Thursday, August 14, 2014

Education Ignites Change

A Reflection on Education

I’ve come to realize that material things rarely truly empower people. Rather, it is the intangible things, such as education, that garner the most transformation. Education does not create dependencies; it sustains and empowers, allowing women in particular to be independent.

In a society where theft is a constant fear, education is a beacon of hope. What you learn in and outside of the classroom cannot be taken from you. Education is the catalyst for change, for development, for dreams that become realities, for peace.

Education allows individuals to empower themselves. With knowledge, they can make informed choices -- about their health, about their relationships, about their futures. And it is perhaps the greatest hope that this knowledge will translate to understanding and tolerance, which in turn will work to create a more peaceful, just, compassionate world. A world in which every human being is given the opportunity to grow and evolve and improve and empower himself/herself and others, where every person is treated with dignity, respect, and love.

That’s what makes Starfish so cool.

Jane with Genesis, Eloisa, Angie and Lissette in Flor de Bastión
It empowers its students to become leaders in their communities by supporting their academic needs. Focusing on education is a grass-roots approach, which puts power in the hands of locals who more fully understand the complex nature of the injustices that exist in their own communities.

That is not to say simply going to school will fix all the problems. The education system here is broken in countless ways (I’ve yet to hear a positive anecdote about the department of education). Poorly trained teachers, ill-equipped classrooms, and relatively ineffective curriculum based mainly on rote memorization deter children from being passionate about learning and/or interested in going to school. It’s often hard to explain to the students how important education is when their school day is more or less miserable and boring.

There are rays of hope though -- that despite broken systems, going to school is definitely not all for naught. That education really does ignite change. 

Jane at Veronica's house with Briggitte, André and Andreina
When André beams about how much he loves English class and practicing his English with us volunteers.

Or when Cristian talks about his passion for the sciences, biology especially, and how he doesn’t need help with science homework because he understands it.

Or when Pamela will let nothing get in her way of becoming a flight attendant.
Or when Maria, one of Starfish’s first students to graduate high school, begins university classes this fall in medicine, with dreams of becoming a pediatrician.

Jane with Maria on a field trip to the beach!
These awesome students represent the beginnings of a new generation: a generation of passionate, inspired leaders and doers and shakers.

That sounds like a pretty beautiful future to me.

A future that Starfish is shaping, poco a poco.

Written by Jane Lorenzi, Summer 2014 volunteer in Ecuador.  Check out more of her reflections here.

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