Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I want to go to Jupiter, says young Tanzanian student

I have been meaning to share this story, ever since I visited Shepherds Junior School.

Last September, I had the good fortune of visiting Mama Lucy Kamptoni who is running an exemplary primary school in Arusha, Tanzania. I had been following her work with great interest on twitter, and was in awe of her amazing collaboration with the dynamic people at Reading about her primary school students using twitter was one thing, but meeting them and Mama Lucy in person was another. I could not pass up the opportunity.

After touring the impressive facilities including a well stocked library, neat rows of classrooms, gardens with vegetables and flowers, with the picturesque backdrop of Mount Meru, we finally stepped inside one of the classrooms. We walked into a classroom of beaming 6th grade students eager to find out who these visitors were. After an exchange of greetings and introductions, we had the pleasure of asking them what they wished to become when they grew up. One girl said "A doctor", another boy "A lawyer", another girl "A businesswoman", but the answer that struck me the most was from a young boy who said "Astronaut" !

The other career choices were understandable because role models for each are readily available in Tanzania. To the best of my knowledge and google, there is no Tanzanian or African astronaut, yet.
I think the boy also went to mention a few words about Neil Armstrong, the first man to land on the moon. And so i asked him, half not believing, "why Astronaut ?" He said, "I want to go to Jupiter."
"Why Jupiter ?", I prodded further. "Because it is the biggest planet," he answered, with the calm confidence of someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about this possibility.

I was speechless.

I remember thinking, here I am talking to the reincarnation of William Kamkwamba - the Malawian genius boy who was called crazy for building a windmill in his village, using scrap metal parts and drawings from a physics textbook. Here I was face to face with a young determined Tanzanian student, with the audacity to dream about going to Jupiter; when most of us only dreamt of going to America or Europe! How many more children like him, and William Kamkwamba are out there ?

I share this story to remind us of the countless young genius children who should be given a chance to pursue their dreams and imagination, at whatever cost. The work Mama Lucy is doing nurturing these young minds is priceless, and deserves our best support - whether it be kudos and/or dollars.
Preferably both.

I hope many of you will consider supporting her work and her students by making donations here.

When in Arusha, please take a moment to visit Shepherds Junior School, and say hello to the young Astronaut before he heads out to Jupiter!


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