If poverty could be eliminated solely by the hardwork and determination of the poor, then third world poverty would have ended a long time ago. The poor in the developing world are some of the hardest working people on the planet. In my latest episode on YouTube, I once again point out something I learned long ago: the poor aren’t lazy.
More photos and details after the jump.
This episode focuses around a group of kids (some as young as eight years old) who were forced to make a choice that many young people in this country face: go to school OR put food on the table. These kids would have had to completely abandon their education if it wasn’t for the fact that some locals from the community decided to form a charity and offer part-time informal schooling (for free) for these kids.
Here’s a photo (above) of me and the students. The school teacher (dressed in a yellow head-scarf) gets paid a mere $15 a month (1000 taka) to teach these kids English, Bengali, and math. She doesn’t even have a blackboard to draw or write stuff down. I try and help using some of my money from my Xbox 360 Challenge. But, that story will have to wait for a later video.
The students come to study from 7 am to 9 am and then head off to work full-time. I asked the school teacher if she knows where some of the students work. She took me to a few that work close-by. Shafiqul (the kid welding in the first photo) was one of the students that I got to see work. Johnny (above) owns and runs this tea stand. He reminded me a lot of Mo, the teeanger who started a business of his own trading people’s used bottles in exchange for vegetables. The poor in this country are some of the most creative and industrious people in the world – the students I met in this part-time school were no exception.
Despite this ingenuity and creativity, by being forced to choose between surviving or going to school, many people are trapped in a cycle of poverty. I’m reminded of what Dr. Jeffrey Sachs said – getting kids to go to school is a lot like getting faculty to attend seminars: offer lunch and they will show up. No parent would ask their child to drop-out of school if they knew a daily meal came along with attending school. That’s another thing that I found surprising. None of these children were orphans – all of these students were living with either one or both parents. I can’t help but think that maybe a desire to pull one’s weight and not be a burden on one’s parents was a factor in many of these kids dropping out of school.