Many of you know about my involvement in the organization Save the Children. Seven months ago, I and two other trustees founded The LA Associates of Save the Children. We asked over 50 women to join us and they in turn have recruited others. I am proud to say that we have already raised enough money to establish 3 schools in Africa. Construction has begun on the first school in Mozambique; we completed the funding for a school in Ethiopia and are almost ready to fund a school in Mali. (We can use some help completing the latter …if you would like to contribute please log onto www.savethechildren.org/LA-Associates ) Each school will have an early education program for children under the age of five and will involve parents and the community in efforts to stimulate learning. Save the Children works with the local country and state government in order to ensure appropriate teacher training, classroom maintenance and sustainable programs. Save also provides education and play material. Each school project includes health care and nutritional supplementation for the children. The LA Associates plan to continue to focus on education, especially early education in under-served rural communities here in the U.S.
The reason I am bringing this up (and if you have paid attention to my newsletters, you will have read about the Associates and the schools we are building several months ago…) is that a series of articles just appeared in the medical journal The Lancet that emphasize the importance of these types of programs. The series is appropriately titled “Child Development” and reports on evidence-based strategies that improve developmental outcomes for young children in low-income and middle-income countries.
As concerned individuals, no matter what our political affiliation, I feel that we should look at the results of this world wide and world class survey:
Let me start with some startling numbers presented in a survey in The Lancet in 2007: More than 200 million children younger than 5 years of age in low-income and middle-income countries were not attaining their developmental potential, primarily because of poverty, nutritional deficiencies, and inadequate learning opportunities. That number is felt to have significantly increased as a result of the past years of economic crisis and climate change.
The authors of the present Lancet series searched over 12 databases, which included Google Scholar, the World Bank, Global Health and even one called Psycinfo. They reviewed papers published since July 2006. They analyzed 42 studies and program assessments that included more than 50 children, focused on children from 0 to 5, had an appropriate research design and used valid outcome measures. Based on these studies, the authors created a “simulated model” of the long-term economic effects of increasing preschool enrollment to 25% or 50% in every low-income and middle-income country. The benefit-to-cost for increasing enrollment to 25% was 12.6 (which was calculated to be worth $10.6 billion) and rose to 17.6 for an increase to 50% enrollment (which would be worth more than $33.7 billion!) Just in case all these numbers are stultifying…. what it means is that for every dollar invested in enrolling 50% of the children in preschool education, the return for the economic potential of these children in their lifetime is multiplied by 17.6. And that is just the economic terms…the quote at the conclusion of the article says more: “By investing in early child development programs, we have the opportunity to break the cycle of inequities that has dominated the lives of millions of children and families in low-income and middle-income countries.” And I can proudly state that Save the Children is one of the organizations that is in the global forefront for the promotion and establishment of early childhood education.
P.S. When this newsletter appears, I will be in Ethiopia. I am visiting Dolo, the large refugee camp on the border with Somalia. Save the Children supports many of the child programs there including feeding programs, reunification, child protection and safe play areas. My weekly articles will resume when I return.
And if you are a patient, please know that you can call the office for any medical needs; my staff will be there to help you. I will return in the beginning of November.