Blog Action Day: When Will We Teach Poverty in a History Class?

October 15, 2008

On this day in 1987, the United Nations considered the eradication of poverty as a top priority. But it took the UN until 1993 to devote a day to an age-old global dilemma. The UN projects that about 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, which equates to one person every 3.5 seconds. Even worse is the number of people who become susceptible to AIDS, tuberculosis, measles, diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia.

With troubled times at home and abroad, it is easy to forget the pains that so many in the developing world live with. The overwhelming element of poverty is the reach of its effects on a society. Direct effects of poverty are more than just severe hunger and transmission of diseases. These conditions lead to a weak workforce that is unable to produce efficiently, pulling the country as a whole into the vicious poverty cycle.

As a native of a third-world country, I am reminded everyday to be thankful for what you have but to give what you can. I cannot understand how the same world filled with hundreds of billionaires still keeps the millions of poor people tucked away in a forbidden closet. It is a shame that we often only acknowledge the world’s forgotten people once a year.

How often is poverty discussed in classrooms in middle schools, high schools, or even colleges? We need to start a global discourse, from our schools on up, on what solutions would be helpful. Could a “food for work” program, in which adults are paid with food to build schools, dig wells, make roads, etc., be effective in nourishing the working class, building a country’s infrastructure, and fighting the poverty cycle? How about a “food for education” program, in which children are given food when they attend school? These are only two examples, but they can be used as a starting point for a discussion.

I challenge everyone during these harsh times to not forget the wise words of Mother Teresa: “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” I challenge students to engage in discussions about the adverse effects of poverty; I challenge workers to read what poverty could mean in the current global economy, and most of all I challenge everyone to think of ways in which they can truly be a part of the campaign and the process to finally end world poverty.

AAUW supports the work of CARE to improve gender equality in basic education and reduce cultural and economic barriers to girls’ education in countries around the world. For more information, visit AAUW’s International Corner.

By:   |   October 15, 2008

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