Erin Ganju is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Room to Read. She has been instrumental in creating the scalable approach the organisation employs to create flexible, adaptable programming to meet the diverse needs of each of its partner communities. She manages the design of Room to Read’s programmes as well as its launches into new regions. She also oversees more than 250 employees and operations worldwide, including the Programmes, Development, Finance and Human Resources departments.
Erin has spent extensive time working and living overseas in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. Prior to joining Room to Read in 2001, Erin held high-ranking positions with Dejima Inc., e-Commerce infrastructure provider Network Commerce, leading consumer products company Unilever N.V., and international investment bank Goldman, Sachs & Co. She holds a combined bachelor’s and master’s in International Relations and Economics from The Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.
In an interview with Digital Learning, Erin shares with our readers the challenges and issues involved in community development through education.
Please shed some light on the education scenario in Asian and SE Asian countries with regard to rural communities. What are the challenges involved for Room to Read ?
To give a brief overview, some of the challenges with the educational systems in Asia include the lack of adequate school facilities, shortage of quality teachers, lack of books and teaching materials, challenges with relevancy of the curriculum particularly for a rural child, and the high drop out rates for students in secondary schools, especially among girls.
Room to Read began working with rural communities in Nepal in 2000 to build schools and establish libraries. The organisation’s geographic reach expanded rapidly as significant needs and opportunities were identified in Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Laos, Sri Lanka, Zambia and South Africa. Our holistic approach now includes building schools, establishing libraries, publishing children’s literature in local languages, providing long term scholarships for girls, and establishing computer labs.
How far is the SE Asian region from attaining the goals of EFA by 2015?
Overall, few countries have achieved or are close to achieving the EFA goals. Pre-primary enrollment has steadily increased and progress towards universal primary education has been made, but the challenge of expanding pre-primary education remains especially great in countries like Cambodia and Laos. In almost all countries in the region there are still major gender disparities and disparities due to wealth and ethnicity.
Please elaborate on the major programmes of Room to Read in Asia and SE Asia.
Room to Read has developed a holistic, multi-pronged approach to help children in the developing world gain the lifelong gift of education. The approach includes the following programmes: