Education is a Basic Human Right by Karen

Growing up in the United States, I took education for granted.  I suppose I probably heard stories and saw pictures of what kids' lives were like in other places, but I don't remember contemplating the widespread impacts of living without schools, books, and educated role models.  Just recently I learned that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written by the United Nations General Assembly back in 1948, includes education as a fundamental necessity.  Education isn't a privilege.  It's a basic human right.  

Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton SC
was a Catholic religious sister in the
United States and an educator, known
as a founder of the country's
parochial school system.
I've often heard that the Catholic church has the world's largest educational network, but it wasn't until I read that in 2020 we served 62.2 million primary and secondary students in over 120,000 schools around the world that I really came to appreciate the magnitude of this effort.  In addition to educating youth, the Catholic church has over 1,000 colleges and universities located in 65 different countries, which means that there are millions and millions more benefiting from the selfless service of Catholic educators around the globe. 

The works of Elizabeth Ann Seton, Thomas Aquinas, and Ignatius of Loyola are well known. Still, there are countless others, whose names will never be found in the history books, that have dedicated their lives to educating the poor and marginalized. 

While we haven't felt called to open schools like Elizabeth Ann Seton's family, or start a religious order, like Saint Ignatius, we have looked for opportunities to help those that we've gotten to know who lack the resources to send their kids to school.  

Here in Costa Rica, the academic year begins in February and ends in early December.  

The secondary school that our kids attend serves over 1,200 kids in grades 7-12.  To best accommodate the needs of each grade, the start dates are staggered.  The 7th graders start first so that they have time to get acclimated before the others arrive.  Michael, and the other 8th graders, started on Tuesday, February 7th.  Jack and Anna, along with the other kids, began later in the week. 

Michael's studies are general, as are all 8th graders.  Jack is beginning in the Computer Science program, and Anna is finishing up her specialty in Mechanics. 

This is the receipt for about half of one
of the family's uniforms.  Given the
fact that the mom makes an average of
12,000 colones/day, it would have taken
her about 2 weeks to earn the money 
needed to buy her kids' uniforms.
In theory, the public schools are open and available to everyone; in practice, it's a bit different.  Every child is required to pay a registration fee and carry a health insurance policy.  Without these, they aren't even allowed to enroll.  Kids are to arrive at school in uniform, which must be purchased, and are expected to buy all of their own supplies: pencils, rulers, scissors, glue, etc.  Unlike the schools in the States, which provide kids with books and photocopied materials, the kids here must pay for their learning materials as they receive them.  If a child does not have the money needed to get copies of the material that a teacher is presenting on any given day, s/he not only misses out on the lesson but is penalized for having an incomplete class notebook.  As you can imagine, this makes it challenging for poor kids to get an education.  

With Team Carmody's help, we were able to provide three families with all that they needed to ensure that their kids/grandkids could start school with their classmates.  Following are some pictures that we took when we dropped off their uniforms and supplies.  Please know that the kids were actually really, really excited to receive all that we were able to share even though it doesn't necessarily look like it in these pictures.  I think the kids just felt uncomfortable posing for pictures, which I understand.  Maybe next time we'll try to snap some candid shots!

Thanks for taking the time to read a little bit about what the Lord is doing through Team Carmody here in Costa Rica.  Blessings, Karen

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