Some of the happy children displaying their shoes.
Families in deprived areas in Ghana are often constrained in affording proper educational materials, including uniforms and shoes, to send their children to school.
They may be too embarrassed to send their wards to school without these materials, which further entrenches poverty in these communities.
To support the educational needs of such school children, Ghanaian NGO, Bright Generation Community Foundation, with the support of TOMS, has instituted a development program to give free shoes and educational supplies.
“Many times children can't attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don't have shoes, they don't go to school. If they don't receive an education, they don't have the opportunity to realize their potential. Without a shoe most children who are out of school feel different and feel they run the risks of being bullied or at least stereotyped as a poor child by other school children”, said Bernice Dapaah, Project Coordinator.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed upon in 2000, set 2015 as the year in which universal primary education (MDG-2) and gender equality (MDG-3) are to be achieved. Despite such efforts and their echoes in national policies, many children are still out of school.
Ms. Dapaah believes the availability of free shoes would contribute to putting more children in school.
The programme, she said, is distributing thousands of shoes to school children in 30 deprived districts across Ghana. This run alongside a de-worming program for the kids aimed at treating soil transmitted worm infestation which causes a host of health problems and often prevents children from attending school or concentrating in class.
“Most of these children in deprived areas in Ghana who grow up barefoot are exposed to injury and disease each day, a leading cause of disease in Ghana is soil transmitted diseases which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause”, stated Ms. Dapaah.
She noted some soil-based diseases not only cause physical symptoms, but create cognitive impairment, which can cripple a child’s long term potential. “Children who are healthy are more likely to be successful students, and access to education is a critical determinant of long-term success”, she added.
TOMS has committed to ensure distributed shoes in targeted communities are replaced every six months for the next five years.
Children who are given TOMS shoes receive them as part of larger health and education programs run by the firm’s Giving Partners. These programs help children get the care and opportunity they need to keep them healthy and in school.
TOMS has given over two million pairs of shoes to children in need around the world.