Shakira, who once made headlines for going to UCLA to study Western Civilization, is making it known that she isn't the average pop star. This week, she takes to the pages of the Economist to advocate for education.
Making the powerful statement that "no child dreams of becoming a militant or a drug trafficker," Shakira writes:
Education is the only way to break this cycle. But in today's world there are still 72m children who are denied the opportunity to go to school and 226m adolescents who don't attend secondary school.
My foundation in Colombia, Pies Descalzos ("Barefoot"), has proved that the poorest children can be educated. For less than $2 a day per child, our schools provide food, education and counselling services to thousands of students. Our schools help underprivileged children grow in sustainable ways and provide them with the tools they need to break out of the cycle of poverty.
Her words show a grasp of how many problems need to be addressed to break the cycle of poverty for good. While education is the linchpin for success, other actions need to be in place to help stabilize both the child and the family to ensure the maximum potential:
Our work in Colombia combines high-quality academic instruction with recreation, health care and psychological support. We operate six schools in three diverse regions of Colombia: Barranquilla, Quibdó and Altos de Cazucá. Over 5,000 students are directly served in our schools-but approximately 30,000 people benefit from our programmes. For example, in working to combat malnutrition we not only provide students with nourishing meals and evaluate their nutritional status, but we also provide their parents with critical information on health and nutrition.
In addition to physical-health services, the foundation's programmes support emotional health through counselling and exposure to the arts as well as through advice for families and parenting classes.
We also support the broader community. On any given day our school buildings are hubs of activity-providing a range of services, including adult-literacy classes, youth-leadership development, access to libraries and computer training. Perhaps most importantly, we have also begun to form parent co-operatives focused on teaching parents and on income-generating activities aimed at ensuring that families are financially secure.
We are now in the process of taking this success story to other parts of the world through our non-profit Barefoot Foundation, based in the United States.
If our foundation can bring quality education to some of the poorest children in the world there is no reason why governments can't do the same thing.