One of the most rewarding opportunities for a mother is to send her child to school. The first day is filled with apprehension, sometimes tears, but mostly pride and joy. Mothers also enjoy celebrating when their child finishes school. These are special milestones I have shared with my mother.
Things are a little different for families living in poverty.
Mothers can find it difficult to provide an education for their children for a number of reasons. The most obvious is affordability, but distance is also a major issue. For example, children have to walk kilometres to get to school every day because their family doesn’t own a vehicle and their community may not have public transport. As a result, they find it difficult to complete their formal education, increasing drop-out rates, especially at the elementary school level.
Geraldine is a responsible and hardworking mother from Dinalungan Aurora, Philippines who used a small loan to start a business and help her family leave poverty behind. Most of her earnings are spent on the education of her three children, Jodelyn, Carlo and John Paul. Geraldine is thankful that her children are not amongst those who have to drop out.
When asked what makes her happiest as a mother, she says:
I am truly happy when I see them studying hard.
She and her husband carry high hopes that all their children will go to university one day.
Some are not as lucky as Geraldine’s children, particularly those who live in rural communities. Beyond selling goods on the street, some children have to work in the fields during harvest time to earn more income for their family. They may also be pulled from school for two or three months at a time to work, which makes them fall behind their classmates. They can end up repeating the grade, only to be pulled out of school the following year.
So what opportunities are available for these families?
Microfinance is one way to help mothers provide an education for their children. Small loans give a hand up to mothers so they can grow a business and use the income earned to pay for all their children’s basic needs as well as school fees, uniforms, textbooks and lunches. Those in rural communities can also afford to hire labourers so children don't have to help their family work in the fields.
There has always been an important relationship between education and breaking the poverty cycle. Time and again, many mothers Opportunity works with have expressed how grateful they are because they can afford to send their children to school and give them futures filled with hope and opportunity.
Filiz Casey is the Communications Intern at Opportunity International Australia. Presently studying her Master of Arts in Creative Writing, she generously offers her time, skills and experience to assist in a range of communications activities.