In my neighborhood, the school buses are back on the roads in full force during my morning commute. School has begun again, and while the girl in the house next to me says she would prefer a bit more summer vacation, she is incredibly lucky to be going to school.

Education is a key factor in preventing poverty and hunger, and yet so many children in the world – especially girls – are not able to attend school. In fact, The World Bank’s Web site goes so far as to say, “The World Bank has recognized that there is no investment more effective for achieving development goals than educating girls.”

There are many reasons. Perhaps one of the most important is that an eduated woman applies her knowledge to caring for her family, so the whole family benefits. Educated women tend to have fewer children with better spacing between them, allowing more time to recover between pregnancies, and less stress on resources like food and household income. What’s more, the whole family tends to stay healthier, as educated women apply their knowledge about hygiene, nutrition, and disease prevention and treatment. Educated woman are also more likely to demand education for their children, improving the possibilities for their futures.

But the health of the family is not the only benefit. Obviously, a good education has potential for improving household income. Educated women are more likely to qualify for higher paying jobs, which opens the door for higher levels of food security, healthcare, education, community participation, and fulfillment. Similarly, educated women are more likely to participate in community politics, thereby affecting policy and societal structures.

Yet for all the benefits, many girls are unable to attend school. According to the same World Bank Web site,

“Worldwide, for every 100 boys out-of-school there are 132 girls. In some countries the gender gap is much wider. For example, for every 100 boys out of school in Yemen there are 270 girls, in Iraq 316 girls, in India 426 girls, and in Benin 257 girls (UNESCO GMR, 2007).”

The good news is that rates of education for all children – boys and girls – have been improving for many years. And ELCA World Hunger has been part of it. ELCA World Hunger dollars support education programs all over the world, including Egypt, India, Kenya, Peru, and Laos.So as the children in your neighborhood return to school this fall, consider the children in other places that don’t have such easy access to education. Consider helping them with a gift to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal or other organization of your choice.