Norkam teens hope to bring education to world's kids

Some 72 million children of primary school age are not receiving an education

Sylvie Paillard / Kamloops Daily News
February 19, 2013 01:00 AM

Grade 11 students Rachel Wade and Tyler Vadnais are among a team of Norkam International Baccalaureate program students taking on the task of promoting primary education for all the world's kids.

A handful of Norkam Secondary students is pitching in to help one of the world's most troubling issues - lack of access to basic education.

Worldwide, more than 72 million kids of primary school age - kindergarten to Grade 2 - are not in school.

The situation almost always leads to a life of abject poverty, which can in turn affect health, quality of life and community contributions.

A group of teens was appalled to learn the extent of the worldwide dilemma and launched an initiative to spread the word.

"Without a primary education, without those basics, you can't get further education and you can't break out of that cycle of poverty," said Rachel Wade, a Grade 11 student who is part of a class project aiming to spread the word.

"It's a larger issue than we thought," said classmate Tyler Vadnais. "Whether it's because they're in poverty, or they have to quit early to support their family or it's slavery, it's a huge issue."

They became aware of the issue thanks to the Norkam International Baccalaureate program.

The IB curriculum includes a course called Creativity Action Service, which requires students to take on a community or global development project.

The class is meant to give students the means to learn through experience how to take actions in the service of others.

"It's amazing," said CAS teacher Jackie Niblock. "They're so inspired. Imagine as a young person being able to do a real project. It's really empowering for them."

The Norkam team came across the topic of undereducated kids through the United Nations millennium development goals - a list of eight targets that forms a blueprint agreed to by all countries and leading development institutions.

Since Kamloops Global Awareness Network offered funding in support of these same millennium goals, the students received a $2,200 Global Youth Changemakers grant for the endeavour.

Their efforts have come a long way in just the four weeks since it began. They've created a website called Project PEAK (primary education for all kids), a T-shirt, Facebook and Twitter accounts and a series of surveys that are distributed during presentations at local schools.

A presentation at Brock Secondary School succeeded in opening more eyes to the problem, said Rachel.

"They'd all heard that not everybody gets an education but I don't think anybody knew the extent of it," she said. "And they really wanted to help."

The team not only believes it can change the world, but has great ambitions to do just that.

"If this project goes the way that we hope, we think it'll impact a lot of people and we can get B.C. and then hopefully all of Canada," said Tyler.

And this is just the beginning, he said.

Some of the students are already planning to go overseas and provide hands-on help to educational projects in regions with the most critical need.

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