I should dedicate this writing to ACS Cobham international school 8th graders. I will explain why....
The school invited me to speak to 8th graders on "international development and role young people can play in improving other people's lives." During my visit, I was amazed by the commitment of teachers. At the assembly, the junior school head teacher stressed the importance of 'service.'"She started with 'As long as you care for others, you will always be successful."
Those remarks struck me and my heart whispered, 'there is something special here....' I have been privileged to visit different schools both in London and in Kenya but not many have the atmosphere I witnessed at ACS Cobham. How I wish other schools were modelled in this way.
"We emphasize the importance of being oneself and we encourage our students to be who they are." Miss Agness Choo one of the teachers told me. Having this notion inculcated into one at a very tender age, the person grows appreciating what people can do and respecting other talents. Going to school is not just about passing exams, and dreaming of a well paying job but it is where transformation begins, children learn to be better citizens and where 'big society' is born.
In this school, they have 'buddies award.' This is recognition to individuals who have been nice to new students; befriending and showing new students around, helping newcomers to settle and feel wanted. I was moved by this gesture. Can you imagine a world where everyone grow knowing that that there is nothing strange with strangers? There is nothing wrong with being different? There was also a 'leadership award' where students nominate one person whom they think have been outstanding in service around the school. Remember, they are only 12 years old.
The world is in need of 'servant leadership.' Leaders who are big at heart. Some people will say, "leaders are born not made" but are we born with values or they are instilled in us?
The confidence of these students made me smile. I went to one of the classrooms and there was one section labelled, 'Human Rights corner.' There were posters about 'say no to child soldier in Somalia,' 'Support people living with HIV' and many more inspiring posters. Clearly these students are aware of what is happening around the world. They must be watching news, they must be reading newspapers. When was the last time did you see a teenager reading a newspaper? In fact, during Q & A, one student asked me a question concerning an article I wrote on this column. Sounds too good to be true doesn't it?
I know readers are mumbling; "...but that is private school and only few can afford." Of course by any standard ACS cobham is not cheap. But who said education is cheap? Why can't government of Kenya, Ghana, Angola and Zambia create this type of school? Or dare I ask, why can't British government make all schools be like ACS Cobham? Those countries that are claiming to be providing free primary education, is the model working? Isn't the free education just about numbers and collecting kids into one shanty room called a classroom? Governments are happy to report numbers and don't care about quality. Since when did education become about quantity and not quality?
All those countries that are struggling to give quality education, majority of their politicians have private jets, their governments blotted and we know the rest of the story. I haven't mentioned that some of these governments have gone a notch higher by swindling money supposed to be for the poor kids.
Looking at ACS Cobham students' eyes, I could only see appreciation, determination and success. Politicians, invest in education and your countries will never be the same again. Knowledge is power!
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