Imagine how different your life would be if you had never learned to read or understand numbers. For millions of people in the developing world, this is their reality — and their lack of education significantly impacts their ability to step out of poverty. Join us in praying that people everywhere — especially children — will gain the education, wisdom, and discernment they need to reach the fullness of life God intends for each of them.
Worldwide, an estimated 260 million children, adolescents, and youths weren’t in school in 2020. And more than 100 million youths were illiterate, as of 2019 data. Despite progress over recent decades, many children in school do not achieve functional literacy and numeracy skills due to overcrowded classes, lack of supplies, teachers who need more training, or disruption due to disasters and prolonged crises like the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 exaggerated already difficult situations. An estimated 1.8 trillion hours of in-person learning have been lost since the pandemic began, with the number increasing each day. The resulting effects have contributed to an increased learning poverty rate, which measures the ability of children under ten to read and comprehend simple text. It’s estimated that 7 out of 10 children from middle- to low-income countries now fall under the category of learning poverty.
The global health crisis is also impacting future students.
Following abrupt drops in household incomes, disruptions to the supply of affordable, nutritious foods, and interruptions to health, nutrition, and social protection services, up to 15% more children suffered from wasting in 2020 compared with projections for 2020 without COVID-19.
Poverty, ill health, and poor nutrition can undermine educational foundations, restricting what children are able to accomplish in the future.
Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.—Jesus (Matthew 25:40, NIV)
At the age of 7, Rabson barely spoke. He struggled with tasks that others his age could master. His mother, Mkonda, says that he seemed absent-minded, so she and her husband thought he had something wrong with him. They didn’t send him to school, but instead had him tend the family’s biggest assets — their cattle.
For four years, he did this. “It used to hurt me a lot when I [saw] my brother go to school while I looked after the cows, because I wanted to learn also,” says Rabson.
Rabson’s case is not unique. Education officials in the Nyimba district of Zambia report that many children in the district aren’t educated because they’re instead herding cattle.
In 2018, the World Development Report found that 55% of Zambian children in second grade couldn’t read a single short text. To support the government’s literacy improvement efforts, World Vision promotes readings activities for children both in and out of school.
One training encourages parents to establish reading corners and another teaches community volunteers to set up reading camps. In 2018, World Vision selected Mkonda to be part of a home reading corner class.
“Every day in the evening, I sat the children down and started teaching them. I noticed that Rabson started to take a keen interest in the lessons,” she says. “My husband at first thought I was wasting time, but he never stopped me.”
After three months, Rabson learned the alphabet and began to put words together. He also started speaking more with his brothers.
In 2019, at age 12, Rabson began to read on his own. His parents decided to enroll him in school and took him for an assessment. Nearly 400 children competed for 50 spaces in first grade. Rabson earned one of those spaces with his impressive performance.
Three months later, COVID-19 hit, and in-class learning stopped. However, the family continued to use reading corners for Rabson to keep up with his studies. Mkonda borrowed books from the reading camp so Rabson could build his reading comprehension.
Now schools have reopened, so Rabson can get back to the classroom and attend reading camps each Saturday. That will help him work toward his dream of being a teacher.
Join us in prayer for the quality education of children worldwide and their support network of family and teachers who enable their learning.
Pray for an end to the generational cycle of illiteracy and poverty.
Every year on September 8 we recognize International Literacy Day and the critical role reading plays in daily life. Without the ability to read and write, families are trapped in the relentless cycle of crushing poverty and day-to-day survival.
Great Teacher, children need an education to have the full and abundant life You came to give them. Your Word demonstrates how You touch people’s hearts to spur them to action for their own benefit. Bless people living in poverty by providing ways to learn to read and to apply this new skill to help lift their families out of poverty — for this generation and generations to come.
Pray for parents to support their children’s education.
Parental engagement and support greatly increase a child’s chances of access to quality education and sustaining a commitment to learning. But parents can also be a barrier to education when they support harmful local traditions and customs, such as child marriage, or rely on their children’s income.
