Educating the Mind Without Educating the Heart is No Education at All

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ECW ED Yasmine Sherif with Sudanese Refugees

The words above, by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, serve as a reminder that we still have a long way to go to in educating ourselves. In doing so, we will naturally ensure that the young generation can access an inclusive quality education and use their knowledge to build a world of justice, equity, peace and security.

Yet, with brutal atrocities and horrific conflicts relentlessly spreading in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gaza, the Sudan and Ukraine – in addition to another 50 devastating conflicts taking place around the world – we cannot say in all honesty that we are using our hearts. It would also be dishonest to claim that since the proclamation of the UN Charter in San Francisco we have built a world based on human rights, peace and security.

Instead, the gulf between the rule of law and today’s wicked reality is only widening. In this dark abyss, millions upon millions of vulnerable and innocent children and youth are pleading for humanity and crying out for respect of their inherent human rights, starting with the foundational right to an inclusive quality education in a protective learning environment.

We have created a divided, bitter world reminiscent of a bloody battlefield. A world of destruction, disregard for human life and the earth itself. One begs to ask the question whether it really matters if we have advanced in technology while we are losing our humanity. Or, as Martin Luther King Jr said: “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” 

Consequently, over 226 million children and adolescents currently living in these battlefields cannot access a quality education – with many also losing their mothers, fathers, siblings, limbs, homes and future. It is quite astonishing how destructive the mind can be in the absence of emotional intelligence or the education of the heart.

Schools, teachers and students are purposely and blatantly targeted, adolescent girls are subjugated and pushed into the shadows, and both girls and boys are victimized by wars and systematic violations of their inherent human rights. It has been going on for so long now that the abnormal has almost become normal. This cannot continue.

When will we respond to the universal and collective commitments outlined in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals? When will we realize the right of every child to an education in a safe learning environment?

It will only come the day that we begin to educate our hearts as well as our minds.

An educated heart cannot turn a blind eye to the unrelenting destruction of human life or nature. An educated heart acts to prevent the growing inequities in the world. An educated heart finds it unbearable to ignore the right of 226 million children to a quality education.
According to Education Cannot Wait’s strategic partner Educo, humanitarian appeals to meet education demands have dramatically increased more than sevenfold in the last decade – from US$517 million to US$3.785 billion – while contributions have only increased fourfold over the same period, from US$190 million to US$805 million.

The gap is daunting and the consequences for children caught in emergencies and protracted crises are beyond devastating. Indeed, this growing funding gap will result in dangerous consequences for the world. According to Educo’s analysis, “88% of the countries and territories in humanitarian crises have significant or fundamental challenges for achieving the SDG goal (SDG4) for education.”

In forgotten crises, such as Bangladesh, the Central African Republic, Chad, Lebanon, Yemen and beyond, we have instead contributed to creating a generational gap and perpetuating cycles of violence, poverty, forced displacement and further inequality.

There is also a significant gap between the Global North and Global South. In OECD countries, around 7% of GDP is spent on primary and secondary education per student every year. In some countries, such as Luxembourg, it rises to as much as US$25,000 a year per student.

On the other hand, according to the IMF: “In sub-Saharan Africa, the median education budget was equal to about 3.5% of GDP in 2020 – below the international recommendation of at least 4% of GDP. Recent IMF analysis reveals that achieving the key Sustainable Development Goal of universal primary and secondary school enrollment by 2030 may require doubling education expenditures as a share of GDP, including from both public and private funding sources.”

An educated heart cannot accept these figures and leave millions of young lives and the potential of their futures behind. The resources exist. Referring to Martin Luther King Jr’s quote above, the question is how we choose to use these resources. We can either continue on the path of destruction or take a more constructive and responsible approach.

By crowding in resources from the public and private sectors, we have the chance to educate both the hearts and the minds of an entire generation. A generation that may be the one establishing human rights, peace and security for all, while creating a world of shared values that rests on the rule of law, rather than the rule by force.

In this month’s high-level interview with Amy Clarke, Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer for Tribe Impact Capital LLP, we explore a promising new modality to connect private sector capital to sustainable results, environment and building a better world. In joining forces with Education Cannot Wait, Amy Clarke says: “As ECW works tirelessly to address the immediate educational needs of these children, it’s crucial we also forge a path toward a future that promises fairness, justice and equity.” As such, Tribe Impact Capital LLP stands out as one of our private sector partners that lead with both their heart and mind. They show us that it is indeed possible.

It has been said that the longest journey we can make is the one between the mind and the heart. At this point in time, when the world is engulfed in utter destruction, when nearly a quarter of billion children and teachers are losing limbs, life and hope under the rubble of their targeted schools, it is time for us all to set sail on that journey.

Yasmine Sherif  
Executive Director
Education Cannot Wait (ECW)
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