PLANO, Texas — COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges that have disrupted daily routines and schedules. The disarrangement of the academic school year has been extremely difficult to overcome for developing countries. Globally, one in six children does not attend school. Children in developed countries often have access to technology to facilitate online school lessons; however, children in low-income countries continue to fall further behind on the learning curve. According to the World Bank, pandemic-related “school closures risk pushing an additional 72 million primary school-aged children into learning poverty.” Children in learning poverty lack the ability to read and comprehend simple sentences by age 10. In recognition of the need for children to have access to basic education, United World Schools (UWS) has partnered with British actress Amanda Redman to launch the Happily Ever Smarter Fundraiser.
Redman’s Inspiration to Partner with UWS
The sight of so many children absent from school in the U.K. due to the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Amanda Redman, star of “Good Karma Hospital,” to reflect on a 2015 trip to Nepal. There, Redman met a young woman named Sunita. Sunita expressed the desire for her daughters to have the opportunity to attend school for a chance at an improved future. Redman also recalls witnessing Nepalese children trekking for hours up hazardous mountain trails to receive an education. Observing the difficulties children in rural regions face to obtain an education compelled Redman to partner with UWS to promote change.
The Goal of the Happily Ever Smarter Fundraiser
According to the United Nations, approximately 24 million children will never return to school once COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted. For these children, the future could potentially mean becoming victims of child marriage or enduring a life of poverty. Additionally, the World Bank predicts a loss of “$10 trillion in future lifetime earnings” if the learning deficit is left unaddressed.
The Happily Ever Smarter fundraiser hopes to prevent these outcomes by increasing educational opportunities in South Asia. The campaign places a special emphasis on Nepal. The goals to uplift the region include constructing schools, increasing teacher development, uplifting communities and improving “state education in rural areas.”
Redman contributed to the campaign by performing a voice-over narration for the animated short story of Kanchi, a 10-year-old Nepalese girl who wishes to go to school. The story details Kanchi’s daily work “in the fields with her grandmother.” Then, Kanchi’s aspirations to attend school become a reality. The video transitions from animation to live-action with a school erected in Kanchi’s isolated community. Finally, the story concludes with Kanchi leaving for her first day of school — the beginning of an opportunity to change her life through education.
United World Schools’ Milestones
So far, UWS has successfully impacted hundreds of villages and provided life-changing education to “43,000 children in Nepal, Myanmar and Cambodia.” In addition to providing educational opportunities to children, UWS also offers support to control the spread of COVID-19. The organization has made efforts to establish hand-sanitizing facilities and COVID-19 isolation centers in communities via schools. UWS also provides food and necessities to hundreds of girls and their families to minimize the risk of “child marriage and exploitation.”
The Future of Education in Nepal
According to UNICEF, Nepal has made tremendous strides in educational development over the last 20 years. In primary schools, the net enrollment percentage has increased to 97%. However, the country still faces several problems in providing education to children. The UWS Happily Ever Smarter Fundraiser has already proven successful in solving some of these issues.
Supporting the efforts of UWS, the U.K. government pledged to double the donations the fundraiser receives between April 29 and July 29, 2021. The funding will help build and supply 70 new schools, train 375 community teachers and provide education to 10,000 more students.
Amanda Redman expressed, “What United World Schools is achieving by working hand-in-hand with local communities in some of the most remote parts of the world is magnificent. I hope that together, we can give thousands more children a chance to have a brighter and more secure future.” Together, Redman and United World Schools contribute to breaking cycles of poverty through education.
– Tiara Tyson