Sunday, 13 March 2016
Here's why I'm #withoxfam
There were days I didn't want to go to school when growing up. Days when I had double maths! Days when I'd wake up consumed by teenage angst, my cataclysmic, teenage soul screaming with dread about seeing the 'MEGA fit' boy I fancied. Days when I simply felt I'd been to school enough that year to warrant a tomorrow of crisp-eating vegetation on the sofa.
There were also days I loved school: days I'd completely lose myself in the 'AH-mazing' book we were reading in English, or find myself giddily fascinated by an incredible, defining moment in history. Days I had the chance to flip and cartwheel and leapfrog my way across the sports hall. Days I'd spend lunch breaks crying with laughter, tucked into the corner of lockers outside the canteen with the friends I still adore to this day.
There wasn't a single day where I didn't have a school to go to. I never once woke up to the crushing news that it had been destroyed in less than eight hours by furious flooding. Nor was there a single day when my dad deemed the pursuit of my early marriage more important. When those books I loved or those soul-stirring facts that blew my hungry mind weren't handed to me as a basic human right.
There were just days of learning. Lots and lots of them. Most of which I took for granted.
Before Oxfam got in touch about writing this piece, I was blissfully unaware of how dire the situation was. At least seven million children in Pakistan are not in school, and half of children age six to sixteen are unable to read even a sentence. And sure, I know that gender inequality is a vast, appalling issue across the world, but I never really imagined the scale of the educational injustice that girls in particular in Pakistan are currently facing. I guess it's easy to forget about the thousands of girls desperately dreaming about a seat in a classroom while you're busy dreaming about what you can do with the things you learnt while sat there.
Education has the power to lift whole communities out of poverty forever, and Oxfam is doing whatever it takes to get more children, particularly girls, into classrooms. They're busy lobbying governments, training teachers, and even building weather-withstanding schools in rural Pakistan, where shockingly, only one third of girls have ever been to school. In my immediate friendship group, that statistic would strip the community of a primary school teacher and a nurse.
An educated generation breeds a happier, healthier future for the next, and Oxfam is all about giving people, humans like you and I, those opportunities.
Just £8 can provide 32 schoolchildren with textbooks, and £18 can teach 50 young women about their rights. To the loss of their self in that amazing book. To that moment of all-encompassing magic when that one teacher says that thing. To those days of learning, and growing, and laughing. To independence. To a future: the one they yearn for as they stir anxiously at 2am, the one in which their only suffering or disadvantage is that of teenage angst.
I'm with Oxfam. And I hope, as you curl up to finish the last chapter of your current novel, or take to your laptop to create your next masterpiece, or as you ponder the career move that weaves knots of dizzy excitement into your stomach: the seed for which was planted years before by that spark of inspiration in your favourite lesson, that you are too.
'We have a responsibility to motivate and mobilise children to come to school. It will give them respect and a good future.' Hameeda Bano Bhatti, a teacher in Pakistan.
You can donate to Oxfam's amazing work here: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/donate