Anjali Daryanani is the Communications Director of One World Youth Project, an international education non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. She grew up in Hong Kong and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.
An ideal classroom is a sacred environment -- a safe space for students to learn and develop, and a place that caters to each students’ unique needs. These needs vary depending on the students’ life outside of school and social context. One cannot simply divorce a student from his or her household, community dynamics and social challenges, because all of these elements make up the package of a holistic individual that walks through the classroom doors, affecting how the individual will develop inside and outside of the classroom.
Of all of the schools that I’ve worked with around the world and learned about firsthand, what makes the Johnson Nkosi Primary School stand out as particularly conducive and effective is its thorough attention to the specific needs and personalities of every single one of its students. On top of regularly interviewing every child and making social profiles of students, the Nkosi School staff records details on each child, their family set up, as well as their hopes and aspirations, which teachers can refer to when catering their education to their students, accounting for the diversity of personalities and learning patterns.
One World Youth Project, the non-profit organization that I work for, implements a global education program in secondary schools around the world. In almost every classroom that we work in, our program facilitators discover and re-discover the importance of paying attention to each students’ unique individualities and mindsets, and how these factors affect how they learn. As an example, when we ran our program in Boston, U.S.A. our classroom facilitator was leading a semester-long curriculum on empowerment and civic engagement. He noticed that one student was disengaged, so he talked to her alone and asked her why she was not interested in the classroom sessions. She said: I’m never going to have any power. All of my decisions have already been made for me, and there’s nothing that I can do to make a difference, so I’m not paying attention. Only then was our classroom facilitator able to understand her distinct perspective and work alongside her to think about the subject matter with an open mind. All around the world, we’re seeing the rising importance placed on individual-centered education and the Nkosi School is paving the way for this trend in Uganda.
Moreover, the Nkosi School has taken great strides to become a worry-free environment. Between building wells, long-lasting latrines and new comfortable dormitories, Nkosi has become an enabling place for students to flourish without them having to stress about the daily needs that they had before joining the centre: “no more walking miles to the well, or having to rely on rainwater harvesting as they did in the past.”
Already being one of the best performing schools in the region, I’m excited to see the Nkosi School progress over the next few months and years. We at One World Youth Project know how important it is to create safe spaces for the mind to grow, and the Nkosi School is educating and protecting these unique students with care, inside and outside of the classroom. The steps that Nkosi is taking in this direction are truly above and beyond, and will reap benefits in building a generation of empathetic and empowered Ugandan youth.