3. Alli, how has your own education shaped your activism towards advocating for the rights of other people, and girls in particular?
AN : I had a teacher who did some volunteering raising money to help build schools in economically held back countries. He encouraged us to think of creative ideas; it gave us a feeling of purpose and showed me the importance of not only living for myself but for the communities inside and outside my neighborhood. I got to think more globally and feel connected to others. I grew up with the feeling that I could become anything I wanted, and I want this for other people.
4. Victoria, you are the founder of One African Child Foundation, a youth-led NGO addressing the inequality in education through global citizenship education. From your experience, what are the main effects that COVID-19 is having in rural areas?
VI : We work in some of the most disadvantaged communities in many lower-income countries, where there were already barriers for education before the pandemic. Teachers are usually understaffed, leaving on average one teacher for 150 students, and many schools lack digital devices and facilities. Because many families are losing their jobs, children leave school to support their parents to earn a living. This pandemic is a call to action to governments and people that have the power to invest more in quality education.
5. What do you remember most about school? Were there moments or teachers that had a particularly big impact on you?
AN : Teachers can have a big impact on you, both negative and positive. When I was six years old, I moved from Poland to Germany without speaking the language. My teacher at the time told me I would not make it in Germany, that my mother would not be able to help me because she could not speak German either, and that Poles should better take on unskilled labor jobs. This made me struggle with my Polish identity for a long time, but I also had positive experiences. I had a teacher who saw I wanted to do music and that I had a talent for it. He encouraged me to join the choir and sing at school plays. He believed in me and I will always remember him with a warm heart.
VI : My Mom had a significant influence in my life. She would show me examples of successful women in the community, even if we didn’t have a lot of them, and say: “she is able to support her family; if you get educated, you will have opportunities to dream and become independent as this woman”. I will also never forget my math teacher. I was doing very poorly at school and he would always make math fun and take the time to support me.