How j8 started

j8 started back in 2008 when a small group of pupils in Hutchesons’ Grammar School in Glasgow entered a UNICEF competition. The aim of the competition was for them to devise their own solutions to three of the problems being discussed at the next G8 summit. So the competition was called the Junior8 or j8 competition. Hence our name. This is what prompted the pupils to start thinking of the best ways of solving some of the major global issues and what led them to the conclusion that education is the key.Hutchie already had a partnership with the Dr.N.S.A.M. English-medium High School in Nitte, India but we then began to develop links with more schools abroad, working with them to increase access to education. Gradually, over successive generations of j8 pupils, our aims have crystallized into what is described here. And now we have other schools across the UK joining us.

Education, education, education

When the pupils first began to think about the major current global issues, the sheer scale of them, their devastating impact and the enormity of doing anything remotely effective, they decided they should focus on just one big issue – the most important one. But which one is that?

Their reasoning told them that it should be the one issue that affects most of the others, and their research told them that this was education. In other words, of all the serious social and humanitarian issues in the world, a lack of education should be the one to address because, if more children can complete their education, this will have knock-on, positive effects on many other aspects of that community.

For example, research has shown that:

Children who complete their secondary education

  • earn more money
  • are better fed
  • marry later
  • have fewer children
  • are less likely to be exploited
  • are healthier
  • so are their families
  • so are their children
  • And if more children in a country complete their secondary education,
    the country’s income grows
  • and there is less conflict in that country.

How j8 works

Our Aim

Having worked out that the aim of j8 is to increase access to quality education for everyone in the world …

Barriers to education

And knowing that different areas of the world have different barriers to education …

Links to communities

We set up links with as many communities as we could handle initially, across Asia and Africa.

What are the opportunities?

But how can a few school children in the UK know how to improve the opportunities for education in communities thousands of miles away?

The children themselves

We don’t ; but we knew who does – the children who already go to school there.

Asking questions

So, we ask the students there to research the causes of the problem, and the best solutions. They ask teachers, relatives, religious and community leaders, other children, neighbours, and people involved in education. And they do it well. This gives us the real views of that community.

The j8 challenge

We encourage them by making this into a competition, with prizes – called the j8 Challenge.

Increasing opportunities

The j8 Challenge gives us a long list of ways of increasing opportunities for education in that community.

Dividing the challenges – we need your help

We then divide these into ones we can do here, ones their students and community can do, ones we can do together and ones for which we need outside help (expensive ones!)

Fund raising

We usually do some fund-raising.

Actions

And then we start. The students here decide with which actions they want to be involved.

Friendships

Usually it one small friendship group here that links up with students in the school in Africa/Asia. That is just the beginning

Making a plan

Next, it is then important for the student groups here and abroad to make sure the rest of the school knows what they are doing and why and, if possible, their local communities as well. That is the reason why this website was set up; to disseminate all the unique research we have carried out and all the ways in which we try and support education. The students and staff in our partner schools also have the job of involving the whole community with a community plan to support education.

Research

At the same time, it is crucial that we do not give the impression in the UK that the problems are only to be found in their communities. Things are far from perfect in the UK; consider the effects of poverty on educational attainment. In fact, consider the increasing poverty here and the need for food banks, the so-called postcode lottery over healthcare, the differences in life expectancy between rich and poor areas, examples of gender discrimination etc. So, it seems only right (a) that we research these issues here, alongside the research going on in our partner communities, and (b) that we make our partner communities aware of the scale of our problems. It often comes as a surprise.

Let’s take the next step and work together

What can we do?

So, what can we do here that is going to be effective in communities thousands of miles away? As well as supporting and encouraging the school students there, these are some of the actions we take.