The theme of poverty is principal to the poem "An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum." Spender creates a crisp image of children in poverty through his descriptions of dire situations and mal-nourished students, revealing a sad, hidden segment of society that was prevalent throughout the world. He is not commenting directly on any particular nation in his poem; instead, he exposes the widespread neglect of children of all nationalities, races, and ethnicities. It is poverty that has caused the students in "An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum" to be "weighed-down," "paper-seeming," diseased, and "twisted." Spender believes this poverty is created through the oppressive power of capitalism.