChildFund Sri Lanka.
Despite the hardships in her life, Lojana has big dreams: “I’d like to be a doctor one day,” she says.
You can help girls like Lojana achieve their educational dreams by donating a Dream Bike.
By Kate Andrews, ChildFund Staff Writer
For the past year, ChildFund Alliance (of which ChildFund International is a founding member) has been working to make sure the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which take effect in September 2015, will include a goal to keep children free from violence.
So far, more than 300,000 people have signed the Alliance’s Free From Violence petition calling for such a measure. And recently, ChildFund’s national offices have created a visible show of support for this goal: handprints of children, youth and adults who want to see every child able to attend school, play with friends and conduct their lives without fear of physical, sexual or emotional violence. Here are some of the handprints we’ve collected.
Below, see photos from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Brazil, the Caribbean, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Mississippi, the Philippines, South Dakota and Texas.
By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
Five months after the launch of ChildFund India’s Books, My Friends campaign, we’re learning more about the children who are getting their first chance to own books and read for pleasure.
This spring, ChildFund India and its campaign partner, Macmillan Education, conducted a baseline assessment of 1,200 children across 15 Indian states, to understand their reading abilities. About 40,000 children have received books and bags since December through the Books, My Friends program.
The analysis showed that reading ability improved with age, although far too many children still can’t read. In the group of 6- to 8-year-olds tested, 66.2 percent were not able to read at all, while 44.8 percent of 11- and 12-year-olds and 29 percent of 13- and 14-year-olds were illiterate. Geography mattered as well, with higher literacy rates in the states of Delhi, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, while Rajasthan, Jharkand and Chhattisgarh had lower rates.
Pooja, 14, who lives in a village in Andhra Pradesh, was able to read at the level of an 8- or 9-year-old when she received her books in December.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to read these books,” she says. Also, most of her time was spent in studying her textbooks or attending classes, so Pooja preferred to get away from books during her leisure time.
But because some of the books she received were in her local language, Telugu, they piqued her interest. Soon, she was enjoying them, and she moved on to the other books in her bag, which were in English. That presented an obstacle, since English is harder for Pooja to read.
With a smile on her face, Pooja says, “My school coordinator has helped me a lot in improving my English reading ability. She would patiently sit with me, make me read these story books and correct me whenever I went wrong. And as soon as I started understanding the stories, I started enjoying them and wanted to read more.”
As a result, Pooja has joined a group of other students who discuss their books.
“This campaign has really helped me make new friends,” she says. “All the students who have received these books have formed a group, and during weekends, all of us sit together to read these books and enjoy chatting with each other. The illustrations in these books make the reading all more interesting. I’m really grateful to ChildFund for giving me these books. Because of this campaign, I’ve made this extra effort to read, and today I can read an entire sentence in English without faltering.”
Reading is an important source of knowledge, happiness, pleasure and even courage. It opens your mind and transports you virtually into newer worlds. It develops your brain and helps in communicating and sharing ideas, and therefore is essential for advancement and development of any society.
Read Rashmi Kulkarni’s first story about Books, My Friends.