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Education Social Justice Wellbeing Youth

Is Education The Way Out of Poverty?

In light of the Gonski Review of school funding in Australia, I revisited and updated a piece I wrote whilst sitting in a New Orleans Hotel room. I’d initially written this piece as a response to what I’d witnesses in the virtually non-existent or corrupt education system in New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. What is clear from my time in New Orleans, is that it will take a whole lot more than just money to address the gap between our richest and poorest kids.

For those born into poverty, every day is a natural disaster. Yet in this case, society often appears to turn a blind eye. The very same people who shed tears watching the aftermath of the Japanese Tsunami are the ones who cross the road to avoid the homeless. Those who ran around the office with a bucket to help the Haitian people in the wake of the earthquake that claimed 220,000 lives, are the same ones who avoid eye contact with those, who really should just go get a job.

You can read the full piece on The Huffington Post

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Social Justice

Playing To Her Strengths

A couple of weeks ago I met with a former student of mine, Genna Radnan, who at only 20 years of age is doing incredible work in Kenya.

She has an interesting story as Genna says, “I was never an academic and only had passes for my work, regardless of how much effort I put in. In the end, my HSC marks were between 70-79 for the exams BUT (because of the subjects she chose) my ATAR was 64.5. That was my ‘fear’ I guess, that no matter how well I went, I’d only get a low mark. The HSC didn’t cover any of my personal strengths where I could excel.”

After finishing Year 12, Genna signed up with a volunteer agency who were due to be based in Ghana. However that didn’t materialise and the group ended up in the village of Karunga in Kenya.

After the allotted volunteering time was up, Genna got on the phone and begged her family to allow to spend more time in Karunga – this time on her own…

Genna decided to raise funds through her contacts in Australia, and subsequently paid for a new kindergarten school to be built (pictured) as well as the schooling of a number of the local families.

As well as helping others Genna has seen a huge change in herself, “What I’ve been doing in Kenya is my passion. I’ve seen my own strengths grow and develop, none of which could be tested at school.”

Seeing this change in herself was a huge confidence boost. From not wanting to go to university for fear of furthering labelling Genna is now in her first year of a Bachelor of Nursing degree. She says, “I’ve been getting credits, distinctions and high distinctions – marks which I barely saw in school.” She says this is because nursing draws on her strengths. It draws on who she is as much as what she can do.

Genna is hoping to defer the second year of her nursing course, should she be successful in being awarded a United Nations $25000 grant to set up a women’s education centre in Karunga. As part of the Project Inspire initiative of United Nations, Genna has beaten hundreds from around the world to be among ten who have been shortlisted for the award.

The winner of the award is announced in Singapore at the end of this month.

You can hear Genna’s story in her own words and vote for her at the Project Inspire website (CLOSING DATE IS TODAY!) by clicking here.

Please do……

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Education Social Justice Youth

The Natural Disaster Nobody Sees

Below is an excerpt from an article I wrote, inspired by my time in New Orleans.

It is obvious people go the extra mile to help those affected by a natural disaster. We only need to think of the global responses to the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In January 2010, the world mobilised its efforts to respond to the earthquake in Haiti that left 220,000 people dead.

There would not have been an Australian school child or employee that wasn’t asked to donate or contribute in some way to at least one of these relief efforts. When an issue such as this is front and centre in our minds, we respond.

However, there is another natural disaster that is destroying lives every day, the effects of which will be handed down to generation after generation. The effects from the fallout of this disaster include sub-standard living conditions, poor education, poor health and higher levels of crime. Ironically this became all the more apparent to me having recently visited New Orleans spending time with survivors of Hurricane Katrina as well as teachers and social workers who work with their children.

For those born into poverty, every day is a natural disaster. Yet in this case, society often appears to turn a blind eye. The very same people who criticised George W Bush’s administration for their inept response to Katrina are the ones who cross the road to avoid the homeless. Those who ran around the office with a bucket telling you how much you should give to help the Haitian people are the same ones who avoid eye contact with those, who really should just go get a job.

Online Opinion, the largest e-journal of Social and Political Commentary in Australia has picked it up… you can read the article in full by clicking here.

You can leave comments here or on the Online Opinion website.

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