We’ve all heard the statistics. We’ve seen the political campaigns designed around this issue. Perhaps we’ve even written letters to our local city councils or our national lawmakers.
Early Childhood Education is important. Not just important. It’s fundamental to the future development and maturity of every child across our nation and around the world. Intervening in the life of a child with high quality education, learning and nurturing from the earliest of ages is essential to a meaningful life full of opportunity.
The National Education Association says that “children in early childhood education programs are:
- Less likely to repeat a grade
- Less likely to be identified as having special needs
- More prepared academically for later grades
- More likely to graduate from high school
- Higher earners in the workforce.”
We’ve made early child education a priority for America’s children. What a blessing and head start it is for those little ones.
When we think of young Ruby in North India, however, the situation is completely different.
Ruby’s parents love her and her baby brother very much. They were so pleased to have two children, a boy and a girl. It was the great blessing of their lives. However, as daily wage earners working in agricultural fields, money is always tight. If it rains, there is no work and therefore, no pay. If the weather has been too hot for the crops to grow, the work is less and their wages are reduced. It is a daily struggle for Ruby’s dedicated and hard-working parents to provide food, clothing and shelter for their sweet family of four. They do the best they can, even when it feels like their best isn’t enough.
Putting Ruby into school when she reached age 4 wasn’t even a thought they had considered. Sure, the other children in their village were going. The children would dress neatly in their school uniforms and march dutifully to their classrooms every morning, huge backpacks burdening their small bodies. But Ruby’s parents had other concerns. Would there be enough rice and soup for dinner? Hungry tummies were unconcerned about learning ABCs. Would Ruby be safe on the streets of the village, never a guarantee for impoverished children who are easy targets for traffickers and others who want to take advantage of the poor.
One evening, hope arrived as the family sat down for their meagre dinner. A bright-eyed woman clothed in an understated sari dress had a spirit about her which immediately drew Ruby’s parents in. Even Ruby immediately wanted to crawl up in her lap.
They had met this friendly woman once before at the height of the pandemic. The family, like so many others, faced the very real threat of starvation. She provided food packets that literally kept the family alive.
They didn’t know it then, but it turns out their angel was a teacher in the school near by. Now, she returned to their home with a new gift, the gift of education for Ruby.
She explained the benefits of enrolling Ruby, and eventually her younger brother, into the DFN school nearby to their village, the very same school where they had received their life-saving food packets during the COVID pandemic. Ruby’s parents listened carefully and wanted all of these things desperately for their children, but knew that such a dream could never be possible for them. They could never afford the school fees.
“What if we could arrange a scholarship?” the DFN teacher proposed.
And with that, Ruby’s parents’ countenance changed. A scholarship. An opportunity. A way to change Ruby’s life and their family’s life forever. Opportunities would be available to Ruby with a high quality English education. She wouldn’t have to be a daily wage earner doing back-breaking work in the agricultural fields. She wouldn’t have to labor day after day in the scorching Indian sun just to put meals on the table for her own children. Maybe she would be a doctor, a teacher, an engineer. The possibilities seemed endless.
“Yes!” they replied enthusiastically. “Please try to arrange a scholarship.”
There are children all across India just like Ruby who are waiting for the opportunity to step into a whole new world of possibilities available through the education provided at DFN’s schools. They’ll learn math, science, social studies, and world history. But they’ll also be treated with love, compassion, equality and dignity. Things most have never experienced.
But right now, Ruby’s future, and the future of children just like her, hangs in the balance. These young children need someone to step into their lives who has the power to set their trajectory: an upward, positive trajectory for a bright future full of possibilities. Ruby needs people who are committed to ending injustice and creating real, lasting change.
We who have opportunities have the responsibility to step in and fight for girls like Ruby. To be her advocate. To provide for her. To cheer her on as she takes the first few steps into a life full of new hopes and dreams.
Together, we can make sure Ruby rises above the miry pit of poverty and discrimination. We can change her life forever.
Because every life is worth fighting for.