Education shapes futures

Stories from young people in GPE partner countries on how education gave them the opportunity to live a better life.
Gilles Yakam
Valentine Maswache
Harrison Nyamawi
Fanti Tukuwei
Aishetu Mahmoudu Hama
Jamal Jumaa Mwalimu
Aicha Macky
Michael Wanjala
Robert Manyala
Rashida Ibrahim
Wilfred Mangom
Edison Obodo
Adedeji Edun
Bibisharifa Talbizoda

Getting an education saved me from a life on the streets.

Gilles Yakam
23 years old, Cameroon

Gilles is a 23-year-old teacher from Cameroon who believes he can have the life he wants because he received an education. He says that "Having an education has allowed me to get a job and be financially stable."

Gilles had to overcome many challenges when he attended school. He recalls how the extreme heat and lack of adequate food were frequent problems throughout his primary and secondary schooling. Furthermore, with Boko Haram extremism active in the region where he lived, Gilles had to be very careful through areas prone to outbreaks of crime and violence.

Growing up in an area with high crime and delinquency rates, Gilles had a high probability of following that path himself. He credits education as the reason for not ending up in prison. He says: "Getting an education saved me from a life on the streets."

I know that education is going to make me a better person and will make my future brighter.

Valentine Maswache
24 years old, Kenya

24-year-old Valentine Maswache is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in journalism & media studies at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and majoring in public relations.

Having gone to secondary school in an informal settlement behind Nairobi's dump site, Valentine knows firsthand what it's like to struggle to get an education. Most of the girls from her school dropped out, becoming single mothers who rely on casual labor to take care of themselves and their children.

Despite this difficult environment, Valentine counted on several role models, including her parents, who encouraged her to finish her education. She recalls that her parents believed that: "Education is the best thing you can get out of this world and it's the key to success."

Valentine is now a research assistant working for Vision Empowerment Trust, a professional association of researchers in education and social science. "Education will take you places," she says. "It is the best thing you can have."

My brothers can’t afford to buy food. I am struggling to become educated so I can help my family. I have realized that it is only education that can change things for me.

Harrison Nyamawi
19 years old, Kenya

Born in Kenya, Harrison Nyamawi has had more than his share of struggles trying to get an education. Ever since he lost his father at a young age, Harrison has struggled to raise the money he needs to stay in school.

Because of this, Harrison has missed an occasional term or had to repeat a grade. His family's money was used to send his older brother to school. His older sister, who supported his education, died, and a cousin who took on the financial responsibility had to stop.

Throughout it all, Harrison persevered and successfully overcame the challenges. Today he is volunteering with an organization that will help to send him to college. Through that organization, he helps inspire other young people to overcome life's challenges and instill in them the importance of getting an education.

Asked why he has persisted in the face of such difficult challenges, Harrison says, "My brothers can't even afford to buy food. I am struggling to become educated so I can help my family. I have realized that it is only education that can change things for me. They say education is preparation for life, but education is life itself."

No matter what you want to do, just make sure you go to school. It will really help change your life.

Fanti Tukuwei
25 years old, Nigeria

Fanti Tukewei from Nigeria says "Education has helped me become a distinct person." She believes that having an education has changed her perspective on life and broadened her horizons.

She studied chemistry at the University of Lagos, and since chemistry is a tough field of study, she had to make extra efforts to succeed. Despite a difficult major, Fanti cherishes the memories she has of school, especially her time at the lab, where she created chemicals that could be used in every day products.

Some of the difficulties she faced where due to living far away from her university - she would have to study on campus overnight, leaving her house at 11 pm in order to be able to get into the library and study on campus until 5 a.m.

For Fanti, learning in school goes beyond the subjects that people have chosen to study; she believes that receiving an education changed her way of thinking. Fanti stresses how important it is to get a good education: "No matter what you want to do, just make sure you go to school. It will really help change your life."

My only role models to inspire me were my teachers because I had no one else to look up.

Aishetu Mahmoudu Hama
23 years old, Niger

For 23-year-old Aishetu Mahmoudu Hama, attending primary school came with many challenges. She was one of only a handful of students studying in a tiny spartan classroom. "It was hard to study," she recalls. "We sat on the ground - sometimes on a mat, sometimes just in the dirt."

Despite such challenges, Aishetu persevered and is now one of the few girls who continued on with her education. Today, she attends the University in Niamey and studies to be a teacher. When she is back home, she takes the time to meet with girls who are now in primary school. Aishetu likes being a role model to these girls and hopes to motivate them to continue their education.

Aishetu's teachers played a key role in motivating her to finish school: "My only role models to inspire me were my teachers because I had no one else to look up". Her teachers used to tell her: "You can be courageous and go to school and achieve something."

Aishetu is grateful for her education, believing that if she had not attended school her life would be like her older brothers and sisters': herding, farming or married with a lot of children. She hopes to inspire her younger brothers and sisters to get an education and become doctors in order to help the community.

