In September 2015, the world’s nations adopted a set of “sustainable development goals” to end poverty, protect the planet, and promote the well-being of everyone. Goal 4 is to provide quality education and promote lifelong learning, and governments are called on to “ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care, and pre-primary education…” Uganda’s Early Childhood Development Policy of 2007 states, “learning begins at birth and that whatever experiences a child goes through during these formative years will impact on a child’s learning in later years positively or negatively.” 
Early childhood education is important for many reasons, including its impact on children’s ability to learn. The human brain develops rapidly in the first few years of a child’s life, but the pace of development slows as a child ages. That early brain development lays the foundation for future learning. UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children 2016 report states: Continue reading “Transforming Children’s Chances through Pre-Primary Education”→
I attended two weddings during the last two months of 2015. I was quite pleased with myself when I “recycled” the dress and shoes I wore to the first wedding and wore them to the second as well, reducing my fashion consumption. But as I view photos of myself at those happy events–looking like an “angel” someone said–wrapped in tulle, satin, and shimmer, “angelic” does not describe how I feel. I cannot help but wonder whose dainty fingers might have been used to attach the sequins that made my dress sparkle. Who stitched beaded flowers onto mesh over its “sweetheart” neckline? What kind of price was paid so I could have this beautiful dress, and who bore the real cost? Continue reading “An Ethical Resolution?”→
“It’s going to be hell,” she declared. It was the first day of classes of the winter semester of 2012, and her foreboding statement expressed her expectations of the three months ahead. She was a St. Thomas University student, probably barely recovered from the demands of exams and multiple paper deadlines all coinciding in one or two horrific weeks prior to Christmas break. She was definitely not looking forward to re-living it. I could relate.
My university education was gruelling. It took a toll on me physically as way too many hours hunched in front of a computer screen aggravated my osteoarthritis and caused my neck to burn with pain. The hunching has also led to a weakening of my pectoral muscles and consequent overcompensation by the muscle attached to my shoulder blade, cramping it and necessitating frequent dates with microwaveable hot packs. I developed stress-induced eczema which caused rashes for the five years of my undergraduate and graduate degrees. (I was a sight to behold, at times!) Then there was the extinction of my social life, family time, and even miniscule moments of relaxation. It was enough to have made me declare in the final year of my undergraduate degree, “University is inhumane.”
A troubling advertisement showed up on my Twitter feed this morning. It’s back-to-school time, and retailers are targeting parents (and children) with ads telling them what they must have to be prepared for a new school year. Walmart Canada’s ad promoted the social ill of overconsumption, which feeds the “fast fashion” trend. Like fast food, fast fashion is attractive to people who want to purchase a large quantity of a product for as little money as possible. But just as the fast food craze overlooks the consequences of overconsumption to health, the fast fashion trend overlooks the consequences to those in the fashion supply chain.
Walmart Canada thinks Canadian children need a lot of clothing – “tees for every mood.” Walmart’s child model had 10 moods (and 10 different t-shirts) in the 15-second commercial that confronted me on Twitter.
And guess what? Having an overabundance of clothing is no longer possible for only the wealthiest in our society. Walmart Canada makes it easy for almost everyone to have more clothing than they need by sourcing outrageously cheap garments and passing on the savings to us: t-shirts, $4 each! Continue reading “Walmart Canada ignores the high cost of fast fashion”→
What if guns, drones, and defence budgets were not required in the fight against terrorism? What if militant groups and violent extremists were not the primary targets? What if the battle focused on children and, more specifically, the poverty that robs them of opportunities, a sense of belonging, and hope?
I grew up with men and women in Kibera with enough energy, intelligence and entrepreneurial zeal to be a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Many of them were overwhelmed by the constant struggle for basic opportunity, like my dear friend Calvin who couldn’t see any way out and I found hanging one day in his small 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft) room. His dreams never had a chance to become reality. There are millions like him.
Jestoni* quit school at age 14 in order to take part in small-scale mining as a means to help support his family. They had abandoned farming for mining because of frequent flooding in their region of the Philippines. Jestoni’s mother worried about his safety as he dug in mine shafts for gold and carried heavy sacks of rock for eight to 12 hours per day.
Tulane University released a new study on the West African cocoa industry today. While the number of children working in cocoa who attended school increased in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana from the 2008/2009 season, the percentage of children in hazardous work also increased by 13 percent. Read the press release.