- Associated Press - Sunday, May 28, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Patrick Makokoro grew up in Zimbabwe, the eighth child in a family of 16 children.

Food was sometimes scarce. He said he remembers reaching over his brothers and sisters to get another handful of food. Makokoro’s father, who died four years ago Tuesday, had always wanted him to get an education to ensure he had a better life.

“My dad managed to put us through basic education, but I never had access to pre-school education,” Makokoro said.

He eventually would go on to get an undergraduate degree. On Thursday, 10 years after founding his own organization to promote early childhood education in his country, Makokoro plans to submit his thesis and earn a master’s degree.

“I feel a sense of liberation, because I’ve taken my journey through education,” Makokoro said.

Makokoro visited the Charleston Gazette-Mail Tuesday, rounding out his trip to cities across the United States. He visited cities in states like Texas, Kansas and Missouri to share his story of how education has transformed his life.

Makokoro also hoped on his visit to convince people of the importance of the federal government’s continued funding of education initiatives around the world, including the Global Partnership for Education.

His pitch is simple - by investing in education in developing countries, the United States will combat poverty, improve health care and increase the number of countries businesses can trade with.

The GPE, which was established in 2002, takes donations from rich countries like the U.S., United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and puts the money toward improving education in developing countries like Zimbabwe, Haiti and Kenya.

“The U.S. has steadily increased its contributions to GPE since 2012, including in the 2017 budget,” said Allison Grossman, a senior advisor with RESULTS, a non-profit that advocates for global education, among other things. “That’s a trend we’ve been really excited about. It’s something we’re worried about as we look to the future.”

Makokoro worries that, under President Donald Trump’s “America First Foreign Policy,” the United States won’t contribute as much money to global education initiatives.

The United Kingdom has donated more than $1 billion to the GPE since its founding, while the United States, the government with the ninth highest donations to the group, donated just under $200 million during that time.

Later this year, donor countries will gather together to decide how much they will donate to GPE for 2018-20.

The GPE hopes to receive $3.1 billion through that time. That would mean 19.9 million more children around the world would complete primary school, 6.6 million more children would complete lower secondary school, and as many as 23,800 new schools could be built.

Makokoro said once many of Zimbabwe’s young people come of age, they get passports and leave the country to find better economic opportunities.

“I’ve got to go back home. I’ve got to show people that we have to develop our own country, to help our own kids in our own communities,” Makokoro said.

The name of Makokoro’s organization, the Nhaka Foundation, stems from a shortened word for inheritance. It’s to remind him that, despite worldly possessions, the lasting impact of education can’t be taken away.

“You can take my house, you can take my car,” Makokoro said. “But you can never take the things that I have learned.”


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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