"Seeing people like my daughter who graduated from this school and are now doing well gives parents a concrete example of the reasons we should send our kids to school," says her father. "It motivates them. They want their children to grow up and be just like her."

Education is important because it will help you free yourself and your mind in the globalized world we live in today.

Jamal Jumaa Mwalimu
27 years old, Tanzania

A native of Tanzania, 27-year-old Jamal feels grateful for the opportunities he received thanks to education. For him, education is one of the advantages in his life and he is convinced that if he didn't have an education "Life would be very tough and it would be so difficult to get a job."

Because he was a dedicated student at a young age and received high grades, Jamal went to an all-boys boarding secondary school. He has fond memories of this time and recalls the main challenge he faced was the long distance between his school and his home, which meant he could only see his family during the weekends.

Jamal studied accounting. He wants to use these skills to open his own business and sell his art.

Seeing how education leads to a brighter future, Jamal has decided to play a role in ensuring that his younger sister finishes secondary school also. With the money he saves by selling his art, Jamal is helping his family pay for his sister's school fees. Receiving an education has been beneficial for Jamal and his family, and he can't imagine his life today without an education.

Everything I am today is because of my education.

Aicha Macky
35 years old, Niger

For the sociologist and documentary film maker Aicha Macky, education has played a key role in her life: "Everything I am today is because of my education."

Aicha explains that although her father was not educated, he recognized the value of getting an education and ensured that all his children went to school. She appreciates the cultural diversity and different ways of thinking to which she was exposed thanks to her education, stating that being educated "opened my eyes."

Aicha had some struggles in finding her career path. She initially wanted to study diplomacy, but had to study law instead. It took some time before she could find her true vocation, finally settling on sociology and cinematography. Today she considers herself a cultural ambassador for her country, saying how "Thanks to my education I am able to communicate with the world."

Aicha can't imagine her life without an education: "Not being educated is something that I can't even envision for myself." She believes that a woman who is educated is better equipped to run a household, to carry a healthy pregnancy to term, and is more capable of educating and raising a child.

I was raised in a slum area. Most of the youth in a slum area are engaged in drugs. I think, if I didn't get education, if I didn't work hard, trust me, I could be that guy.

Michael Wanjala
24 years old, Kenya

Raised in Nairobi's notorious Kibera slum, Michael Wanjala, 24, is the son of a poor single mother. Throughout his life, getting an education was a monumental challenge for him. To raise the funds for his school fees, Michael's mother used to wash clothes.

Michael recalls that "it kept me moving to see the way my mother was struggling. The thing that pushed me so much was one day when mom went to ask for a loan of 2,000 shillings to pay for my education…It was so hard. I had to go and ask for textbooks. I had to go and ask for a uniform, for shoes, because the other kids were laughing. I had to push it because I needed education."

"I was raised in a slum area. Most of the youth in a slum area are engaged in drugs. Others are thieves. I think, if I didn't get education, if I didn't work hard, trust me, I could be that guy. If not for education, you could see another Mike on the street."

Today Michael is studying mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Kenya. He is also working to mentor young people in the slums to help them find a path to a better life.

Education is light and education is power.

Robert Manyala
24 years old, Kenya

Software engineer Robert Manyala is focused on solving the world's problems through technology, and he is not wasting any time. Graduating with an IT degree from Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology and Agriculture, Robert has already developed many recognized innovations in his field: a program that uses biometrics to buy and sell land thereby reducing fraud and corruption; digital birth cards; and online admissions systems to apply for courses at Jomo Kenyatta.

Currently Robert is representing Jomo Kenyatta in working on the development of NEMIS - Kenya's National Education Management Information System. The system will provide real time information and statistics that will revolutionize education delivery and management in Kenya.

"Education is light and education is power" he says. "My dreams have been opened because of education."

I will tell my daughter: Do whatever you want to do, but make sure you do it well.

Rashida Ibrahim
28 years old, Niger

Rashida Ibrahim is a 28-year-old English teacher in Niger, who understands how important it is to get educated. It is thanks to education that she can teach and pass on her knowledge.

Rashida is proud to be able to contribute to the development of her country by providing education to her community. Not only is she able to care for herself, she is also able to help her brothers and sisters financially when needed. Rashida says, "I am independent and I can take care of myself."

Although education has been a positive influence in Rashida's life, there were moments of struggle. Rashida recalls that in her final year of high school teachers and students went on strike. This meant that she had to go to two different schools to make sure she continued studying for her Baccalaureate exam at the end of the year and not fall behind.

As an educated woman, Rashida has ambitions for herself and for her community. One of these dreams is having her own communications or events company. Rashida says if one day she has a daughter, she would stress the importance of getting an education to her, "I will tell my daughter, 'Be yourself, do what you want to do, but make sure you do it well'."

Thanks to education, I can earn my living today.

