1. By building schools and supporting communities in the places that need it most, United World Schools is aiming to put free basic education at the forefront of the agenda.

  2. Access to education is a basic right, yet globally, over 25 million children in rural, low-income regions have no access to basic primary education. Without the skills to contribute to local economies, children have little chance of breaking the poverty cycle, leaving them at greater risk of malnutrition and disease.

    With the help of supporters such as Baillie Gifford, United World Schools is aiming to change this, one school at a time. Established in 2008 with the mission to ‘teach the unreached’, the charity is dedicated to improving educational opportunities for some of the world’s poorest children living in remote and marginalised communities, “It all began with one school in Cambodia. We now have around 100 schools throughout Nepal, Cambodia and Myanmar,” explains Emma Tierney, Associate Director for Development at the charity.

    When it comes to building a new school, the construction element is only one piece of the puzzle. As Emma outlines, community buy-in is key to ensuring that when up and running, the school is a success, “Ahead of the build process we hold community consultations to certify that there is a commitment to send all children – regardless of gender – to the school. Often child labour can be a problem in these areas, so it is paramount that there is an understanding of how important education is and the difference having a school can make.”

    United World School’s approach ensures that they are working both where they are needed and wanted, “We work closely with the local community, training teachers and developing a school support committee who are responsible for school governance. Additionally, we work in partnership with local education authorities who provide teachers. In a lot of the communities we work in, children speak the local dialect but they also need an understanding of the national language in order to follow the curriculum. The dual teaching method with both government and local teachers ensures that children can bridge the language divide,” summarises Emma. “Our engagement with the community throughout the process helps us progress towards our long-term exit strategy; ultimately we want the community to take ownership of the school.”

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    It all began with one school in Cambodia. We now have around 100 schools throughout Nepal, Cambodia and Myanmar
  4. Thanks to Baillie Gifford’s support, United World Schools recently developed a brand new school in the Sam Kha community in North East Cambodia, “The school started their new term in November last year. There are around 150 students, with an even number of girls and boys attending which is amazing, as in Cambodia getting girls into education is a challenge. The children are currently getting to grips with the core subjects of Maths and Khmer, the national language, as well as lessons focused around the likes of art and music,” says Emma. Plans are afoot to create a new outdoor space and to continue to develop the quality of the teacher training at the school and Emma is optimistic that the school will continue to thrive.

    “We are incredibly grateful for Baillie Gifford’s support. Beyond enabling us to establish a new school, as a major corporate supporter, Baillie Gifford has helped us gain a huge amount of creditability,” adds Emma.

    The sustainability of the model and what defines the charity as ‘United World Schools’ is their school partnership programme, “The challenge we face when a school is up and running is how we make sure it continues to do so year after year. This is where our school partnership programme comes in,” says Emma. “We partner our schools with a network of educational establishments across the world who fundraise to support our running costs (currently we have over 175 partners across 23 countries). This two-way relationship ensures the continuity of our schools while encouraging students to engage with philanthropy.”

    As the charity continues to grow, United World Schools has great ambitions for the number of children they hope to help, “Our medium-term goal is to get 50,000 children into education. Since we opened our first school we have enrolled 18,000 children so although we have a way to go we are confident that if we continue to grow then this number is within reach.”