Childhood Education in the Developing World: Crisis and Opportunity

An Update From Cecilia Ibru and the Michael and Cecilia Foundation

World leaders recognize that one key to improving the lives of billions of people is education. Yet many developing nations continue to experience challenges in building educational infrastructure and delivering these services to young people. The United Nations has promoted Millennium Development Goals, stressing the need for universal education by 2015 for children of primary-school age. However, many developing nations are not on track to meet those goals. As recently as a decade ago, more than 100 million children worldwide were not enrolled in school.

In many parts of Asia, the Pacific, South America, and sub-Saharan Africa, large numbers of young children drop out of school in the primary grades. Girls are particularly affected by this trend. Those children who do go to school frequently study with teachers who have inadequate training and are forced to deal with overcrowded classrooms and a lack of basic supplies.

For example, two-thirds of the people (and four-fifths of all girls) in Nepal are illiterate. People of school age leave their educational goals behind to travel to urban centers to find work as servants and day laborers. People from the more than 100 indigenous ethnic groups in the country are socially marginalized and at special risk.

In Nigeria, children under 15 make up nearly half the population, but their educational needs often remain unmet. Almost half of elementary-aged children do not attend school. The Michael and Cecilia Foundation, guided by Cecilia Ibru, serves Nigeria by assisting a variety of educational efforts at the primary school level and up. The foundation is in the process of funding and developing its own university, which will focus on business and the sciences.

“The Michael and Cecilia Foundation Promotes Education,” by Cecilia Ibru

The Michael and Cecilia Foundation works to alleviate poverty in Nigeria and other countries. One of the foundation’s primary goals is the establishment of a university. Believing that knowledge is the key to fighting poverty effectively, organization leaders hope that the world-class university will offer practical education in private- and public-sector skill sets, giving young Africans the knowledge they need to create and maintain stable economies. The foundation plans to institute a work-study program at the university, a model that does not yet exist in Nigeria. When the university opens, this sort of program will give students the practical experience they need to secure positions in the job market and take a leadership role in their communities. At present, the foundation works to forge partnerships with other top schools around the world as it settles on particular curricula and teaching methods. The university soon will open with resources to support 150 students, and its 10-year development plan envisions that it eventually will educate about 5,000 students at a time.

About the Author: A retired banking executive, Cecilia Ibru now works with the Michael and Cecilia Foundation. In recognition of her contributions to the country, she was inducted into the Nigerian Women Hall of Fame.

The Michael and Cecilia Foundation: Alleviating Poverty in Nigeria By Cecilia Ibru

The Michael and Cecilia Foundation has undertaken a wide range of initiatives to combat poverty in Nigeria and surrounding countries. The organization works to ensure access to health care while increasing access to social services and educational opportunities. Additionally, an awareness program aims to prevent the spread of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, and hepatitis. The program includes an initiative to educate parents about the importance of immunizations for their children to prevent potentially fatal childhood diseases.


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The Michael and Cecilia Foundation also funds a Train-A-Child program, which sends children and young adults from impoverished backgrounds to schools and training programs, to provide them with the tools and skills necessary to achieve financial independence and break the cycle of poverty. Students seek training in carpentry, welding, landscaping, and masonry, in addition to pursuing higher education. The organization also has its own university in development, which leaders hope will serve as a model for the establishment of more schools throughout Africa.

About the Author: Born and raised in Nigeria, Cecilia Ibru enjoyed a successful career in finance, management, and banking. At present, she devotes her time to the Michael and Cecilia Foundation.