This is the second post in a series considering the root causes of hunger. The Millenium Development Goals serve as a helpful framework, and this week, we’re looking at education.

Millenium Development Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education

In Cusco, Peru, an ELCA World Hunger-supported ministry called Huchuy Runa teaches kids about human rights.

In Cusco, Peru, an ELCA World Hunger-supported ministry called Huchuy Runa teaches kids about human rights.

It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of education in social and economic development. Both marginalized people in developed nations and many people in developing nations lack access to basic education. In a developed nation, lack of education can doom a person to a life of unskilled, low-paying work that makes it nearly impossible to avoid poverty. Minimum wage – or worse – just doesn’t buy a lot of food or shelter. In developing nations, where even primary education is often unavailable or inaccessible, the results range from continued impoverishment to death.

The need for universal primary education includes matters well beyond reading and writing. Knowledge of basic sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, and health are essential to improving people’s lives. For example, health education decreases maternal and infant mortality rates, and slows the rate of contagious diseases as people learn how illnesses spread and are able to improve their response to outbreaks. Healthy, energetic people are productive workers who will have better chances of economic success and reduced risk of hunger.

Literacy is another goal of universal primary education. Without the ability to read and write, people are more vulnerable to a life of poverty and hunger. Even marginally skilled work requires literacy. Without the ability to read pamphlets, packaging, or instructions, people miss opportunities to learn about resources available to them. Without the ability to read newspapers it is more difficult to participate in local political or developmental processes which might improve one’s economic situation. Literacy opens many avenues to improve lives, and widespread literacy opens new avenues for whole communities to pursue more ambitious opportunities together. Universal primary education is an essential tool for giving people the knowledge they need to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.

-Nancy Michaelis