Wilfred Mangom
22 years old, Cameroon

Wilfred is a 22-year-old refrigeration technician from Cameroon, who graduated high school with a technical diploma in air conditioning. Finishing high school was no easy task for him. From a young age, Wilfred had to struggle in a broken home, as his father left the family.

Not too long after, Wilfred showed maturity and tenacity when his mother, grandmother and great grandmother all passed away throughout his school years. Wilfred needed to grow up quickly.

Despite these tragedies and the difficulty to get an education, Wilfred is convinced that the alternative would have been much worse. According to him it would have been a "disaster" if he hadn't received an education. "The sky would have fallen on my head. I would have been wasting away in a village somewhere, or I would have been a drug addict living on the streets."

Today, Wilfred works in an air conditioning company where he installs air conditioning in offices, homes, and cars. Wilfred is grateful for the education that he received, saying that it has allowed him to make a living and be a productive member of the community. "Education has been everything for me" he says.

I’m so glad I have an education. Everyone should have an education.

Edison Obodo
28 years old, Nigeria

Edison Obodo is a young Nigerian with a Bachelor's degree in Geology from Delta State University in Nigeria.

"When I attended school the major challenges I had was finances." Edison's parents couldn't give him all the money he needed for his textbooks, or to get the materials for assignments. "At some point I had to fend for myself if they were not able to provide for me." Often, Edison had to work part-time to get the money he needed to complete his own coursework.

However, despite falling on tough financial times and having to work when his parents were unable to provide financial support, Edison still has fond memories of his time as a student.

Edison says he tries to provide advice to students in similar circumstances and show how education changes an individual's approach towards life. He stresses that if he hadn't completed his education he would probably be on the street where at best he would learn one or two skills to survive.

Education is the best legacy.

Adedeji Edun
23 years old, Nigeria

Adedeji Edun, a young man studying at Ogun State University in Nigeria, believes he wouldn't be where he is today if it wasn't for education.

Adedeji is certain that through education he has been able to go to many places and meet with people he wouldn't normally have met. He is currently in his last year at the University of Lagos; he states that "Education has made me do things that I wouldn't do on a normal day, it has shaped my life. It has made me who I am today."

Adedeji is grateful for his fond memories of school. He truly believes that "Education is the best legacy" and if people have the opportunity and money to do so, they should attend school. "After God and food, education is the next thing to me," he says.

Thanks to the trainings I attended throughout my secondary school, I acquired skills that have made me more mature and empowered to make my own decisions.

Bibisharifa Talbizoda
18 years old, Tajikistan

18-year-old Bibisharifa Talbizoda lives in the Navobod village, located in the Jaloliddini Balhi district in Tajikistan. She recently graduated from secondary school and has high hopes to become a professional dressmaker and open her own business.

Bibisharifa discovered a talent for sewing during her school days, when she used to help her mother sew dresses after she finished her homework. However, Bibisharifa didn't just adopt a hobby. She mastered it. Her passion for dressmaking and determination to improve her skills have made her dresses very popular in the neighboring villages.

“With the help of my teacher at school, I participated in a local competition on fundamental economics and won! Thanks to this competition, I had access to other competitions and trainings. My teacher has been always by my side and supported me during these competitions. My next goal is to attend design school.”

Bibisharifa started considering the idea of becoming a professional dressmaker after she attended the training, “Make your own future! Become an entrepreneur!”, which was jointly organized by the State Committee on Investments and State Property Management and the World Bank.

During this training, Bibisharifa was selected as the winner of the best business plan, giving her the opportunity to develop the idea of establishing her own business which she plans to call “Zebanda 2017”. In the meantime, she is already teaching sewing to over twenty people in her community.

When I was younger I got involved with children and youth organizations…Through this work I became convinced that the education of girls, and especially their access to higher education, is paramount to ensuring sustainable human development. And I wouldn’t have had any of these opportunities without my own schooling.

21 years old, Mali

Aissata started going to primary school when she was 5 years old and recalls there were more boys than girls in her classes. There were no pre-schools when she was growing up. Her parents divorced when she was little and her mother took on the sole responsibility of making sure Aissata went to school. Her mother shaped her future by doing everything she could to ensure Aissata got an education.

“Once I reached high school, I faced many more obstacles. I walked more than an hour to and from school every day. We had over 100 students in the classroom and I spent most days hungry because my family could not afford to buy a meal until I returned home.”

For Aissata, it was very difficult to learn in these circumstances. Many of her girlfriends dropped out. Some could no longer afford their studies, or had lost their parents, so were forced to start working. With a lot of courage and determination, she made it to university, where she still faces challenges: Rooms are poorly equipped; the teachers are frequently absent and she shares an amphitheatre with more than 1,000 other students.

Aissata is studying International Public Law and hopes to work for a humanitarian organization such as Plan International. She is also a former member of the Children’s Parliament of Mali and works with several child and youth organizations. For Aissata the service rendered to the community is what gives meaning to her life.