I had a nasty Grade 1 teacher. At the beginning of my Grade 1 year, I lived in a little French town with the unlikely name of Somerset, Man. If I broke my crayon, I would be slapped by the nun. If I put up my hand and did not hold it completely still, like Queen Elizabeth, ie: if I moved my fingers in excitement, I would get slapped.
Lucky for me, my dad got transferred to the big city: Brandon, Man. only a month into Grade 1. Whew! I often think of the rest of the children whom I left behind. But these days, more often, I think of children in war zones or in poverty who do not have the opportunity to enjoy any kind of education at all.
Even before COVID, 90 per cent of 10-year-olds attending school in low-income countries were unable to read a simple text, and a staggering 258 million children and youth were not in school at all. It bears repeating: there were already a quarter of a billion children not receiving an education before COVID-19 struck.
As Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia and current chair of the board of directors of the Global Partnership for Education, has said: “Nothing has greater power to transform the lives and opportunities of entire generations than a quality education.”
It is easy for us all to be self-absorbed in the current COVID environment, worrying that other countries are ahead of us with their vaccinations, but let’s not forget the rest of the world. Canada must invest in the Global Partnership for Education to the tune of $500 million over the next five years to sustain learning and get children back in school.