Poverty and Education

A Barrier to Education: Poverty

When it comes to impediments in obtaining an education, poverty is a chief culprit.

Poverty encumbers education in various ways

When parents are poor, a scarcity mindset may compel them to focus on immediate needs, such as food and shelter, at the expense of long-term benefits like education.

If families struggle to meet even basic needs, they can’t afford extra expenses such as school supplies. Particularly in developing countries, impoverished parents may need children to contribute to the family income.

Taboras, a father of nine, was hesitant to send his children to school. Their family earned a living picking through garbage heaps in Asia for sellable items, the only way they had to sustain themselves. He reasoned that sending his children to school would take away wages the family needed for survival, not realizing that an education would offer them avenues out of poverty.1

In severe cases, parents may unintentionally neglect their children’s personal care to pursue work, driven by poverty and a quest for survival.

Divena’s father worked hard as a truck driver, but his job caused him to leave Divena and her brother alone for weeks at a time. While other children went to school, 5-year-old Divena sadly looked on as she played in the dirt.2

Even when children attend school, their poverty may hinder their learning. The stresses of poverty may impair a child’s learning ability while poor nutrition affects their ability to concentrate and retain information.3 Malnutrition can also lead to frequent illness, which negatively impacts school attendance.4 In cases of generational poverty, parents are frequently uneducated themselves, perhaps even illiterate, and can’t assist children if they struggle in their studies.

Sometimes parents recognize the importance of education for their children to attain a better future, but they simply can’t afford it.

Ridhushni’s parents struggled to earn a living, especially after tuberculosis incapacitated her father. Her mother desperately wanted her children to attend school, to have hope at a better future, but their small income made her dream seem impossible.

Fortunately, GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program helped Ridhushni’s family overcome this barrier. By providing essentials like a daily meal, medical checkups, and an education for Ridhushni, the program alleviated the family’s financial burden and helped a mother’s impossible dream become reality. Now Ridhushni wants to become a teacher and help other children gain a solid education.5

This is just a glimpse of how poverty acts as a barrier to education and, in turn, an avenue out of poverty.

1 “The Gift of Education.” REJOICE: Gospel for Asia Newsletter. https://gfa-newsletter.org/issue/18/2/the-gift-of-education/. February 2021.
2 “Neglected Girl Replaces Mud Canvas with Paper, Pencils.” GFA World. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/neglected-girl-replaces-mud-canvas-with-paper-pencils/. May 2020.
3 Bradley, Olivia. “What is the Relationship Between Poverty and Learning?” The Borgen Project. https://borgenproject.org/what-is-the-relationship-between-poverty-and-learning/. Accessed August 18, 2021.
4 Walthouse, Emily. “Effects of Hunger on Education.” The Borgen Project. https://borgenproject.org/effects-of-hunger-on-education/. Accessed August 19, 2021.
5 “What She May Never Have Had.” GFA World. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/what-she-may-never-have-had/. March 2020.