A second chance. A chance to re-do something. It’s something I think about on an almost daily basis, whether it is a second chance at a first impression, or a second chance at giving the best response in a meeting. When I was a kid, I often longed for a second chance at playing tag, or a second chance at retaking a test.
Last year, I met a group of girls in Mali, who once longed for a different type of a second chance. They were all between 12-18 years old and had previously been out-of-school, longing for an education like their peers in school. For them, a second chance wasn’t about re-taking an algebra exam; they wanted a second chance at learning the basic skills they missed out on by being out of school. Basic skills like mathematics, writing, and reading in their local and national languages, as well as French. They wanted basic skills like how to find their voice, communicate with community, and engage in micro-enterprise engagements. Basic skills like how to identify the different vocations in the community and where the market gaps were. You see for them, all their hopes for reentering school were dashed, mostly because of poverty and partly because of systemic obstacles that dictate once out of school, they will never have a chance to go back.
These adolescents were all part of a CARE education project that gave them this second chance. They were able to learn these basic skills, as well as engage in entrepreneurship opportunities to practice and learn a vocation of choice in a safe and encouraging environment. Now, they are seen as youth leaders in their community; the girls are challenging gender roles by successfully working outside the home, and they are encouraging younger siblings as well as their own children to go and stay in school.
CARE recognizes that millions of adolescents around the world are out of school and have missed out on learning opportunities. They haven’t been playing hooky or watching videos online. Instead, they have missed out on school due to things like the need to fetch water for the family or babysit younger siblings. Due to the need to tend to livestock. Due to conflict that has shut local schools. Due to the lack of support from parents or neighbors who don’t understand the value of education.
CARE is committed to ensuring that these adolescents have a second chance at soaring. A second chance at learning. And a second chance at deciding the path of their own future. This week at the United State of Women Summit, CARE, as part of its support for the Let Girls Learn movement, is launching a new commitment. We’re seeking $15million to expand our Udaan: Second Chances program so that over the next five years up to 3 million girls and boys in developing countries. In Hindi, Udaan means “to soar”, and this is what thousands of girls have been able to do through a second chance at learning through our accelerated learning program in India. We want to expand this beyond Mali and India so that their peers in other countries all have the same second chance at learning and education they did. We all deserve a second chance to soar!