As parents and carers, preparing our children to head back to school can become quite overwhelming! Financially, emotionally and time-wise, it’s a stressful time.
Off the back of 2020 and the stress and financial hardship that COVID-19 created, we’re also desperately aware that so many more families may be facing hardship and may now officially be living in poverty. So this year, we’re asking everyone in the MoM community to think about the alarming rate of poverty in Australia … and what this means for those families trying to send their children off to school with next to nothing.
Even fully funded government schools still come with a long list of requirements that aren’t free – even a basic uniform, a pair of school shoes, basic stationery, a lunch box and drink bottle, a backpack and a hat can still set you back quite a lot. And if you have a few children, the cost and the stress multiplies.
Until we started working with The Smith Family, we were truly unaware of just how many families are affected by poverty in Australia. The idea that some children will not have the opportunity to access basic school essentials and necessary books, resources, and learning materials to help them thrive through their schooling journey may come as a surprise, however, it’s the reality for the 1.2 million children and young people in Australia today. Without the things they need, these children fall behind, disengage in their learning, and ultimately leave school early which often results in a lifetime of disadvantage.
The poverty cycle can be broken. Susan’s experience is a story of hope.
We hear the phrase “It takes a village to raise a family” all the time. It’s true – raising a family does take a group larger than the immediate family unit. However, it wasn’t until we started working with The Smith Family and meeting some of the families that are part of the sponsorship program that the real meaning of having others on our side really comes to life. Susan’s experience is a beautiful story of hope. It also brings into focus the incredible difference being a part of The Smith Family sponsorship program can make. Being a single parent for over six years meant that there was a lot of pressure and financial struggle for Susan, especially after the birth of her youngest child.
“When my youngest son was born with autism, I became a full-time, stay-at-home mum. I went from working a government job, which gave me security, to going on Centrelink. It was a struggle, but I had to do what was best for my family. You have to make sacrifices.”
Susan knows how important it was to make her children feel like they were part of a team at school, so the emphasis on getting them what they need to keep them motivated was very important.“Being part of The Smith Family has really encouraged them. Now they realise why school is important. It’s their path to a better life”.
Since being part of The Smith Family Learning for Life program, which also provides access to their extra learning programs, Susan says her children love to read and often read stories to her youngest child.
“Reading aloud really benefits Indigenous kids like my boys because our history is aural. They’ve grown in confidence and independence because of it. To know my kids love reading is probably one of the best feelings I can describe. It’s also created a connection between them. The older boys often read stories to my youngest child. He can’t verbalise that he’s enjoying it, but you can see it in his face. There are sounds of happiness. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Poverty is not a new concept, but it can be somewhat foreign to many of us. So we wanted to understand the impact poverty has on a child’s education at a very real level.
Poverty can more often than not impact the children substantially and mean that their chances of staying at school from the early stages through to Year 12 is very low.
This in turn can then continue the poverty cycle as early school leavers tend to be lower-income earners over their lifetime, thereby affecting their ability to thrive themselves and to then support their own children.
The Smith Family non-profit organisation is Australia’s largest education-focused charity, helping disadvantaged Australian children and young people to get the most out of their education.
Founded in 1922 with the simple goal of improving the lives of disadvantaged children and their families right across Australia, The Smith Family have identified that without support, poverty can impact a child’s ability to get the most out of and flourish at school.
Poverty negatively impacts a child’s ability to learn when they are at school.
In Australia, disadvantaged children are on average 2-3 years behind in reading and maths by the time they are 15 years old* Education is one of the most important aspects of a child’s life; it provides the opportunity to gain the skills to set them up for a better future.
But for families who are struggling to pay for rent and food, essential school items like school shoes and a proper uniform are luxuries. This means that the poverty these children are experiencing at home can negatively impact their school life too.
Every Australian family can help a child toward a better future.
The Smith Family provides support so disadvantaged children can make the most of their education and create a better future for themselves. To enable this, they’ve created a Learning for Life program which provides tailored out-of-school learning programs to help children in need to catch up, keep up and stay motivated at school. It also provides financial support for things like school uniforms to ensure children can fit in and participate at school.
By sponsoring a child through Learning for Life, you are directly supporting a disadvantaged child and helping them to thrive and develop the necessary skills to help create a happy and fulfilling future for themselves, and their families.
A monthly donation towards sponsorship helps to provide the school essentials for a disadvantaged child – things like the correct uniforms and stationery – as well as personal support and access to out-of-school learning and mentoring programs.
Our family and the families at MoM HQ are all committed to changing the lives of Australian children living in poverty. We are committed to getting them off to school and having access to all the resources and support to ensure they will thrive throughout their education journey.
Make the decision to break the child poverty cycle for just one child today. If we all get one more child back to school this year with the things they need, just think of the difference we have made to so many young lives.
* Ref: (Thomson et al, 2011, Challenges for Australian Education: Results from PISA 2009)