Mongolia was a trip from quite a while ago- October-ish 2015. I was an erratic emo wreck when I visited the country. I wasn’t in my best form and dark clouds hanged from above. Looking back, life is always filled with ups and downs. It was just unfortunate that I let things really get to me. Too consumed I was that I failed to pause and realise that compared with many, I am fortunate. In-field charity didn’t occur during that trip however from my initial research on Mongolia’s eonomic status and social challenges, I was again fascinated with poverty and particularly how it affects children and their education. So, I made plans to launch a mini Mongolia Chapter with the help of Tamiraa ( the guide from the 2015 trip).
Mongolia has the lowest population density of any country. Despite being rich in natural resources, the country is struggling economically and many of her vast areas are underdeveloped. Like all cases, children are the most vulnerable especially those in rural areas and living a nomadic life. This change and movement often deepens poverty and results in breaks in one’s education. One cannot simply say that parents are at fault. Most have expressed their desire to see their children continue with school and although some might see no point in education, the majority do believe that education can change and improve lives. Low schooling being a determinant of poverty and poverty being a limiting factor to schooling is an obvious cycle. The government does understand this which saw efforts being made in protecting public spending on education and minimising drop outs ( the highest during the mid-1990s).
Issues linger from overcrowding in urban schools to drops in attendance in rural schools to low student-to-teacher ratios to insufficient funding and changes against the macro atmosphere of the country ( I refer this as the overall economic health of the country which always see changes to education and health care). One interesting issue that I noted was the funding figure (%) for education out of the country’s annual state budget.
20% in 1981 peaked up 7% in 1985 then dropped to 16% in 1997 with figures for the current couple of years resting at around 20%. On average, education funding takes up less than 7% of the country’s total GDP.
So what happened with the drop?
After free markets were introduced, the education system saw reforms through decentralization where goverance was handed over to the provincial government. The economic downturn experienced by the country in the 1990s placed great pressure on the financial well-being of the familes . When hard time falls, children have no choice but to drop out of school to help their families. Capitalism that marked its entrance in Mongolia in 1995 led many into poverty. So when people see no point in education and given the cost of many students having to attend boarding schools ( Mongolia is vast and her people are scattered), education is halted for many children, especially boys ( 30% of them living the nomadic life drop out of school). While education is free and compulsory, access and continuation of education remains fragile. Once again, when political policies fail ( e.g. on economy), it is always the people who pay the heavy price by being forced to give up their rights e.g. education.
Not wanting to waste more time to the much delayed Mongola Charity Chapter, I asked Tamiraa for help. I like to find my own schools especially those in more remote places and away from the bigger cities. Irredui Complex became the focus. Located away from the capital, 88 kids attend primary school. 50 students from Year 1 and Year 6 require particular assistance in educational supplies and other financial means to ensure that they will continue with their education. Erdenechullun is the Year 1 teacher and Otgonbayar is the teacher for Year 6.
Many of the students come from broken families and they suffer from poverty which means that they also struggle with their education. Life is tough and these kids are in one way or another hurt by things that they can’t control yet from the photos that was sent later one, they still have that genuine smile and happiness.
It was wonderful to see them smile. Despite being disappointed with the delay and amount of supplies that I was able to provide, I know that more people will offer their help. These students will continue to receive support in the future and like always, I have much to learn from their smiles and positivity. Great to tick off the Mongolia chapter from my list.
Thank you Tamiraa and of course Mongolia!
For anyone who wish to travel to Mongolia, pay a visit to the school and make donations, do contact Tamiraa at http://www.budgettoursmongolia.com/
Research and statistics taken from worldbank, UNICEF, UN and other major fact sheets.
Photos taken and sent by Tamiraa