Archive Article 21st Dec 2001. The State of the Worlds Children
February 28, 2009


Christmas is a particularly a time for children. So: just how are the world’s children faring?

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) each year publishes a survey of the world’s children. One of the most captivating pages of the Report contains a poem from a UNICEF official based in Mozambique. At a time when so much of the Australia media are dominated by crass commercialism and the need for us to spend money, it is a statement on how to teach in one of the world’s poorest countries. No Australian quite lives at the level of poverty experienced by many people in Mozambique.

Perhaps foreshadowing all the “Harry Potter” hoopla, the statement, entitled “The Anonymous Teacher”, deals with real magic.

The statement reads:

It can only be considered magic that a human being,

With little or no training

With little support or professional guidance

Who lives in a thatched hut, badly ventilated and scarcely illuminated

With no shops close by and water miles away

At five or 10 kilometres from the school, that she or he will have to walk, twice a day

(in the morning or afternoon)

Who receives a salary just enough to buy a week’s food (with the salary often paid late)

And that doesn’t even buy clothes or furniture

is able to make a child

Who walked five to 10 kilometres to get to school

After a night sleeping on a ragged mat

In a cold and drafty hut

Not having eaten much

After having had to complete domestic chores

learn to read, write and count

In the shadow of a tree

Sitting on the ground

In groups of 70 children

With no chalk or teaching equipment

With no books, pens or pencils.

The poem continues that what the teacher accomplishes is “magic” for the esoteric and a “miracle” for the religious. After all, each child from nothing, acquires knowledge and develops skills.

These teachers are the anonymous heroes of each country. They are not heroes of war. Their only weapons are a tremendous love for children and a tenacious desire to contribute to a better world. They are the heroes of peace.

It would be wonderful if I could say that Australia is playing its part in helping these heroes of the peace. Unfortunately, Australia is not. The UNICEF Report shows how almost all the developed countries are failing to live up to their obligations to provide foreign aid. Australia is now among those countries giving the lowest level of foreign aid since records began four decades ago.

This is all the more reason to buy the UNICEF greetings cards this year.