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 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.


By. Penelope Maclachlan

There’s many a slip between cup and lip summarises what can go wrong if richer countries try to help poorer ones through aid alone. Maladministration and corruption can occur anywhere along the supply line. If the recipient is torn apart by natural or manmade disasters – tsunamis or civil war, for example – the likelihood multiplies of thieves snatching for themselves what was meant for victims.

A more effective way of helping the world’s poorest people is to tax businesses operating in poor countries. Financial leaders must make clear the use that governments will make of revenue collected. Building a dictator’s seventh palace is misuse of tax. Appropriate use includes health, education and infrastructure. Every country should progress until it no longer needs foreign aid, but is self-sufficient. Bernard Shaw said that benevolent people loathe alms-giving; no one, individual or nation, should need charity.

The G8, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, USA and the UK, recognises this. Since 1 January 2013 the UK has been president of the G8. Earlier this year George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, presented to the Group policies on tax evasion and ways to help poorer countries collect taxes due to them. Osborne said that the UK had helped Ethiopia increase tax collection, and he claimed the UK had also helped Kenya and Ghana. In February 2013, Group of 20 finance chiefs engaged in talks in Moscow with a pledge to stop multinational companies moving profits to low-tax countries.

Tax has acquired a bad name which it does not deserve. When citizens pay taxes they should feel confident that the revenue will go towards what they need for themselves and their families and friends, and the prosperity of their country. They should also understand that we must pay a fair price for imports such as chocolate and coffee. Without the growers in Africa, the UK would lack these commodities.

Aid does nothing towards preventing tax evasion, or recovering misappropriated funds. Tax reforms enshrined in international law are overdue. David Cameron at the World Economic Forum in Davos (The Guardian, 24 January 2013) took a swipe at Starbucks for paying £8.6m corporation tax in the UK over the past 14 years – a fraction of what it owed.     Starbucks’ promise to pay £20m over two years is controversial. Paying tax is not a matter of promise but a legal obligation. Tax reforms may be the answer but as yet governments lack ways of enforcing them.