The Link Between Poverty and Education: Can Education Be Used to Eradicate Poverty?

By Divine Word Missionaries on August 20, 2020

Around the globe, many countries are facing a crisis in education. Children are missing out on the opportunity to attend school and develop important skills needed to live a prosperous life. Poor resources, regional conflicts, and prejudices force children out of school and into a lifelong battle against the cycle of poverty. These factors result in approximately half the world’s school-aged children missing out on a critical opportunity to develop the skills they need to support a lifetime of learning. 

When examined closely, the numbers are staggering:

An estimated 617 million children around the world are unable to reach minimum proficiency levels in reading and math. 

175 million children are missing out on preprimary education. 

Roughly one in five school-aged children (about 262 million children) are not in school at all. 

Approximately 27 million of those children who are out of school live in conflict zones where there is a regular threat to their life and safety. 

In the face of such suffering, we must ask ourselves—what is causing this lack of basic education? And how can we come together to bring long term solutions for these vulnerable children?

How does poverty affect education?

Extreme poverty remains one of the most obstinate barriers to education, with children from the poorest households almost five times more likely to be out of school than those from households with a higher income. Globally, two-thirds of the poorest children have never attended any school, have dropped out or are repeating primary grades multiple times. 

The correlation between poverty and education can manifest itself through a lack of trained teachers, inadequate learning materials, makeshift classrooms and poor school sanitation. Some students come to school too hungry, too sick or too exhausted from work or household chores to benefit from their lessons. Additionally, children from rural areas are more than twice as likely to be out of school than their urban peers. Often this is because they must travel great distances to attend class. All of these things make learning difficult for many children living in poverty.

Without access to education, children fail to develop skills for lifelong learning. This in turn creates lasting barriers to earning potential and employment later in life and thereby perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Additionally, these children are more likely to suffer illness—threatening their ability to build a better future for themselves and their communities.

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How can education end poverty?

When barriers to education are eliminated, children are set up to thrive in all areas of life. Education, particularly girls’ education, is one of the most powerful tools for creating economic growth. It decreases the likelihood of conflict, increases resilience and sets up future generations with wide-reaching economic and social benefits.

Several studies conducted by UNICEF confirm that additional years of education have a significant influence on GDP per capita. Providing more education, knowledge and skills will increase an individual’s employment outlook and productivity, which in turn will increase the overall income and development of the country’s workforce. This leads to more stable communities and a brighter future for the next generation.

What are Divine Word Missionaries doing to reduce barriers to education?

Divine Word Missionaries work to help communities overcome barriers by creating, rebuilding and promoting access to education for children and adults. Around the world, they establish and run schools, universities, literacy programs and vocational training schools that help vulnerable populations rise out of poverty.

By working within the local communities they serve, our missionaries offer education to children who face social stigma due to tribal systems, caste systems or disease. They teach at universities and offer theological training at seminaries. Their work in literacy programs and vocational training schools helps educate and empower adult learners with the knowledge and skills that open up doors to employment opportunities and help them rise above the poverty line. 

The impact Divine Word Missionaries have on the quality of education received by children around the world can be seen through the many stories of the individuals and communities they serve. To read these stories and learn more about our work, we invite you to visit our blog: The Mission Post. Please keep our missionaries and those they serve in your prayers. 

To learn more about our work to improve education and elevate the lives of the poor and marginalized, be sure to check out our comprehensive resource: Impact on Education.

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