The World Bank reports that “At the peak of school closures in April 2020, 94 percent of students – or 1.6 billion children – were out of school worldwide, and, still, around 700 million students today are studying from home … In the vast majority of countries, there is no end in sight to this uncertainty.”

We have all experienced this feeling of uncertainty through the many waves of COVID-19, and for those living in the global south, the uncertainty is even greater. As the pandemic drags on into a third year and we see statistics about the impact of education, we have learned that the scale of the number of children who have lost out on their schooling is “nearly insurmountable”.

Our field staff and partners have seen first-hand the impact of the pandemic on children’s education and have worked tirelessly to ensure kids have a future full of opportunities. Here’s a window into the ways CBM’s partners through the local churches in Guatemala, India and Bolivia are bringing hope through word and deed into the issue of ‘learning poverty’.

In Bolivia, the omicron variant halted the return to in-person learning, pushing all instruction back online. We’ve experienced the challenges with online learning here in Canada as children have tried to connect virtually and stay engaged at home. For those in Bolivia, there are the added challenges of inconsistent wifi access and a lack of devices. Many children must share the one family cellphone among siblings to attempt to receive online instruction. Local churches have responded and opened their buildings, providing computers and a quiet place for children to learn.

Can you imagine sending your child to work in the early morning hours before school each day? That’s the reality for Jose Luis, a 10-year-old boy living in rural Guatemala. His school day begins at 10am, but before that, he spends 5 hours in the fields picking tomatoes. The pandemic has put increased pressure on his mother, a single parent, to make ends meet and his labour is needed to bring in income. Both Jose’s mother and his 8-year-old sister Adelaide are illiterate because the pandemic has kept Adelaide out of school for much of the past two years. Yet, there is hope for this family. A tutoring program at the local church welcomes children in to receive educational support and instruction, as well as meals. Jose’s mother also benefits from parenting classes offered at the church to gain tools for supporting her children in healthy ways.

Maybe you’ve experienced how devastating it can be when your first years in school are difficult. Perhaps you struggled as a child, or one of your children had a negative experience at the start of their education journey and you know the difficulty in turning that negativity around. This was the situation for 7-year-old Swami living in a rural village in India. His parents are illiterate and so were unable to help him when he began to struggle and fall behind his classmates academically. Their family lives on $110 a month through the father’s work as a rickshaw driver, and $30 of the monthly income goes to provide medications for Swami’s grandmother. Their economic situation means they are unable to provide school materials for him, and Swami often goes to bed hungry. Quickly, Swami became uninterested in school and his grades continued to drop. 

A local church decided to help meet Swami’s need, along with many other children, through a free tutoring club. Swami receives the support he’s unable to get at home, and it’s making a real difference. Not only are Swami’s grades improving, but he is also excited about his future and wants to be a doctor when he grows up so he can help the people of his village. 

We are cheering on Swami, Jose Luis, and Adelaide and all the students who have had so much taken from them. As One Campaign’s Executive Director David McNair said, “This virus has taken enough from us already – it must not take the futures of millions of children as well.” 

Thankfully, through CBM’s partners and local churches, many of those students will not be left behind. It’s in the margins, the places that are overlooked, where the church is present and caring for those often pushed to the sidelines. 

In 2022, Active in Mission is back! From June 19-26, we will be walking, biking, running and more to raise funds to support education for children. Education is a powerful tool to fight intergenerational poverty, and you can get active this year to bring children around the world the education they deserve.

Will you help these children along a path to a brighter future today?

Let’s say YES and get Active in Mission together!

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