The audacity of educating children for life

Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr is renowned globally for his extraordinary efforts to fight the injustices of inequality. During a recent visit to Rev King’s hometown in Atlanta, Georgia, I had the privilege of learning more about his life, faith and work. Most of the exhibits I viewed brought to life the context of his pivotal role in helping to establish the Civil Rights Movement in America during the 1960s.

Of the many famous sayings that he was known for, the following one that was displayed especially stayed with me:

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture of their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”

This opportunity became one of the highlights for me of being able to attend the 61st annual conference of The Comparative and International Education Society (CIES). The conference took place this year in Atlanta with the theme of “Problematising (In)Equality: The Promise of Comparative and International Education”. The education society began in 1956 as a forum to “foster cross-cultural understanding, scholarship, academic achievement and societal development” and its more than 3,000 members includes academics, students, practitioners, and policymakers from around the world.

For several years now, World Vision (WV) has been an active contributor to the CIES and its dedication to the “international study of educational ideas, systems, and practices.” It has become an ideal forum to publicise our continuing efforts to ensure that all children can access a quality education.

This year, we were showcasing WV’s commitment to “educating children for life” via our life-cycle approach to improving education outcomes. This focuses on finding solutions to the many unequal barriers that are preventing children from accessing education from the very start of their lives, improving their ability to learn once they are at school, and completing their education once they have reached adolescence.

World Vision was represented in Atlanta by over 25 global education staff members who gathered to debate, chair or present at 16 sessions sharing the latest updates and achievements of our education work from around the globe. These sessions included highlights and updates from a variety of projects focusing on areas such as improving literacy, supporting pre-school learning as well as monitoring and evaluating teaching methods, to name a few.

One of the larger panel sessions was chaired by Global Education Partnership Leader, Linda Hiebert, with presentations from the global Basic Education and Monitoring and Evaluation teams. The presenters outlined the shift in WV’s education focus that transitioned from education infrastructure to quality learning outcomes.

One of other main highlights was the session in which our ECD specialists were able to showcase World Vision’s new parenting programme model called “Go Baby Go!” Dr Victorya Sargsyan, WV’s Health Learning Hub Leader for our Middle East Eastern Europe region presented about the successes and challenges of this programme that piloted in Armenia.

Also, there was much interest in the presentations by our team of education specialists from WV Zimbabwe and WV UK reporting on the achievements of the project to improve girl’s access through transforming education (IGATE) in Zimbabwe.

I also had the pleasure of meeting many visitors at our exhibit booth who wanted to learn more about WV’s work after attending one of our specialists’ sessions. It was always very satisfying to be able to learn how impressed many were once they learned about our global reach. Quite a few attendees said they were motivated by the fact that we and other partners were not just building schools, but also making significant impact in improving the quality of children’s education.

In fact, I’m glad I could also share with others a little about the other areas where WV works and partners with children and their families to ensure they are experiencing changes in all areas of their lives.Whether it is helping to improve a community’s livelihoods so that children won’t go hungry or training young people about their rights, I like to think that perhaps in our own way, World Vision has been furthering some of the aspirations that Rev King had the audacity to believe in.


Cat-Dan Lai-Smith is the Manager for Global Education Communications & Knowledge Management at World Vision International. She has over 10 years of experience in global communications with a focus on international development issues. Follow Cat-Dan on Twitter at @catdanlaismith.