By Rudina Vojvoda
Susan Cummings-Findel and Stefan Findel discuss Let Us Learn, an innovative initiative launched by UNICEF and private donors that is bringing the power of education to out-of-school children in five countries.
NEW YORK, United States of America, 23 October 2013 – Despite tremendous gains in education, more than 57 million children around the world are still out of school. Poverty, gender discrimination, poor health and nutrition, disability, child labour, migration, geographical disadvantages, conflict, poor learning conditions and unsound education systems are some of the main reasons that these children are not in school. To make matters worse, aid to basic education fell by 7 per cent between 2010 and 2011.
Listen to the Podcast in Streaming MP3 Format
Let Us Learn, an innovative initiative launched by UNICEF and private donors, is addressing inequalities in education by trying to reach out-of-school children, expanding girls’ education and improving quality outcomes for learners.
In this episode of Beyond School Books, UNICEF podcast moderator Alex Goldmark spoke with two donors behind Let Us Learn, Susan Cummings-Findel and Stefan Findel.
Education is power
Mr. Findel talked about what motivates his involvement with Let Us Learn. “Knowledge is power, and I think that is the driving force behind my idea to promote education – because education is the power,” he said.
“[Education] is the basis for everything else – for better hygiene, for knowing about HIV, knowing about basic social skills,” he explained. Mr. Findel said that Let Us Learn is aiming to bring the power of education to the most marginalized and most underprivileged children in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, Liberia and Madagascar.
But how do you measure success, especially in areas in which there is little or no infrastructure for data collection? According to Mr. Findel, Let Us Learn is tracking a set of indicators that are crucial in each country, such as enrolment rate of girls versus boys, the number of children finishing primary school and moving to secondary school, and the number of teachers hired and trained in the Child Friendly School approach.
Ms. Cummings-Findel noted that a major indicator is the testimonies from children, themselves, witnessing their progress through the programme. “When we meet with the community, they say: Before [enrolling in Let US Learn–supported schools], our child was not engaging, and, after even after a short period of time, they cannot believe how a child can be such a different person,” she said. “So, to me, that’s a very good measurement … we see it with our eyes.”
Advocates for children’s education
As a child, Ms. Cummings-Findel, herself, grew up in an orphanage in a decimated village in the Republic of Korea. At the age of 9, she was adopted by an American family, who provided her with loving care, a stable home and all the benefits of an education in the United States of America.
Ms. Cummings-Findel said that visiting children in remote areas through Let Us Learn is like revisiting her previous life. “When I go there, I remember. It’s just like it happened yesterday,” she said. “So, it’s kind of inspirational and always reassures me that what I am doing is what I should be doing. I want to make sure that I will continue to be an advocate for children’s rights and children’s education.”
To learn more about the work of Susan Cummings-Findel and Stefan Findel, visit Sunshine Comes First.