Two girls, 12,000 kilometres apart

On February 22 of this year, I woke up like every other day. I had a coffee, took a shower, and ate breakfast. Except that day I drove five hours to a small rural town in Tanzania called Kilwa to see how Canadians are improving the quality of education for children in East Africa.

As we drove along the red dirt roads, we came upon more than 50 students cheering and waiting to greet us. This is when I met Yasmin.

Yasmin is a four year old girl who attends preschool with her teacher Sophia and about 50 other students. It is very similar to Ontario’s junior kindergarten system, where my daughter Leah is currently enrolled.

I asked Yasmin to tell me about her favourite thing to do in school. She said she liked to write. I quickly grabbed a small chalkboard and began to draw a little spiral circle, hoping she would draw a picture with me. She looked up at me with no words, but her look said “I can do you one better!” As she began to write, I saw she was spelling “Mama” and “Baba” (father). I was incredibly moved, as it made me think of Leah, who also learned to spell Mom and Dad this year. This moment has stayed with me. These two little girls are worlds apart, but both are at the same learning stage because of the opportunities that a good education provides.

20160608 LeahAndYasmin

LeftYasmin writing “mama” on her chalkboard. Right: Leah showing me how she can spell mom and dad.

Every child is born with potential. Potential to grow, potential to learn, potential to set goals and succeed. Yasmin and Leah both have potential, but around the world, more than 200 million children do not have the support they need to reach their best. High rates of poverty, a lack of learning opportunities, poor health, and malnutrition are major barriers to children’s development in their early years.

It’s a big challenge… But together, we can build a strong foundation for the next generation.

How? By investing in education systems and the training of teachers across the spectrum of learning – from early childhood to primary, secondary, and advanced education – and increasing community involvement in the planning and administration of schools and education.

Yasmin’s school is part of a larger initiative to improve education in the region, supported by Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the Government of Canada. Investing in better learning environments, curricula, and teacher training programs, as well as research to inform education policy and practice is building a strong school system where students like Yasmin can succeed.

There are many more stories like Yasmin’s in Together: An exhibition on global development, which is currently touring western and central Canada, sparking discussions on how Canadians, like you, are driving positive change around the world.

Click here to find when the exhibition will be visiting a city near you and share with friends across Canada!

Christine McGuire is a public affairs manager at Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

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Global Affairs Canada