The modern relief organization or non-profit at work in an impoverished country is typically helping resolve a specific issue: improving clean water access, providing medical care, offering skills training, or financing local business initiatives.
Few global organizations are starting, owning, and operating schools in impoverished countries. It is impossible to successfully operate a school if you are not deeply embedded in a culture and community, ready to take on the day-to-day logistics of educating children.
Here’s where Catholic missionary orders like Divine Word Missionaries are different than most humanitarian organizations. When we enter a community, we stay there, investing long-term in the health and success of its people.
This is why education is a central pillar of our missionary activity.
A Look at Key Worldwide Education Statistics
The past century has seen great strides in the global effort to improve access to education. However, far too many people remain uneducated or illiterate. Here’s a look at some recent statistics and facts about the state of global education.
- One out of five children and adolescents does not attend school. This works out to be over 263 million children worldwide. (UNESCO)
- The average youth literacy rate (for ages 15-24) is at 91% as of 2016. Young women at 90% are still less likely to be literate than young men at 93%. (UNICEF)
- Women and girls account for two-thirds of the global illiterate population. (DoSomething.org)
- “A woman’s earning potential will be up to 20% higher for every year of schooling she completes.” (Children.org)
A lack of education is linked to all kinds of poor life outcomes, including a shortened life expectancy, poverty, and poor health.
These kinds of facts and stats keep us motivated to be a part of the solution, offering as many opportunities for education as we can to the people and communities we serve, knowing the importance of education to change their lives.
Education Is One of the Greatest Gifts One Person Can Offer Another
Taking the time to educate someone implies a care and respect for the person and for their long-term success. Education is always about the long game, it pays off slowly over time, as bits of knowledge, experience, and wisdom accumulate.
For our missionaries, education is about much more than the absorption of basic facts and figures. Education is about the holistic growth of the whole child.
As Pope Benedict has expressed it, “It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full — in short it is about imparting wisdom.”
Education Benefits the Entire Community Not Just the Students
One of the other reasons why Divine Word Missionaries have made education initiatives a core area of our mission work is because the impact of a single child’s education is so far-reaching.
When you offer a sick child medical care, you alleviate their pain and give them a chance at a better life. But that now healthy child cannot return to their community and heal other people. The impact is important, but confined to the immediate individual.
Education has a beautiful ripple effect. When we teach one child how to read and how to do basic calculations, they return home and teach their parents, their friends, and their younger siblings. They can engage in community life, cultural life, and commerce at a new level. They are empowered to take on new opportunities and share the rewards of these opportunities with others.
Sharing Stories from Our Educational Initiatives
We’re excited to share a collection of stories from our educational initiatives around the world in our new resource, Impact on Education.
We run 41 seminaries, 22 colleges, 4 universities, and 300+ schools around the world, and that’s just the beginning of what we do to educate. We also help migrants learn new languages, offer skills and vocational training, and develop print and media communications in remote countries and communities.
In this resource, you’ll learn more about the four key areas of our education initiatives, get more background on the Catholic approach to education, and get four beautiful stories about how Divine Word Missionaries are opening up the doors to opportunity through education and communication.