International Day of Education
Today is the UN’s fourth International Day of Education, an opportunity for the world to focus on the critical importance of education in transforming lives.
The UN gives some alarming statistics: Education offers children a ladder out of poverty and a path to a more promising future but about 258 million children and adolescents around the world do not have the opportunity to enter or complete school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic maths; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school.
Our Tubeho Neza project in Rwanda, which provides improved cookstoves, free of charge, is having a direct impact on the education of some of the poorest, most disadvantaged children and in particular girls. The DelAgua stove is distributed to rural communities who have been dependent on large quantities of wood to fuel their traditional 3 stone fires. Gathering this wood is labour and time intensive and is usually the task of children, especially girls. Children have to search long and hard to find enough wood from depleting forestry. They are competing with other families to find this scarce resource and finding enough wood fuel can take up to 4 hours every day. This essential daily chore means children often miss school, their education is interrupted and as a consequence not completed.
With our stove, time spent gathering wood is cut by at least 50% so children can attend school regularly. That’s because the DelAgua stove uses at least 50% less wood and needs only small pieces of tinder and twig to burn. In addition, because the stove lights easily and burns efficiently cooking times are shortened which further frees up children’s time as they also frequently have to tend the fire.
And for those families who buy their firewood, the DelAgua stove saves money which can be spent on education. Households require at least 50% less wood so make an immediate 50% saving on wood expenditure, the fourth biggest household expense in Rwanda. Families can use this money to support their children’s education and buy school books. Regular school attendance with the right resources means the children of rural Rwanda are getting the quality of education they need to thrive in the future.
Lifelong learning is also a central tenet of UN Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. DelAgua has recently partnered with Harambee as our Youth Employment Accelerator to provide bright, entry level Rwandan talent as we expand the Tubeho Neza programme to meet our goal of distributing stoves to 2.3 million rural households. DelAgua will give the training and education needed to develop skills including project management, logistics, technology, database management, communication and leadership and ensure high quality jobs which will help Rwanda achieve a greener, more sustainable future and a growing economy.
The UN warns us today that without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind. For thousands of families in Rwanda, breaking that cycle starts with receiving a DelAgua stove.