Changing Lives. Inspiring Action.

By Nichola Mae Meron

School children

© Creative Commons, Trishhhh

When I went to primary school I had to wear a maroon-coloured woollen jumper over an equally unfashionable white shirt and matching polyester skirt. I used pens that had no buttons or extra colours, and the notebooks we wrote in were grainy and brown. We all hated it, but since our school provided these for free, we were forced to use them, albeit against our will.

When I visited my family in the Philippines that summer, I told them about my days at my new school, including my awful school uniform and equipment. To my surprise they didn’t share the same feelings of repulsion – only awe and envy.

According to figures from the Department of Education and the National Statistical Coordination Board in the Philippines, 1 in 6 Filipino kids will not attend school. Further, only 7 out of 10 kids will complete elementary school. Of those 7 kids, only 4 will complete high school, and of those 4, 1 will proceed onto university.

The main reason for this? Poverty.

Carmel Castrillo, a Filipino Londoner, took much of her secondary and further education in the Philippines. She agrees that money plays a huge part in education.

‘Kids with really poor parents are so desperate to go to school that they’re willing to travel far and go through dangerous conditions to get there, like swim under a bridge, or climb onto an open-top school bus that’s already so packed. But some kids just can’t afford to make those trips.’ And getting to school is only the first hurdle. ‘You pay for your books, paper, pens – the schools don’t provide that for you – nothing’s free.’

I asked what would happen if kids turned up with no stationery, and no money to buy any. ‘Teachers buy things for them.’

Our conversation soon turned to teachers, and I was surprised to hear the kind of roles teachers have in schools.

My aunt is a teacher there. If the kids have a project, a lot of them can’t afford to buy things for it. But my aunt, like most teachers there, will buy the materials for the kids. But it comes out of her own pocket. It’s hard because she doesn’t get paid more than 7,000 pesos a month [about £95].’

Teachers in the Philippines like Carmel’s aunt aren’t just classroom facilitators. To children, teachers are seen as heroes and leaders who are respected as much as their own parents.

‘Teachers have authority there. They’re so dedicated and will go through the same material over and over again until everyone has learned it. They’d spend hours after school teaching students. But they wouldn’t get paid extra for this.’

Poverty doesn’t just affect the children – the teachers’ livelihoods inevitably suffer. Sadly, many teachers are choosing to move abroad, after being tempted by higher salaries. Inevitably, it’s the children that suffer.

‘Students always say that they couldn’t achieve anything without their teachers. If the teachers that they rely on begin to leave, so many children will see no other hope in life.’

Late last year, the deadly typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. The storm killed thousands and shut or destroyed over 7,000 schools.

Hundreds of organisations have worked tirelessly to rebuild schools and provide classroom supplies that were damaged or previously unavailable. For example, Save the Children built several ‘Child Friendly Spaces’ for children whose schools were torn apart, while the Red Cross began building temporary classrooms in the affected regions.

While their efforts helped to bring education back to children in those areas, there are still those who will never see the inside of a classroom. And it’s these children that feel increasingly disillusioned by the need to go to school and make something of themselves.

If any lesson came out of Haiyan, it’s the need to be proactive; we can’t wait for another disaster in order to help those most in need. Although we can’t directly solve a problem as big as poverty, we can certainly help promote the need for education.


By Sebastian Krutkowski

Eight years have passed since Sir Ken Robinson’s influential TED talk about the significance of creativity in education and the economy.

We are now in the knowledge economy, but we still do not have an education system that can cater for its needs. As old careers become replaced by new ones, creativity becomes the salient differentiating factor between people competing for jobs. At the heart of rebalancing our education curricula to reflect the needs of this new economy is our view on creativity and human intelligence.

What is creativity and how can we cultivate it?

Creativity is about looking at existing problems in new ways, seeing new opportunities, and exploring emerging technologies. According to Sir Ken Robinson, while the knowledge economy expects us to produce something original and useful, people continue to have their creative potential educated out of them at schools.

The enduring paradox is that most children think they are creative, while most adults think they are not. However, creativity is not a rare talent that only special people have. The human mind is naturally curious. Culver Hill from the Institute for Applied Creativity at Texas A&M University, notes that before entering the school system, a young child asks an average 125 probing questions every day. After the university experience, young adults only ask a mere six questions a day.

