I have come down with a terrible illness: World Cup Fever. As Stephen Colbert said, “I have recently discovered that I am a long-time fan of soccer.” (Actually, to be fair, I have always been a soccer fan, playing from childhood through my freshman year of college at North Carolina Wesleyan College and now playing in a co-ed indoor league in Harahan.) In the spirit of international competition, I want to take a moment to turn away from our typical focus on local and domestic issues and think about the connection between education and poverty at the global level.
One benefit of the World Cup, as my colleague Sara noted in a blog post last week, is the attention it affords to the progress South Africa (and, really, the international community) has made in promoting quality education for all. Of course, there is still a LONG way to go toward this goal, since at this point 72 million children still don’t have the opportunity to go to school at all. How many more live in places where there is little to no access to anything beyond the most basic education, with no secondary or university educational opportunities? (And before we get all ethno-centric, let’s not forget that graduation rates are so low in many American school systems that surely they have to be mentioned when we talk about the global failure to provide universal access to quality education.)
In addition to the 20 Centres initiative of the 2010 World Cup, there’s a very cool program called 1 Goal: Education for All that is using international soccer to raise awareness of the role education can play in combatting poverty and to “mobiliz[e] support to hold world leaders” accountable to promises made to create universal access to education by 2015. So go to join1goal.com and show your support. Also, if you’ve got 3 1/2 minutes, check out this video supporting 1 Goal.