A quarter of a billion. That’s how many young people around the world have been denied an education because of poverty, sexism and bad public policy, according to an impassioned op-ed penned by Rihanna for England’s Guardian.
The piece, which was posted on Tuesday morning (Sept. 18), is titled “Growing Up in Barbados, School Was a Grind. But I Was Lucky,” and it focuses on the importance of a solid education in helping to raise a child out of poverty and onto a successful path in life.
“Education is a lifelong journey. We never know everything, but we constantly evolve as we learn more about our communities, this ever-changing world and ourselves,” Rihanna writes. “I’m not ashamed to say I’m still learning. I’ve grown tremendously as an individual through my formal education as well as the global education I have received by travelling the world through music.”
Calling the lack of access to education around the world a “massive problem,” Rihanna writes that rather than throw our hands up in surrender, we need to take on the challenge and work as hard as possible to rectify it. “This is what has driven me to prioritise global education in my philanthropy and advocacy work,” she says. “The notion that millions of children are desperate to go to school and are not given the opportunity is something I cannot accept.”
The singer, whose Clara Lionel Foundation has been focusing on the lack of educational access for the more than 263 million young people not in school around the world, described growing up in Barbados and not always loving school. “It can be a grind, especially when you’d rather be singing, playing sports or doing pretty much anything other than homework,” she says. But, she now realizes, education is not to be taken for granted — because it can be snatched away at any moment.
Citing statistics that claim that each additional year of primary schooling can boost a girl’s prospective income by up to 20 percent, Rihanna chronicles the 2017 trip she took to Malawi as her role as an ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education to witness the work the GPE does to help children in 87 countries gain access to educational opportunities.
“Every voice counts, and limited knowledge is no reason to stay silent,” she says. “We all have a stake in this. Imagine a world where millions of children, previously left to fend for themselves, are given the chance to learn. When it comes to helping the world’s poorest children, as well as the communities and societies in which they live, I’m still learning – and I need others to join me on the journey and use their voices alongside mine.”
Click here to read the full op-ed.