Economic Opportunity and Education
How entrepreneurship and economic opportunity can lead to access to education.
Like many children across the U.S., my boys recently went back to school after a long summer break. We went out and purchased new backpacks and school supplies. They wore new clothes and tennis shoes. And like many kids, they were excited to see their friends, but grumbled a bit about having to leave the summer behind. As I listened to my kids complain, I thought about the many children who desperately want to go school but can’t. I think we often take our access to education for granted, forgetting that it is a luxury that eludes millions of children worldwide.
More than 250 million children and young people are not in school.
According to UNESCO, in 2017:
- About 262 million children and youth were out of school.
- This total includes:
- 64 million children of primary school age
- 61 million of lower secondary school age
- 138 million of upper secondary age
I remember a woman named Josephine telling me that her daughter wanted to go to school so badly that she would dress each morning and pull on her backpack. Then she would sit and watch as the other children in the neighborhood did go to school, while she sat at home because her family couldn’t afford to pay school fees.
Globally, extreme poverty is the most significant barrier to education.
While there may be a lack of schools or qualified teachers in rural areas, or areas of conflict where it’s impossible for kids to attend school, UNICEF indicators point to poverty as the most significant barrier to education. Even in countries where education is “free,” the costs for transportation, lunch, uniforms and supplies can be out of reach. And, many children living in extreme poverty must work to help their families survive. Unfortunately, without the funds to educate their children, generations of families can remain locked in a cycle of poverty.
Economic opportunity and entrepreneurship can help ensure an education.
Those who know me, know that my life mission is to end extreme poverty. And educating children is key to breaking the cycle. While many organizations focus on important global educational policy change and access, my thoughts turn directly to economic opportunity and entrepreneurship as a solution to help ensure that children receive the education they deserve. Here’s why.
One thing I continue to hear from women in our SBS program, is that they want to earn money so they can send their children to school. To these moms, educating their children is as important as buying nutritious food. It’s what Josephine did. As soon as she was earning money from her business, her daughter was enrolled in school. And studies consistently show that when a mother’s control over financial resources increases, households invest more in children’s health and education.
Small scale entrepreneurship can be a gamechanger.
It goes beyond education. In my years of experience in providing small scale entrepreneurship in Africa, we’ve helped empower tens of thousands of women living in poverty to become entrepreneurs who triple their incomes. And when these women become successful, I’ve noticed the major changes that occur in household dynamics and perspectives. They are viewed as financial partners by their husbands. Families and relatives see them as contributors and role models. So while children are receiving a formal education, they are also experiencing fundamental shifts at home. Seeing your mom as hard-working, capable and strong can have a huge impact on a child, and can influence how they treat others, including their future husband or wife.
Entrepreneurship creates cross-cutting impact that will lead to a generational change in extreme poverty. At the end of the day, an investment in economic opportunity is an investment in education.
Read more about Street Business Schools’ 3-pronged approach to solving extreme poverty.
Devin Hibbard is the founder and CEO of Street Business School, an award winning non-profit, igniting the impact of other organizations by equipping them with our one-of-a-kind entrepreneurial training for people, proven to triple their income and enable them to lift their families out of poverty with dignity.
Street Business School trains organizations in many different sectors how to customize and incorporate Street Business School into their work, to help the people they serve earn more money, which helps accelerate their impact.