An education is every child's right

Today is World Children’s Day which was first established in 1954 as Universal Children's Day and is celebrated on 20 November each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children's welfare.

November 20 is an important date as it is the date in 1959 when the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

We believe that having access to a quality education is every child’s right throughout the world. That is why World Villages for Children exists. We believe that education is the pathway out of the abject poverty and lack of opportunity facing so many children in the developing world.

Ending poverty through education

Our education programmes, delivered by the excellent work of the Sisters of Mary, are playing a key role in helping achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4. This goal aims to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning by 2030. It supports programmes designed to reduce, and remove, the greatest obstacles that prevent children and young people in developing countries from attaining quality education.

These startling statistics[1], underline the critical need for the most impoverished children to be in school so there is some hope that the cycle of poverty can be broken.

  • 124M children/young people have either not started school or dropped out, and the number is rising.
  • 1 in 6 secondary school-age children are not in school.

Breaking the cycle of poverty

Poverty persists within families and communities, from generation to generation. With no access to education, parents are forced into precarious and low paid work insufficient to sustain their families. The availability of work depends on factors poor people have no control over. Young children from these families have a poor start in life. They are often required to work from an early age to help out. This means they miss school so the next generation will still have no access to skills and therefore, will be more vulnerable to unemployment.

Life in poverty means appalling living conditions and a lack of food hinders a child’s ability to learn, especially if they are always conscious that if they are learning and attending school then they are not earning money to put food on the table for the family. Without money there is no access to healthcare and there is no protection from a welfare system if they are sick or their parents are unemployed.

The result is a cycle of deprivation which extends from the family and individuals right out to whole communities. 

Our programmes around the world have had real impact on improving the lives of communities affected by extreme hardship. Each child that we help is given the resources to enable them to have a better, more prosperous life, which in turn, allows them to help their families and communities.


This is best told through a story of one of graduates from our school in Guatemala:

Clara comes from a large family who live in one of the poorest regions of Guatemala. With nine brothers and sisters she had an extremely hard upbringing, her parents were loving but uneducated. They both worked hard at menial jobs which often took them away from the family which was desperately deprived with little money for food or basic supplies to maintain their existence.

The Sisters of Mary met Clara during their community work in 2003 and were able to offer her a place at the girls’ school in Guatemala. Clara worked hard at school and excelled at maths and physics. When she left school, she had the skills to find work and was able to study for a teaching degree part-time. As a fully qualified maths and physics teacher she has made a good career.

She has used her success to support her mother, father, brothers and sisters and even some of their children, with education and healthcare opportunities so that they are all lifted out of poverty. That is 25 members of her family whose lives have been touched by the opportunity she received. She is now back at the girls’ school in Guatemala, using her skills and knowledge to help the next generation of girls in the programme to overcome their difficult early lives and realise their potential. She says:

“Being with the girls here, I always remind them to try hard and do their very best because out in the world many things await them - it does not matter the humble start and poverty of our families, because with the help of our supporters we can be so much, make such a difference.”

Impact from Covid-19

Now more than ever education is vital to children around the world as we grapple with the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a new report by Unicef, a staggering 150 million children are lacking access to education and/or health services since the crisis began. We all have to work hard to turn this tide as a generation of children could be lost. Every child should be able to exercise their right to the education that they deserve. They are our future.

Nicola Lawson
UK Manager & Trustee


[1] Courtesy of Save the Children

Clara teaching

Clara teaching