Schools under the current education system teach conformity and compliance to procedures. Incessant testing and pressure on students to perform well academically makes them risk-averse and effectively incapable to adapt to new ways of performing work in the current, let alone future economy. To maintain efficiency and productivity in a rapidly changing world, we cannot afford to overlook the human factor as we will never get the best out of people.

This is why students should be encouraged to experiment more, make cross-disciplinary connections between different subject areas, use their imagination and interact with classroom equipment (rather than merely sit in desks and receive direct instruction). Answers and solutions should be discovered, not written down from the board to memorise.

Another way of awakening creativity is to mainstream the arts into education curricula as it is the norm in Montessori and Steiner schools. The arts would foster the students’ aesthetic inquiry into the nature and diversity of the world through an exploration of the shapes, colours, rhythms, artistic expressions and relationships arising from various cultural contexts.

Teaching methods, which are dominant today, should be revised and tailored to assist each child in fully realising his or her creative potential. Enabling children to enjoy learning without the unhealthy stress or risk of early burnout from excessive pressure or criticism can only yield positive long-term outcomes. An exploratory spirit cultivated throughout one’s entire education will result in a “reservoir” of creativity that will be essential to better deal with economic, technological and cultural change.

Interested to learn more?  Read and download TVF’s whitepaper – Developing creativity and innovation in Education

By Shahzad Mahmood 

International or foreign aid is distributed to countries that do not have the resources to meet primary needs. There are two forms of international aid: short term and long term. Short-term aid, also known as emergency aid, is given when a country is in need of crucial supplies during a natural disaster or in times of war. The supplies usually include food, shelter, medical care and water. Short-term aid is important when the people affected are in need of crucial supplies to survive.

Long-term aid is used to help a country develop through establishing schools, hospitals, roads, irrigation and sanitation systems. The ultimate goal of long-term aid is to provide a backbone for the country and its people so they can move forward and help themselves.

True Volunteer Foundation provides long-term aid through its focus on providing education to those who do not have access to opportunities for personal development; be that by providing access to finance and training to run a small business or building a school so children have a place to learn and grow.

There is the age-old saying, “give a man a fish and he will eat for the day; teach a man to fish and he will eat every day”. Education is at the heart of change – it teaches, trains and assists understanding so ultimately every individual can support themselves and their community. With access to quality education people can break the poverty cycle, without access to education many poor families become trapped in poverty for generations due to having limited knowledge and skills on how to break the cycle.

NepalTVF has set up nurseries and primary schools for children to get a head start, providing them with the same opportunities as other children around the world and hopefully inspiring them to pursue other interests such as medicine, technology or even agriculture. TVF has also been involved with other types of education projects, such as setting up community centres for adults to learn more about how they can utilise their resources to benefit themselves and their families.

The role of education in poverty eradication is crucial; only countries who have good educational systems have achieved self-sufficiency, growth and prosperity. There are many challenges in achieving an equal and quality education for everyone across the world, particularly in countries that face extreme poverty and hardship. NGOs and governments must continue to work together to improve access to education – quality education can truly change the world and empower people to help themselves.



Written by Naveed Anwar

The lack of a good education is one of the biggest causes of poverty across the globe.  Having an educational infrastructure (i.e. schools) is only half the battle. Teacher training is crucial and often the missing element. In order to get a good education children need to have teaching methods which motivate and offer them freedom to learn while in school, and this is where the “chalk and talk” teaching fails.

“Chalk & Talk” is a formal method of teaching with a blackboard and the teacher’s voice as its focal point. This method is used in classrooms across the world. However, this formal and somewhat unimaginative teaching method has come under scrutiny, with many people suggesting that teachers should not rely solely on this technique if they want to engage and inspire their students. Another criticism is that this method of teaching tends to go with the pace of the fastest learner and can leave a lot of children behind, particularly if they have had no pre-school learning.

