This month parents and teachers face the complex challenge of returning children to a safe and secure environment in schools during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this setback, we are most fortunate to have access to the educational system we have here. Around the world more than 775 million people over the age of 15 are illiterate. That’s 17 percent of the world’s adult population.
Rotarians strengthen the capacity of communities to support basic education and literacy. They fight for literacy among adults so they can build better lives, build more peace and free themselves from those who control and oppress their communities.
Rotary is dedicated to education and literacy because it reduces gender disparity. It also breaks the cycle of modern slavery. Slavery is not a tragedy of the past, as many of us might think. It is a miserable condition for up to 46 million people worldwide. Rotary trains teachers and provides scholarships to students who have the potential to change their communities.
Here in Delta, the Rotary Club of Ladner provides financial support and volunteer hours to educate and improve the health of children in remote, northern villages in the impoverished nation of Laos through the Adopt-A-Village program. The program has resulted in schools being built, equipped and supplied. To enable more children to attend school regularly, the program has expanded to provide water filters to the households to significantly reduce absence from school through illness in drinking local water.
The African Ruggedized Educational System (ARES), developed by Rotarians in this region, is a small, rugged server to deal with heat, dust and power issues and a battery in case of frequent power failures. It has proven to be a great success in bringing the world's education to children in remote, rural communities of Africa. Where there is limited access to books, paper and writing materials, intermittent power and no access to the internet, ARES is a box with terabytes of updatable memory for education linked by wifi to low cost laptops, to replicate access to the internet. Earlier this year Rotary Club of Ladner joined Rotary Club of Richmond Sunrise to help deliver the ARES system to three schools in remote communities of The Philippines.
Education and literacy comes in many forms. Ladner Rotarians have donated bookshelves and books for those visiting the Tsawwassen facility of Little House Society in drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation.
Back to school is an extraordinary challenge right now, but education and literacy is a gift we can take for granted while we also wish it, and act to provide it, in other parts of our world.