In a fantastic photo essay published earlier this year, the photographer Gabriele Galimberti presented images of kids from across the world holding their most prized possessions. The pictures are stunning. In one, a little boy from Malawi called Chiwa stands beneath a mosquito net on a bed and wears a serious expression, showing viewers a dinosaur and two furry teddies. In another, Stella, from Italy, surrounds herself with pink and purple dresses and Barbie dolls.
Some of the kids have an abundance of toys, others just one or two. But the images are a reminder of how uniquely special all children are. As Galimberti said, "At their age, they are pretty all much the same; they just want to play."
Although much of the developed world has an aging population, in some regions the population is still very young. In the Arab world, for instance, 60 percent of the population is below the age of 25, and one in five people are between the ages of 15 and 24. In Africa, in 2010, 70 percent of the population was under the age of 30. The young people in these areas will face disparate and complex challenges as they grow older, from climate extremes and water shortages to other unforeseen events.
One of the best ways to make sure that the prospects for the world's young people are going to be bright is to provide them with a good education. Education enables people to move out of poverty; it equips them with the ability to innovate and create technological answers to environmental problems. Perhaps most importantly, having access to knowledge helps to enlarge people's perspective. The UN states that a quality education discourages racism and xenophobia by fostering new values and attitudes.
That's why projects like the Schools for Africa program are so important, aiming to build more schools, train teachers and ensure that students have access to supplies. Other initiatives, like Plan International's "Because I am a Girl," aspire to remedy gender inequalities in children's access to education. Research has shown that making sure young women attend school has a range of effects, and reduces poverty, child mortality, HIV rates and corruption.
Simply put, education -- for all children -- is something that strengthens societies, and we ought to support the programs that provide it. The future is uncertain. Let's give kids the tools they need to engage with it and to flourish. They deserve it.