But, on her own, Kadena could not cover everything. Hunger frequently threatened the family as Kadena’s earnings could not consistently put food on the table. There were times she would miss making a meal or forget an errand or chore in their home, mistakes Paton would angrily point out.
Neale wished he could help his mother somehow. Seeing his father’s actions filled the young boy with motivation: He was going to finish school, and when he finished school, he was going to get a good job and provide for his mother. Getting an education was critical to Neale’s future and his dream of taking care of his mother. The World Bank estimates that for just one extra year of schooling there is a 9 percent increase in hourly earnings.1
And every time Neale couldn’t afford the bus fare, the opportunity for a better future grew slimmer and slimmer, sending the young boy deeper into despair. Even when he did make it to school, Neale had to play catch-up. Time was running out.
A Slim Chance
Kadena worried for Neale; she knew about his dream to one day get a good job to provide for her and their family, but it all hinged upon 8-year-old Neale finishing his education. Even with his sporadic rate of attendance, Neale might join the 53 percent of children living in low- and middle-income countries who are classified as “in-school non-learners”—children who are enrolled in school but do not retain the things they learned.2
The World Bank found that children in this group cannot read or comprehend a short, age-appropriate story by the time they finish primary school. In poorer countries, this number can be as high as 80 percent.3
Neale was walking the same road millions of other children had walked. If his education continued to suffer, there would be no well-paying job slated in his future. In order to hold on to his chances of a better future, Neale needed to stay in school.
There are roughly 160 million child laborers worldwide.
Kadena worried her son would lose what little chance he had at a better life. If Neale didn’t finish school, what would happen then? He might join the 160 million child laborers worldwide.4 Then all he would know would be a life of poverty and hardship, a life Kadena did not wish for her son. And what about her younger children? Would they, too, follow in their elder brother’s footsteps?
One day, Kadena received a visitor—one of Neale’s teachers. She had noticed Neale’s dropping grades and she had a solution. There was a program that specifically focused on helping children like Neale, the teacher told Kadena. Neale could get the tutoring he needed to succeed at his lessons and lay a foundation for a better tomorrow.
What Every Child Deserves