“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” Jeremiah 29:11 NRSV.
My granddaughter, Evaliene, started school this fall. Having just turned four in August, the prospect of being away from her mother and two younger sisters all day seemed daunting. There were weeks of preparation, trepidation, anxiety. Would Evaliene be okay? Still napping in the afternoon, would she be able to handle five full days? Being apart from her two younger sisters and Mother? Navigating the classroom environment, 20 or so new friends, two nutrition breaks, all on her own?
The first day of school arrived and by late afternoon, I called to see how things went. It was immediately apparent that Evaliene was great, Mommy not so much. “Well, how did things go?” I asked. My daughter replied, “when she saw the playground, children, and teacher, she was so excited, she just ran ahead and never looked back”. Not a wave goodbye, or kiss blown, she never looked back.
I could not help but reflect that it’s not that way for much of our world. Equitable access to education is a justice issue.
Access to equitable education varies greatly between urban and rural areas, and from country to country. Armed conflict can keep kids out of school. Extreme poverty can keep kids out of school if fees are mandatory. Poverty can lead to poor physical health and therefore, school readiness. In some countries, when money is available for schooling, male children are more often given priority.
Educated girls are less likely:
- to become marginalized and exploited
- to experience violence, teen pregnancy and early marriage
- to die in childbirth
- to contract HIV/AIDS
Educated girls are more likely:
- to lead a healthy productive life
- to find work and be paid a fair wage
- to own land and have a say in civil society
- to break out of the crushing cycle of poverty, prevent malnutrition in their children and ensure their female children are educated 
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4 is to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. 
This goal was making enormous progress in poor areas, and then came the pandemic. The impacts of a crisis are never gender-neutral, and COVID-19 is no exception. It is estimated that gains made in the areas of education and gender have been rolled back 20 years. Education is once again in crisis. The scale and speed of the global educational disruption is unparalleled. A digital divide prevents poor rural areas from accessing online education, and the UN estimates that there may be a lost generation of children, of girls in particular, who never return to school. 
Educating a girl means you have improved not only her life, but that of her family and community. It brings hope to their dreams. Equitable education is the key to eliminating gender inequality, the key to reducing poverty.
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” (Nelson Mandela)
Our Father, children need an education to flourish; to have a full and abundant life. We pray that opportunities for learning would be available to all children and give them hope and skills for a better future.
May we, along with parents, family and teachers surround children with the support and encouragement to become all who You desire them to be. Amen
Note: Many of the WICC WDP grant projects include aspects of education.
Brenda Halk is a WICC Board member, appointed by Canadian Baptist Ministries.