Football and Classrooms the World OverThursday 26th of June 2014 | Category: Opinion | Written by: Leoarna Mathias
The presence (or some might say over-presence) of World Cup Football on our televisions gives us all on opportunity to recognise our status as members of a global community – whether or not you actually enjoy the sport. I personally have found the presence of three games a day on my own telly to be a good reason to get on with a bit of work in my office, or have a nice long hot bath. I know that by disliking football I fulfil a wifely cliché, but I am at peace with that. I redeem myself by being genuinely fond of cricket and not averse to a game of rugby.
In the run up to the competition, the BBC focused in on some of the negative consequences of hosting for the Brazilian people. One feature on Newsnight, about the epidemic of child prostitution in the country, made for extremely sobering viewing, especially as the expectation was that many travelling to the country, under the guise of match attendance, were actually pursuing a much more sinister goal. Another piece told the story of the 250,000 people forcibly evicted, without compensation, so that stadiums, roads and other infrastructure could be built. We hear a lot about the ‘legacy’ that world sporting events should bring to host nations. I am sure there will be some positives, for the next generation of Brazilians, as a result of their having invited the world over for a few games of footie. But it is hard not to be a wee bit cynical about it all. And I can’t help feeling uncomfortable, as a world citizen, that for the sake of a sport I don’t even like, fellow men, women and children – families - are suffering.
To bring about lasting, positive change within any single nation requires a huge amount of political will – and hard cash. Just this week, UNESCO has released a paper about school attendance worldwide. The headline from their research is that globally, progress towards universal primary education has halted, since about 2007. There are still, in the 21st century, 58 million school age children worldwide not in education. The vast majority (21 million) are in sub-Saharan Africa. Half of the 58 million live in conflict affected areas. The report states:
‘The momentum to reach out-of-school children has slowed considerably in recent years, with the global primary out-of-school rate stuck at 9% since 2007. This marks a stark contrast to progress at the start of the decade, when the international community pledged to achieve universal primary education.’
In the midst of this gloomy picture, there were some stories of progress, however. In Nepal, they achieved a reduction in the rate of out of school children from 24% in 2000, to just 1% in 2013. Morocco succeeded in reducing its out of school population by 96% in the same time frame. So, where conditions meet to bring about lasting social change, children and their families benefit.
I caught a glimpse of a friendly discussion between German and Ghanaian fans prior to their game last weekend. Reading the report from UNESCO got me thinking about those two nations; Germany, one of the richest and most well educated nations on the planet, and Ghana, itself one of those sub-Saharan nations subject to ongoing internal tribal conflict that must in some way contribute to the challenges Ghanaian children face in achieving school attendance. I mused on how wide the gap between the average child’s educational experience in those two nations, brought together on the football pitch, was. And yet the fans were exchanging good natured banter and meeting on equal terms. I guess, if The World Cup can remind us all of our status as not just citizens of this or that nation, but as members of the human race, that can only be a good thing. If the world is only as healthy, or well-educated, as its poorest member, then we have a long way to go. But if football on a world stage reminds us of this, and inspires even some of us to take action, then I guess I can put up with it on my screen a little longer.