The Highest Form of Tzedakah is the Power of Education
When I first began kindergarten, I was very excited about school. However, in the following years, my enthusiasm dwindled as school became a routine part of life. I failed to see my school experiences as a privilege, one I obtained solely because of the location where I lived. However, if had I lived elsewhere I may have had a much different schooling experience. If I had grown up in Malawi, I might have used a brick as my desk and shared a textbook with up to ten other children. In Nigeria, I would have struggled to learn due to the constant fear of terrorist groups breaking into my school. Or, I could have been one of the millions of children across the globe that are not even enrolled in school.
In 2002, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals made universal primary education a priority. With that goal in mind, the Global Partnership for Education was formed. This partnership includes donor governments, developing countries, private sector organizations and civil society organizations. These groups work together to plan and strategize about ways to provide education in each individual country. They also create programs to train teachers, put learning benchmarks in place, and provide a safe environment for the students. The numbers demonstrate GPE’s success: primary school enrollment has risen so that 22 million more children, including 10 million girls, are now able to attend school. Also, in conflict-affected GPE countries, literacy rates have risen by 19% and 20 GPE partner developing countries have achieved gender parity in their enrollment. However, there are still 57 million children who are not enrolled in school and reaching the Millennium Development Goal will be nearly impossible.
On June 26th, the GPE donor countries and organizations came together to re-pledge their support for universal global education. The United States committed a total of $90 million for the years 2014-2015 and the Global Partnership in total raised $2.1 billion. This is an incredible start toward fulfilling the replenishment target of $3.5 billion for the period 2015-2018. The GPE will be able to further their work in developing countries and increase the number of children who have access to safe and productive schools.
In the future, we must continue working with congress to ensure that the announced funds are appropriated into the 2015-2016 budget. Also, advocating our continued support of the partnership to our members of congress is of utmost importance. Maimonides taught us that the highest form of tzedakah (charitable giving) is enabling individuals to support themselves. More than anything else, education opens the possibility of a brighter future. It provides individuals with basic and critical thinking skills, promotes peace, and prepares children for the rest of their lives.
I invite you to join with me and show your support for the Global Partnership for Education. By doing so you would not only show your support for access to education for all children, but also show that you support a brighter future for children throughout the world.
Jackie Heymann is a rising sophomore at Drake University in Des Moines, IA. She is majoring in Politics and Sociology. Originally from St. Louis, MO, she is a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth. As a participant in the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's Machon Kaplan summer work/study program for college students, she interned for RESULTS, a leading force in ending poverty in the United States and around the world.