Instead of the customary New Generations or Youth Service Month, Rotary International has now designated the month of September as the Basic Education and Literacy Month. Either theme is close to my heart, being active in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, the Interact, Rotaract and RYLA programs. On the other hand, I come from a family of educators. My mother was a secondary school teacher while my late father, who was a practicing lawyer, still managed to teach in college for over forty years and was no less than a dean for so many years. I followed their footsteps and have been teaching in the College of Law with some stints in both Graduate and Undergraduate business courses. We are firm believers that education is a great equalizer.
According to Horace Mann (an American Educator who helped reform the US public education system in the early 19th century), he professes that “Education, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”
This has been the long-running mantra of schools and educational institutions all over the world. My own alma mater espouses Education is Freedom. And Rotary International agrees with this by identifying Basic Education and Literacy as an area of focus for Rotarians to zero-in in pursuing community, international, youth and vocational service projects. The present leadership of District 3850 has in fact identified Literacy together with Disaster Response and Health as its priority areas to focus on.
Interestingly, with the advent and the succeeding advances in information technology, which grew by leaps and bounds in the last two decades, there are some quarters who now propound the view that it is already the internet which serves as the great equalizer. To some extent, the proposition sounds right as so many computer and internet literates, both young and old, are now able to learn stuff which ordinarily would require enrollment or proper school training. Those students living in the countryside who are lucky to have internet access are able to compete with their rich urban cousins enrolled in established universities whether in the field of science, culture and the arts. From making bombs to public speaking to learning how to play the most complicated musical instruments, the internet offers to IT savvies amazing opportunities for fame and big cash emoluments due to their access to knowledge and the global market reach which the internet provides. The present Aldub craze which is a combined product of television and the tech world is one such inexplicable example. After all, we send our kids to school to ultimately make their own name, mark and wealth when they grow up.
But this notwithstanding, I still adhere to that traditional stance that education is the great equalizer while the internet is just the medium for education and not the be-all end-all thing to be considered as the ultimate great equalizer.
Anyway, this month saw activities focused on Basic Education and Literacy while by force of habit, some clubs still opted to conduct youth service related projects. One particular project which stands four-square to basic education and literacy is that of a Zone 10 club which put up a computer lab for an elementary school with 33 computers financed thru a matching grant with their Korean sister club. Another club in Zone 11 embarked in a digital literacy for internally displaced persons (IDPs), PWDs and Detainees. The project allows our otherwise deprived brothers and sisters to learn the basics of computers and applications like facebook. In her testimony, an IDP participant who still lives in a resettlement area in the outskirts of the city, brought every one to tears when she shared that she never dreamt to even touch a computer keyboard for fear that she might cause damage to the unit. These poor “Juans” and “Juanas” should be the intended beneficiaries of our worthwhile educational and literacy projects, digital or otherwise, as we seek to become gifts to the world during this Rotary year. While doing so, we can safely claim that education via the internet is the great equalizer.