Education wants and want nots

I’ve just been in Hong Kong experiencing, amongst other things, the power of the Chinese economy (nobody is interested in you in shops if you speak English or the local Cantonese. They assume you haven’t got any money. Mandarin is the only language that gets any attention from shop assistants).

I then flew to South Africa for the day (seriously). My lasting impression was being driven through Alexandria, a poor black township in Johannesburg, where I saw two things you don’t ordinarily see, especially if you live in a so-called ‘developed’ country.

First kids going to school. They were dressed in immaculate uniforms and looked as though they really wanted to go to school. They were not on mobiles. They were talking to each other in person. They were ‘present’ in a way that so many kids plugged into various devices in other nations, are not. They would be considered extremely disadvantaged by Western standards, but I got the lasting impression that they were happier, more focused, more balanced and more certain of where they were heading than most kids of a similar age in England, for example.

OK, this exists in a few other parts of the world but wait for this next bit.

Every time the taxi got to a red traffic light and stopped people started walking between the stationary cars and attempted to sell things to the occupants. Nothing unusual in that. It happens in London, New York and Sydney. The difference is what they were selling. It wasn’t an unwanted windscreen wash, wilting flowers wrapped in plastic or newspapers. It was educational products. They were selling world maps, globes, charts of the human body, times tables, alphabet charts.

If I had to choose between investing in education in poor townships in South Africa or underprivileged areas of the UK it would be a no-brainer.

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