Thursday, March 28, 2013

Getting educated don't come easy

The obstacles kids & their parents overcome to get to school are surely one of the most amazing things about the human race. There are photos of wee children rafting to school, crossing footbridges or using makeshift bridges over rivers & chasms, scaling cliffs, fording rivers; there are stories of teachers in India (including a FB friend), Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia & in refugee camps who set up free schools under bridges & in the open air to give the impoverished or children in crisis a chance to learn.

In his magisterial work, “Black Reconstruction,” W.E.B. DuBois described how during reconstruction former slaves set up the first universal free public education system for Black & white children in the US south because education had been denied them & they understood it’s value. Learning, knowledge, ideas are respected by the dispossessed because they represent power & the ability to affect the world. To the privileged, they are often a symbol of status to be flaunted. There are so many moving stories from around the world of people struggling to learn against all odds.

That’s why there are so many political struggles (& personal defeats) around education: from the recent suicide of a Filipino girl forced to withdraw from university because she was unable to afford tuition--& the protests her death set off by other students who identified with her plight; to the large number of Dalit university students committing suicide in India after enduring caste discrimination; to the resegregation & systematic destruction of public education in the US; to the often vicious treatment of children with disability in public schools.

Political struggles to defend public education against governmental weapons of mass destruction are paramount in every country. Education is a human right because knowledge does mean power & the ability to change the world.

Here students traverse a river on a collapsed bridge to get to school at an Indonesian village. 

(Photo by Beawiharta/Reuters)

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