September in the U.S. means back to school and it’s easy to take for granted the fact that every child in this country is guaranteed a free, public education. We all know that there are true inequities in the education our children receive, with wealthier communities having more resources and therefore access to better facilities, books, and a variety of educational materials and course offerings. However, the fact remains that every child living in the United States, including undocumented immigrants, is guaranteed a public school education, often including free breakfast and lunch options.
You must know where I’m heading – yes, in countries all over the world there is either no free public schooling, or if there is, families must pay for books, uniforms, school fees, and other expensive supplies. Many families cannot begin to afford to send their children to school and they often need their kids at home working to contribute to the household income.
Education is yet another area where fair trade really shines! In my conversations with suppliers as well as my travels I hear over and over that by creating employment opportunities for parents with fair wages they are able to earn enough to pay school fees as well as keep their kids in school longer. Employ the parents, educate the children! Many of the fair trade organizations, both non-profits and for-profits, are also donating to and even building new schools all over the world. And other groups are focusing exclusively on income for education, such as the mother’s cooperative in Kenya that crafts our beautiful mobiles. The goal of the cooperative is to make enough money to send all of the children to school, as Kenya has no public school system.
One of the many highlights of my trip to Guatemala last winter was a visit to the Chacaya School (photos attached). A fair trade organization, Sharing the Dream, bought the land for the school close to where the families live so that the school is accessible by foot. Sharing the Dream also pays the salary for one teacher as well as school supplies for all children. The kids were incredibly adorable and friendly!
So give your kids a kiss, put them on the bus, and be grateful for their education!