In their eleventh travelogue, our tuk tuk travellers reflect on their experiences in South East Asia and the right of every child everywhere to have access to an education.
Bangkok marked the finish line of the Asian leg of our expedition. The long bureaucratic battle to ship the tuk tuk to South America gave us time to reflect on our journey so far and how it is that we ended up here at all …
It all began here in South East Asia. Seven years ago, taking advantage of the long university summer holidays, Nick and I travelled around Thailand. There are a few things we’d like to forget about that trip – especially that hair cut (see photos) – but one thing in particular has stayed with us; we encountered tuk tuks for the first time and it was love at first sight. Yes, they’re cramped. Yes, they’re uncomfortable. Yes, they’re slow and completely exposed to the elements, with questionable safety records. But they’re fun! Scooting around Bangkok, weaving in and out of traffic, being open to the sights, sounds, smells of the outside world … It was exhilarating and we were hooked! On the plane journey home, we started plotting. The seeds of an idea had been planted …
My motivation for undertaking this endeavour can also be traced back to this region. Five years ago, in the summer of 2008, having just completed my first year of teaching, I found myself in Ratanakiri, the jungle province of north eastern Cambodia, helping to run educational workshops in remote indigenous villages. I can vividly remember one Sunday morning when we stumbled upon a local school. It was a solitary and dilapidated building. Gaping holes in the side exposed the eager learners within, ranging from teeny toddlers right up to young adults. Those who weren’t peering out at us, these strange foreigners, were sat patiently and expectantly at their desks. There were tables and benches to sit on but no paper, pencils or books – no learning materials of any kind in fact. There was a blackboard but no chalk to write on it; there was a teacher sat in the corner at the front of the classroom but he didn’t even speak the same language as the children. The shocking truth is that these children are in fact “success stories” – they are actually in school.
Sixty-one million primary-aged children around the world don’t have access to any form of education. Sixty-one million children deprived of a basic human right that would allow them to unlock their full potential in life. It’s impossible to comprehend a figure like that, so here’s a visual: when stretched out, our route extends almost one and a half times around the circumference of the globe. There are so many primary-aged children without access to education that they could stand, hand-in-hand, lining our route from London to Rio de Janeiro.
One of the aims of our endeavour is to find and support local heroes who are responding innovatively to the educational challenges faced by their communities – many of their inspirational stories have already been shared in this travelogue. Our primary goal, however, is to raise awareness for the Global Campaign for Education. This is a civil society movement working to end the global education crisis, making sure countries act now to deliver the right of everyone to a free, quality public education.
Edmund Burke once said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little”. Having experienced the global education crisis firsthand, Nick and I couldn’t help but be affected. However small, however ridiculous, we had to do something. Now, I’m not suggesting anyone reading this goes out and buys a tuk tuk … However, it only takes 30 seconds to join the Global Campaign for Education (sign up here: http://www.campaignforeducation.org/en/campaigns). More information about their current campaign – Every Child Needs a Teacher – and ideas about how to get involved can be found here: https://www.everychildneedsateacher.org/
If everyone took it upon themselves to do something, however small, then who knows what we’ll be able to achieve …
Tuk Tuk Travels
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Tuk Tuk Travels: Entry 11: Reflections