|A third world experience of a first world education|
|Friday, 12 September 2008|
As Benedictine celebrated 150 years of existence, speeches from the Abbot, the President, the keynote speaker, and the mayor all reminded us of the great gift we are given at Benedictine: a thorough education.Although we all might applaude approvingly and move on, I thought of this not as a plea for gratitude, but as a reflection of a realization. Few in the world are given the opportunities that we are given.
I experienced this fully this summer when I visited Tanzania, East Africa for two months.
I stepped off the plane as a socially aware product of the American higher education system, and left a product of my own experience. Now, the urgings of higher-ups to appreciate my education seem second nature to me, especially after seeing the condition of women in Tanzania.
The poverty in Tanzania was fierce, but the poverty of mind was even fiercer. In a land where beating your wife is a social norm, polygamy is praised and the education of women is a luxury, I struggled with the position many of those women found themselves in.
If a girl gets pregnant at any point in her education, whether she be fourteen or nineteen, she will not be allowed to continue her education at all. Many girls only progress to around the 6th grade level. They are then needed on the farm, found a husband, etc…
Even for the girls who do advance to high school, they are expected to take on extra work to keep the school going, work that the boys are not expected to do. They miss class to get water, miss study time to cook, while the boys are learning and studying, eating and drinking. They do not see this as an injustice, and that is where the poverty of mind comes in.
For many of the girls, they will end up being mothers back at their village, regardless of their dreams. They will try their hardest to find a husband for financial support, and settle down to a life of strenuous and constant labor.
Many of them are incapable of being anything else. So I find myself thanking my lucky stars that I have the option of pursuing something other than marriage, that I could support myself if need be.
We are given a world-class education; our minds are formed to be sophisticated and logical. There are many women in Tanzania who envy the freedom we have here, our ability to pursue a career and our confidence to support ourselves.
Here in the United States, women are granted an equal place in society. I turn on the TV and see women like Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin, who have followed their dreams and used their minds in extraordinary ways. Women in Tanzania would faint if they saw what we are capable of pursuing.
The men in Tanzania have a few more options, although poverty still disrupts their path to success. Many of the men there will pursue a university education, graduate, but go back to their village to farm because jobs are just that scarce. Suddenly those speeches on the necessity of gratitude for education do not seem so cliché.
Let us make them proud by living to the fullest the opportunity we have here, if not for ourselves, but for the women and men who do not have the luxury of options. Let us pursue our education in order to affect society in a positive and tangible way.
The most profound lesson I learned in Tanzania was to use the resources I have at my disposal efficiently and until they have absolutely run dry. This ideal would apply even to the exercise of my mind as I approach the working world seeking a job, even as I move through life making decisions. I have to remember those men and women who have very few options, who would kill for opportunities that I daily take for granted.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 12 September 2008 )|
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