I often wonder whether the trials and tribulations of the world go hand-in-hand with a lack of wholesome knowledge and education; that negative sentiments and inhumane choices are the consequences of poor literacy and teaching. When an individual is faced with two options, one that is difficult and requires an amplitude of thinking but with incredible results or one that is simple and quick but has little in the way of positive change, the individual that has been left with no educational support or knowledge is likely to choose the latter. With no fault of their own, they have been neglected by their social and political institutions and left to fend for themselves. It is these unfortunate circumstances and individuals, that makes it the obligation of us, those that have had the opportunities to succeed and with a strong educational background, to transform their lives for the better. As the late and pioneering president John. F. Kennedy predicated, 'the goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.'
Literacy statistics have been thrown around for decades both for the developed countries and the developing countries but how often are we fully paying attention to them? In many instances, we hear but we don't listen. We fail to understand that education and knowledge are the very basis for the world and civilisations we live in. From primitive man to advanced man, we were and are constantly learning and evolving. We have encapsulated this knowledge into texts and documents so that the people of the future can learn too. Without all of this I wonder where we would be. Now that we're living in a world that seems to have something extra ordinary happening every day, we need to start listening instead of hearing. We need to start to see the importance of spreading knowledge and education and improving literacy for children and even adults so that we can live in a better and more informed planet. The World Literacy Foundation heard this rallying call and made it it's life's pursuit to ensure that literacy, education and knowledge are attainable for any and all.
The vision of WLF imagines a world where everyone can read and write. Education should not be something that is only available to those that have financial means. For WLF and myself included, education and knowledge are so elemental that they are in essence, priceless. This organisation has seen the value in technology and has used innovation to design and create educational resources for developed and developing countries. It is an independent, non-profit organisation that has bases in Australia, the UK, the US, Latin America and Africa. WLF understands that better educational opportunities and literacy skills, will help in reducing poverty, improving health, increase employment and general educational prospects and it will see lives changed forever. It comes back to the very idea that when an individual is faced with two options, they will choose the former as they are now more aware of the benefits and the success it will bring them.
I was keen to go to the heart of WLF by speaking to the CEO, Andrew Kay. First and foremost, I asked Andrew what inspired him to start the foundation. After visiting Ethiopia and Indonesia, he saw children trying to learn with no access to books and he said that he struggled to understand how it was even possible to do this. He was so touched by the hardship that these children encountered and the lack of educational resources and opportunities, that he started a campaign to address the great divide of children who have access to resources in a classroom and those who don't. What is so inspiring about Andrew is that he knows that by contributing in some small way to provide the opportunity for more young people to reach their full potential in their educational journey, it will be a huge accomplishment. It is so important that we as global citizens should be doing everything in our power to help others that are less fortunate, whether they are small changes or big changes.
One very interesting statistic that Andrew mentioned was that the UK, US and Australia have somewhere between 20-25% of people struggling at a basic level to read. This is extremely high for countries that are supposed to be more developed and that have more advanced and entrenched educational structures and processes. What he stipulates however is that no matter what the status of the country is, many young people fall through the cracks in their education journey and leave school without a basic literacy foundation. Children in general learn very differently and yet the school system seems to cater for one type of learning model.
In a lot of cases children's learning stops at school because their parents are unable to support their learning practice. Again, it is no fault of the parents; they too have been short-changed by the educational opportunities and institutions and are unable to encourage their children as much as they would like to. WLF is committed to empower parents to be the child's first teacher. The foundation provides free books and first books to new mothers from migrant, refugee and disadvantaged backgrounds. They seek to see children develop a love and habit for reading. One of the most innovative pieces of technology that WLF created is the solar-powered educational tablet device, Sun Books. With no access to the internet or satellite communication, WLF created Sun Books, so that schools without access to basic educational resources, the Internet and electricity will have access to quality educational materials, such as interactive books, audio books, eBooks, educational games and videos and teacher resources, such as lesson plans, classroom activities and instructional videos all tailored to the local curriculum. Without needing to plug into an electrical source or connect to a server, children and teachers can enjoy the educational resources without limitations. What's so impressive is that now, WLF is creating a book building and book creation platform, whereby young people, children and teachers can quickly and easily create their own books, videos, photos, language and local story telling. This level of creativity is so important especially in a world that is now driven by social media, technological advancement and real-life experiences being shared with the rest of the globe.
So where does WLF hope to be in the next ten years? Andrew is striving to ensure that WLF is the leader in the use of technology and innovation in the literacy not-for-profit sector in the globe. Great ambitions for a great foundation. It takes that moment of awareness that really changes the world for the better especially when it comes to knowledge and education. As Andrew states, 'true philanthropy is giving without wanting something in return.' WLF's foresight and sensibility holds true to the idea that knowledge and education should be unbounded and that it's the world's citizens' responsibility to ensure this.
Visit www.to-love-beauty.com and be part of the inspiration!