Faithful Shepherd, we pray for You to help parents understand the value of their children’s education. May parents and other family members surround children with the support and encouragement to become all who You made them to be. If economic support is an issue, may parents find additional means of income to provide for their family.
Pray for teachers everywhere to be men and women of integrity.
Teachers, who spend more time every day with their students than possibly anyone else, have enormous influence over children’s precious young minds. Ask God to inspire teachers to be the best role models — always speaking the truth in love to the children who look up to them.
Holy Spirit, we pray for You to be with teachers everywhere who are responsible for our children’s education. Put Your righteousness in their hearts and Your words on their lips to share with the children in their daily care. May classrooms not only fill students with knowledge but also wisdom, discernment, and integrity.
Pray for children’s safety at school.
World Vision works to keep schools safe and free from all forms of violence, such as fistfights, and installs separate latrines for girls and boys to help prevent gender-based violence. Fulfilling children’s need for and right to protection gives them the opportunity to develop in all areas, including education.
Almighty Lord, classrooms should be safe places for children, but safety can’t be guaranteed. Protect children, and help teachers, administrators, and law enforcement officers to remain vigilant against violence. Help them to create an environment where students can learn and flourish.
Pray for the protection of children who aren’t attending school.
Many children can’t attend school because their families depend on their income or the walk to school is too long or dangerous. The 260 million children worldwide not enrolled in school are at greater risk for exploitation, child marriage, and lower income-earning potential. Globally, hourly earnings increase 9% for one extra year of schooling.
Over 40% of the world’s refugee population is made up of children under the age of 18. Almost half of all refugee children aren’t in school, and accessing learning becomes harder as they get older. Since secondary education can lead to improved employment opportunities, lack of education can ruin a young refugee’s dreams of a better future.
Father God, lay a blanket of protection over children who cannot attend school, especially those whose educations are disrupted by conflict, emergencies, and natural disasters. In Your mercy, we pray for You to provide opportunities for learning so that through education, children find the hope and skills for a better future.
Pray for girls growing up in cultures that don’t value their education.
A UNICEF report on girls’ education estimates that 129 million girls are out of school around the world. Some of the barriers standing between girls and their education are poverty, violence, child marriage, lack of schools or unsafe environments, and limitations in teacher training, especially around reducing classroom gender biases.
COVID-19 has also negatively impacted girls’ health and well-being, according to a World Bank report. Prolonged school closures and limited remote learning opportunities for learning have hindered girls’ education and now many are at risk of not returning to schools once they reopen.
Ask God to remove roadblocks and open doors of opportunity for girls to attend school and achieve their potential. When we prioritize secondary schooling for girls:
- National growth rates rise
- Child marriage rates decline
- Child and maternal mortality rates fall
- Child stunting drops
- Girls’ lifetime earnings dramatically increase
Great Provider, we know You created children with a curiosity to learn about their world. Give every girl and boy the chance to explore the world through their studies. We ask You to raise up godly leaders who will change the way girls and women are treated, opening the possibility for fuller lives and futures filled with promise.
Pray for World Vision’s work to educate all children.
Children are the future of the world’s nations. If children are left uneducated, another generation will continue to struggle without life’s basics. World Vision’s education projects focus on sustainable activities that help kids gain access to quality and equitable education:
- Increasing access to basic education, with special attention to girls and children with disabilities
- Partnering with parents, local organizations, the private sector, and governments to galvanize greater learning outcomes and opportunities
- Strengthening community involvement in education to create enabling environments
Lord, Proverbs tells us that an education is invaluable and that we should pursue it, even if it costs everything we have. We praise you that millions more children are getting an education now than a decade ago. We ask for Your continued blessing on World Vision’s work to educate children worldwide. We pray for You to help us build momentum around the world for education, so every child has the opportunity to go to school and learn how to read and understand basic math.
Chris Huber, Denise C. Koenig, and Laura Reinhardt of World Vision’s U.S. staff and Tigana Chileshe of World Vision’s Zambia staff contributed to this article.