In honor of Malala’s birthday, here’s how small investments in education can make a lasting difference.
It’s hard to believe that Malala Yousafzai is just 18. The education advocate and Nobel Peace Prize winner has already accomplished more in 18 years than most people do in a lifetime… and she’s just getting started. In honor of her birthday this weekend, the Malala Fund launched a social media campaign, #booksnotbullets, calling on world leaders to increase funding for education worldwide.
At Oxfam, we know that even a relatively small investment in education can make a lasting difference in someone’s life. These six stories prove it.
1. Rebuilding schools in Pakistan
In Malala’s home country of Pakistan, Oxfam works to ensure that all children can get a good education, particularly girls living in rural poverty. Together with local partner organizations, Oxfam renovated four girls’ schools—resulting in a 42 percent increase in enrollment—and provided several others with trained teachers and new equipment. Oxfam also worked with lawmakers at the national and regional level to craft legislation guaranteeing the right to education for all children in Pakistan, and launched a public awareness campaign to change families’ perceptions on the issue.
2. Clean water for Nairobi students
In the urban settlements of Nairobi, Kenya, where there is no running water, schools aren’t always sanitary. As a result, students frequently miss class due to illness. That’s why Oxfam worked with a local organization, Sanergy, to install 38 toilets in 15 schools and teach kids about hand-washing and hygiene. Now that schools are healthier, attendance is up; and at Reuben Baptist Primary school, pictured above, enrollment has more than doubled.
3. A Syrian refugee teaching hope
Noor, 30, brought almost nothing with her when she fled the war in Syria with her family. But after arriving in a refugee settlement in Lebanon, she realized that her skills as a teacher could be more valuable than she imagined. Watch her story above.
4. Back in school in Liberia
“The children are happy to be back at school after Ebola,” said Jacqueline Koleh, pictured above. Koleh is the principal of an elementary school in rural Nimba county, eastern Liberia. The country was declared Ebola-free in May after months of public education, volunteer-led prevention efforts, and more. “We have new latrines and buckets for hand-washing from Oxfam,” said Koleh of her school. “Now, the biggest problem we have is lack of space for all the students who want to attend.”
5. Teaching women’s rights in Guatemala
At the village school in Chukumuk, Guatemala, students are learning a different kind of lesson. With training provided by Oxfam’s local partner organization, kids there learn how to speak out about, identify, and prevent violence against women. Efforts like this one are part of a larger campaign that works with educators, governments, and local leaders to end gender-based violence in Central America.
6. When sheep help girls go to school
Oxfam America and our local partner organization, the Center for Development Initiatives, gave goats and sheep to 114 schoolgirls and their parents in the West Arsi zone of Ethiopia. The animals are like money in the bank: They reproduce quickly and their offspring can be sold, providing poor families with cash to pay for their daughters’ school materials. For 16-year-old Durete Abulla, pictured, the pair of sheep she and her parents received has given her hope that she can continue studying her favorite subjects: English and biology.