‘Education is not equal for everyone’

‘Education is not equal for everyone’

From struggle to success: how The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program helped Marium Khan achieve her educational dreams

As one of six siblings to work in education, Revesby Public School principal Narelle Nies said teaching was a calling in her family

Now a third-year Bachelor of Education student, Ms Khan was raised in a low-income, single-parent family in western Sydney and was in Year 1 in primary school when she first accessed the program.

“We were from a low-income family, and my mum was a single mother. The extra support from the program made things a lot easier for us, reducing her stress and providing us with the resources we needed to go to school,” Ms Khan said.

Marium Khan said the Learning for Life program gave her the resources she needed to attend school. Image: supplied

The Learning for Life program, which currently supports over 64,000 children and young people across Australia, offers financial assistance, emotional support, and access to learning and mentoring programs. For Ms Khan, this meant receiving school uniforms, funding for excursions and camps, and participation in literacy and art challenges.

Over the past decade, Officeworks has partnered with The Smith Family to contributed more than $9 million, providing 14,000 one-year Learning for Life scholarships.

The company’s 2024 Back to School Appeal had raised over $1.3 million, which will help an additional 2,000 students access essential school supplies and support.

“We’re passionate about ensuring every child in Australia has the opportunity to have an education, no matter what their circumstances are,” said Officeworks Managing Director Sarah Hunter.

Sarah Hunter, managing director of Officeworks. Picture: Supplied

“We’re proud that Officeworks’ long-term partnership with The Smith Family makes a real impact in students’ lives, helping to close the literacy, numeracy and social connection divide for so many young people in Australia.”

Referrals to the program are made through partnerships with over 800 schools in communities across Australia and Ms Khan said the long-term impact of the program has been profound.

“The financial support allowed me to participate fully in school activities and focus on my studies. Without this support, I might not have been as connected to my education, and I certainly wouldn’t be pursuing a teaching degree today,” she said.

She said the mentoring and learning programs from The Smith Family have also helped bridge the divide and give disadvantaged students a chance to excel.

There is a great divide between students from lower socio-economic background and their peers. “Education is not equal for everyone,” said Marium Khan. Picture: Supplied

“Education is not equal for everyone. Studies have shown students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are years behind their peers in mathematics and science from the age of 15 … they have to work three times as hard to achieve the same grades as those from a higher socio-economic background. Only 17 per cent of students from lower socio-economic areas made it to university in 2021,” said Ms Khan.

A Grattan Institute analysis of the 2023 NAPLAN data shows that the learning gap between

the most advantaged and least advantaged students more than doubles by the time they

reach Year 9. By that time that gap is the equivalent of four years behind in Literacy and five

years behind in numeracy.

The Learning for Life program is available to students from Year 1 to help kids in lower socio-economic areas keep up with their peers. Picture: Supplied

The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program support extends into Ms Khan’s university years, where she continues to receive scholarships and resources, including participation in financial management programs like MoneyMinded, Money Talks and Saver Plus.

Ms Khan’s advice to students in similar situations is straightforward: “There’s nothing to be afraid of in seeking help. The Learning For Life program has been incredibly helpful throughout my schooling and university years. The people involved are supportive and understanding. It’s important to take advantage of these resources to achieve your educational goals.”

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