Ruminations on Poverty & Education


Having traveled to countries where the median income for even college grads with Master’s Degrees is ~$10/day, it can’t be overstated how important it is for young people — especially those who are in western countries where incomes are dramatically higher and where millions of people immigrate to annually — to forsake a lot of the traps of modern society: spending too much time on social media, grievance culture soaking up precious bandwidth on a daily basis, and hook-up culture where you waste years of your life with people who you don’t necessarily see a future with (just to name a few).  Young people should be reading, learning, and trying to sit in a silent room and think as much as they can these days even though the share of young readers is waning overall globally and there are websites and companies who will help you cheat on your homework, exams, etc. which may set a terrible precedent for the future morals and ethics of that child as he/she grows older.

For starters, let’s tackle some glaring stats.  Although ~9.2% of the world’s people survive on less than $1.90 per day compared to ~36% in 1990, Covid-19 has put a terrible damper on a lot of that progress with regards to global poverty and education, jeopardizing the future of a generation of children.

According to the World Bank, COVID-19 drove an additional 97 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 — and 2021, 2022, and beyond have big question marks hanging above them as well.  In fact, the World Bank states plainly that there is so much that they don’t know regarding the deleterious outcomes stemming from the substantial learning loss that has become a mainstay of the lives of billions of children worldwide.

While overall poverty rates have improved considerably in recent decades, several individual countries have experienced a rise in poverty. Almost 700 million people still live in extreme poverty, surviving on the aforementioned figure — at less than $1.90 per day. More than 430 million of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest region in the world, where more than 40% of people lived in extreme poverty as of 2018.  Many countries in which poverty is rising have been plagued by political instability or conflict. Others are hampered by frequent natural disasters or ongoing environmental stresses (increased drought in particular) caused by climate change. Several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa face both of these concerns.

The poverty rate in the US is somewhere between 12.3% and 17.8% depending on the method of measurement used.  The 2021 poverty threshold in the US is $26,246 for a family of four.  This means that households with two adults, two children, and a pre-tax income of less than $26,246 are considered to be living in poverty.

According to the World Bank, the countries with the highest poverty rates in the world are:

  1. South Sudan – 82.30%
  2. Equatorial Guinea – 76.80%
  3. Madagascar – 70.70%
  4. Guinea-Bissau – 69.30%
  5. Eritrea – 69.00%
  6. Sao Tome and Principe – 66.70%
  7. Burundi – 64.90%
  8. Democratic Republic of the Congo – 63.90%
  9. Central African Republic – 62.00%
  10. Guatemala – 59.30%

In our western countries, we see a lot of challenges, yet simply think about the fact that only 2 out of 10 people living in South Sudan are living above the poverty line.  Even Guatemala features only 4 of 10 people living above the poverty line.  And if we go back thousands of years to about 3,500-3,000 BCE, we see that man commenced writing; however, literacy remained for centuries a restricted technology and learned skill closely associated with who was in power. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that book production started growing and literacy among the general population slowly started becoming important in the Western World.

In fact, while the ambition of universal literacy in Europe was a fundamental reform originating from The Enlightenment Period, it took centuries for it to happen. Even in early-industrialized countries it was only in the 19th and 20th centuries that rates of literacy approached universality.

And now that this awful pandemic has thrown a global monkey-wrench into education and poverty alike, we must think of ourselves as important in this fight to help IMPROVE the story of humanity, our progress, and education is paramount to put at the fore of our lives and our children’s lives during this time.  Hence, young people need to READ, need to STUDY, need to LEARN, and need to sit in a quiet room and think A LOT.  We simply don’t have the luxury of wasting our lives away or looking for things to be upset about on a daily basis when people would quite literally crawl over glass to have the opportunities that we have in the west.

If we look at actual schooling globally based on UNICEF’S 2022 stats, learning loss from missed in-person school amounted to over 2 trillion hours of lost learning.  We must not let this be where mankind makes a major mis-step; rather, we must look inwardly and say to ourselves: “How can I help myself, my community, and the world-at-large during this crucial time in modern history?”

Discipline is even more paramount at this juncture.  Focus on your goals and your overall health.  Help those who are struggling without anything expected in return.  Try to be a better person everyday.  And be GRATEFUL for the gift of life and of living in a time where we CAN read, we CAN learn, we CAN grow, and we CAN make a difference in the world simply by being the best you that you can be day in and day out.  And make it your mission to volunteer and donate and help others less fortunate than you whenever you can.  We have so much to be thankful for.

Remember that the world needs YOU to be your best self as we have A LOT of work to do in order to continue to evolve and to prevent us from entropy and self-destruction.  Let’s re-examine our daily lives and abstain from the cruelty, envy, intolerance, and ingratitude for the opportunities that we have in our lives that we oftentimes take for granted.

People will ALWAYS remember how you make them feel so if you’re not a nice person, don’t be surprised if people abandon you in your times of need.  Kindness and civility and warmth goes a long way in this time period that we’re living through.  Do good for others and try to make a difference in your work that you do.  If you don’t believe in the work you’re doing, go do something else.  Jordan Peterson makes mention of this in one of his rules for life: He states that we ought to “pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.”

This is something that many people struggle with when they’re trying to make their way in the world, especially when they’re in an environment that is filled with back-biters and snakes and wolves.  Here’s my suggestion: Whoever you’re taking on your journey with you (ie a spouse, a family member who you live with, etc.), make sure they know WHY you are doing what you’re doing and WHAT your strategy is for achieving your personal and collective goals.

Some people can thrive in the corporate world while others prefer the startup culture.  Some can work well with others and some are better left alone.  And some people oscillate on needs or requirements depending on the season of his/her life.  This is why it’s so important to remember that we can’t have it all.  There are ALWAYS trade-offs and it’s the appreciation of those trade-offs that brings about gratitude and true meaning and growth.

So go forth and please remember to stay as mentally tough as you possibly can.  The world needs you to be at your best.  Don’t waste time.  Build a life, build a future, build something worth talking about once you’re gone.



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