When I think about knowledge, I think about the transformational power of knowledge and education.
I would like to share the story of a young boy who risked everything for the chance to gain the knowledge he believed would provide him with a better life.
This young boy was from a very poor nomadic family and he spent his days herding sheep and doing his part to support the family’s nomadic way of life, however he wanted more. His pursuit of an education led him to leave his family and to take a perilous journey to a country where he had no known family or support system.
So at the age of 8 or 9, this young boy risks his life at a chance for a better life prospect and negotiates a ride from his village in Hargeisa to Djibouti. Luckily, the man he hitched the ride with knew his family and set him up with a job as a dishwasher. The boy spent the next two years living and working at a restaurant in Quartier 2, Djibouti. Then one day whilst collecting dishes and cleaning as he did everyday, the young boy came across a French charity worker who was talking to his boss about the charity’s new initiative to get some of the local poor kids back into education. So he begged his boss to register him and promised that he would work harder and assured him that school will not interfere with his job. His boss accepted and registered him.
After a few months of juggling work and school, he began to struggle and his performance at work began to deteriorate. This led to him losing his job and home and spent the next 6 months on the streets being chased by restaurant workers as he picked stranger’s leftovers off the tables at local restaurants including the restaurant he worked at.
With nowhere to go and still determined to continue with his education, he studied under street lamps with fellow street kids and often used the big tear on his trouser as a hiding place for his books and valuables. As you can imagine, he couldn’t bear to continue living like that so he begged one of his old regular customers to help him. Luckily this old man showed him mercy and bought him new pantalon (trousers). The old customer made it his mission to help the young boy and found a distant paternal aunt who agreed to look after the boy and sponsor his education just as he was about to start secondary education.
Fuelled by his desire, tenacity and love of learning, the young man excelled at school for the next 10 years. He was always 1st, 2nd or 3rd in his class. He dreamed of working in the medical field and found an opportunity to go to nursing school, which again he excelled at. It was at this point in his life that he was given another opportunity to fulfil his dream by being awarded a scholarship to study medicine in France.
To cut a long story short, he survived and thrived in this new path of his journey. He became even more resilient and determined to gain the knowledge he required to succeed at accomplishing his dream. Once he qualified as a doctor, he returned to his community to make a difference to the lives of people and the local hospital. He later married a young woman from a wealthier family and provided his children with the life he always wanted as a child.
As you might have already guessed, that young boy is my father, Abdillahi Hersi!
I heard that story around the age of 9. It’s a story I have shared with my own children, my students and colleagues. It’s a story that still moves me. It largely shaped my passion for learning and my understanding and appreciation of the value of a good education. It is also a story which shaped my moral purpose as a teacher as well as my values and intrinsic motivation and grit to succeed.
What would you do to gain the knowledge you believe will make a difference to your life?
There is a Somali maahmaah (proverb) which says:
‘Aqoonla`aani waa iftiinla’aan. The absence of knowledge is the absence of light.
I too believe that knowledge is light!