I think education is very important. Knowledge is power. It is the power to make choices in your own life.
Education made the difference for me in working in service-industry jobs that I hated and in a career that I love where I feel like I can truly help people.
Now, I’m not saying a college education is right for everyone. My mother never went to college and she was one of the smartest women I’ve ever known. She educated herself through her love of learning. But I saw how not having a college degree limited her choices when it came to earning an income. And although, a college education might not be right for everyone, I believe it is very important to have an employable skill.
In all the reading I have done about impoverished regions of the world and oppressed people, the first thing that is denied someone in order for them to stay oppressed is an education. Sometimes I think those of us in the Western world where a free education is available and required of us, take for granted just how much other humans in the world are craving an education. And it is especially important for women around the world to be educated since women are more vulnerable to poverty and oppression.
And when I think about just how important education is for lifting human beings out of poverty and oppression, I can’t help but think of one of my personal sheroes, Dr. Tererai Trent.
Dr. Trent was featured in the book, Half the Sky, and also Oprah said she was the most inspirational person she had ever come across in her 25 years doing her talk show. Trent grew up as a poor woman in Zimbabwe. As a little girl she was denied an education while her brothers were sent to school. She started doing one of her brothers’s homework, and when his teacher noticed he begged Trent’s father to send her to school. She did attend school for a while until she was married off at 14. She had three children by the time she was 18 and endured regular beatings from her abusive husband. In 1991, a woman from Heifer International visited Trent’s village and asked each woman what their greatest dream was. Trent’s greatest dream was to go to America and earn a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degree. She wrote these dreams on a paper, put them in a small piece of tin, and buried it.
Eventually Trent was able to go to American where she earned those three degrees, and got rid of her abusive husband. She has gone back to Zimbabwe and unearthed the tins where her dreams were buried. She earned her PhD in 2009 and is now working with Heifer International to help the women in Sub-Sahara Africa. In May 2011, Oprah named Trent her all-time favorite guest and gave her 1.5 million dollars to build a school in Trent’s village in Zimbabwe.
Trent’s story is so inspiring to me because education gave her a future. With her education she is able to go back and help lift up other families out of their poverty and oppression.
To me, education is the difference between choices and being stuck. Education is freedom. The freedom to choose, to act, to know. I feel blessed to live in a place where not only is education free to me, it is required of me. I’m lucky to have had parents who so believed in the power of education, they paid for me to go to college. Even once I qualified for government grants, they stepped in and covered the rest. They knew that having an education would allow me the choices and opportunities they never had. I will forever be grateful for my education and the opportunity I was given to pursue it.