Through using no teaching aids the “chalk and talk” method fails to stimulate many students’ interests in learning. Education needs to be more practical, should allow children to express themselves and learn independently at their own pace. Montessori education is an alternative approach to the traditional “chalk and talk” which allows children to shape their own learning and develop sensory, numeric, language and practical skills. Montessori education is hands on and keeps children stimulated. With “chalk and talk” some students are not attentive in class and do not naturally have the motivation to learn. With no utilisation of teaching aids, charts, slides and pictures, teachers are unable to capture the imagination of their students. The failure to enthuse students has resulted in many young people leaving school without the knowledge and skills to help them aspire and do well in the future.

In this regard “chalk and talk” fuels the cycle of poverty, which refers to a set of factors by which poverty, once started, is likely to continue unless there is outside intervention. Poor families become trapped in poverty for many generations due to having limited skills to break the cycle.

So what needs to be done to tackle this problem and create greater opportunities for young people? Several charities such as TVF and Futurelab believe that teachers must alter traditional teaching methods and adopt more activity-based approaches as well as class participation between the student and the teacher. Learning becomes more interesting and significant when students are actively involved. Having a school infrastructure is only half the battle; teachers need to be trained so they are fully equipped to maximise both the facilities and the opportunities for their students.

In 2010, the Education Secretary Michael Gove proposed to axe £162m in ring-fenced funding for a national network of School Sports Partnerships. In the wake of an outcry from athletes, pupils and opposition MPs Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a partial U-turn; however, the ring-fenced funding was still cut by 69 per cent and only guaranteed until 2013. So why is sports education the first to be cut?

As financial austerity measures begin to take their toll the balancing act of what to fund and what to cut becomes more challenging. UK school budgets are extremely tight and any required savings tend to come from deleting or reducing certain aspects of the curriculum. Due to the importance placed on more traditional subjects such as English, Maths, Science and History, subjects with less academic weight lose out on funds once budgets become tighter.

Sports education tends to fall in the latter category, and with these cuts heavily affecting schools it is feared that this will greatly impact on the amount of sport that is played by children both now and in the future.  Adding to this concern is the drive towards selling off precious playing fields; to date 22 sport pitches across London have been approved for sale, which does not support the 2012 Olympic legacy.

Many studies highlight that the amount of hours children spend indoors on computer games is in keeping with their becoming less active. In addition high computer game usage does not allow children to envisage a realistic future career, which, as a result, could affect their school achievements. This is extremely unfortunate as sports education is critical to a child’s development. Sport provides young people with the opportunity to express themselves and provides important lessons in teamwork, discipline and motivation. It also allows young people to experience life to its fullest, encouraging self-belief, drive and enthusiasm.  This far outweighs them spending too much time indoors watching video games, potentially exposing them to games of a violent nature and which do not teach children the proper meaning of life.


© Creative Commons, HUBCAM

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games swept Great Britain with sporting fever and shone a spotlight on the important role sport has to play. Team GB had 550 athletes competing in the Olympics and working with them were 450 accredited staff and 300 volunteers. This shows that sport not only creates sporting champions and brings people together around a common cause but truly harnesses a spirit and belief that through hard work and perseverance anything is possible. As public budgets for sports grow tighter it is critical that the UK looks to find new ways of working together across the public and private sectors to protect sports education for its children and secure the legacy for which the 2012 Olympics set the stage.

To find out more on what True Volunteer Foundation are doing to address this, please visit the Wimbledon Sporting Project page.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has long been known for the beautiful Buddhist temples and for its political landscape. Being one of the least developed countries in Asia Burma has seen an adverse impact on its educational system. Many children in Burma did not have the option of attending school. On average, a Burmese adult only has 2.8 years’ worth of schooling behind them which is far below basic requirements in most countries across the globe. However, Burma is now beginning to see change at a swift pace. This has been aided by large investments from non-government organisations across the world, which have realized that a vision of a better Burma can only be guaranteed by giving every child access to education.

The international community is beginning to come together through forming key partnerships with local communities. By having greater access to schools Burmese children will have the resources to gain the skills they need to break out of the Cycle of Deprivation and achieve future success.

For the first time in many years there is now hope for Burmese children and a real opportunity for the international community to unite to support their future. But we must act now, and act together.

True Volunteer Foundation is proudly taking part in this new groundwork of creating new schools in Burma. If you would like to find out more on how True Volunteer Foundation is helping the Burmese children please click here to visit our campaign page.