Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Despite the political and economic changes that have swept through Myanmar in recent years, poverty continues to be a defining factor in children`s access to basic education.

Many children work to help their families earn a living, particularly older siblings who sacrifice their education for the younger children. As a result, sadly, one in four children do not complete primary school and 10-year-old Win from Mandalay is one of many students at risk. This is his story.

 

How poverty affects a child’s learning

Win’s schoolroom houses two different classes and is very overcrowded. With one class taught at one end of the room, while another teacher instructs a different grade at the other end, it can be hard for students to hear properly and concentrate.

This is not the classroom we’re accustomed to in countries like Australia or the United States. There are no shelves full of books for children to engage in reading. The classroom itself is usually old, leaky and run down. Most children also can’t afford pens, pencils and other school supplies that we take for granted.

Beyond the classroom, the journey to school can be long and arduous in rural communities. Many children must walk miles to their lessons in the heat or cold, which means it is much more likely that they will not continue their education.

 

How family life affects a child’s education

Win`s mother peels onions for a living, with Win helping out often. His father is unable to work due to a disability, which means earning a living falls upon his mother and the elder children. The family barely survives on an income of just $3 a day.

Like most children, Win dreams of finishing school, going to university, and getting a good job: “When I grow up, I hope to become an engineer. I want to help build brick buildings for people.”

Children in developing countries have dreams for a brighter future. Their dreams are no different than those we had as children. They are also no less deserving of the opportunity to realise them.

 

Sponsor a community to give children a brighter future

If you want to help children like Win stay in school and make their dreams come true, becoming a community sponsor is a powerful way to help children in need.

Your sponsorship will help create child friendly schools in developing communities, help provide vocational training for out of school youth, among other community development projects across South East Asia.

You can also donate an education-focused charity gift to help a child in the countries where we work get ahead in life. Fight gender inequality by funding a girl’s education, buy school supplies for a child in need and more. We offer many ways for you to give, because every child deserves a childhood.

 

A birth certificate is a lifelong passport to many rights. Without it, a person cannot access public education, healthcare, and even legal systems.

In Kenya, a child without a birth certificate can’t be admitted to a public school, or register for the national exams needed for admission to secondary school and university. As unregistered children grow into adults, they find they cannot legally marry, own certain types of property, access the banking system and formal labour market, or even vote.

Between 2011 and 2015, ChildFund helped over 77,000 vulnerable children in Kenya`s coastal region and Nairobi to obtain birth certificates, giving them lifelong access to their civil rights.

Two of these children, five-year-old Akinyi and seven-year-old Ochieng, live in Nairobi with their mother Catherine, who lost her own parents when she was just 15. Catherine earns a living by doing irregular jobs, including washing clothes for her neighbours. Before she and her children received their birth certificates, it was impossible for Catherine to access various government services on their behalf, such as a cash transfer program for children made vulnerable by poverty, or HIV and AIDS.

“I have no living parents and, to apply for the monthly government cash transfer program for orphans, I needed my birth certificate and those of my children to prove that we are in need,” says Catherine.

She adds: “I did not have any money to apply for birth certificates, but with ChildFund`s assistance we were able to get the papers. I used them to apply for the cash transfer program, and now I get 2,000 Kenyan shillings (US$19) a month, which I mainly use to buy food and other basic items for my family.”

Statistics indicate that only half of all Kenyan children have birth certificates. The reasons for this are many, and include the lengthy application process and inability to travel to registration offices, but a lack of money to pay the application fees is the major issue for many families.

“Before I got these certificates, my daughter could not join a government school, and I struggled to pay school fees for a lower-end private school. When I received Akinyi`s birth certificate, she was finally able to enrol at a government school. I can also now apply for government medical insurance for my family through the National Health Insurance Fund,” says Catherine.

Now, with a single piece of paper in their possession, Catherine, Akinyi and Ochieng have access to more support and opportunities than ever before, which means a brighter future ahead.