2:15 PM EDT, September 10, 2013
As my daughters, their friends and students across Maryland head back to school, I am grateful they live in a country with access to education for girls and boys from elementary through high school and that their school has clean water, school supplies and electricity.
Having recently led a team of educators from Southern Middle School and St. John's School and Episcopal Church to Kenya, I have seen firsthand how children struggle to learn in dark classrooms and the challenges they face because they don't have electricity at home.
Many African children go to schools without electricity or running water and have few school supplies. Just imagine an American classroom without power.
When we have a power outage, children are sent home because it's deemed unsafe. In sub-Saharan Africa, seven out of 10 people don't have access to electricity and 90 million children go to primary schools without power.
Fortunately, there's a new bill, the Electrify Africa Act, that will provide 50 million people with access to electricity for the first time.
Before you balk at the cost, you should know that this bill has practically no cost to American taxpayers. In fact, it leverages the private sector in such a way that it will actually bring money in to the U.S. Treasury. Even companies right here in Maryland could benefit from this legislation.
Although my passion is education, reliable power would also improve access to life-saving equipment at health care facilities and help businesses thrive. That would lift people out of extreme poverty for good. As a resident of Catonsville, I hope Rep. Elijah Cummings and Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin can help children in Africa have a brighter future through the Electrify Africa Act.
Sharon Runge, Catonsville
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