A Letter from African Leadership Academy Graduate, Tabitha Wombugha Tongoi

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Tabitha is 20 years old and from Nairobi, Kenya. Struck by the obstacles created by a lack of textbooks in marginalized communities in Kenya, Tabitha decided to act. At the age of 17 she launched A Book for Change project that collected and distributed close to 20,000 textbooks for high schools across Kenya. Since then, Tabitha has emerged as a great advocate for education in Africa.

Tabitha is also a graduate of the African Leadership Academy (ALA), our partner and implementer of the Anzisha Prize. ALA provided Tabitha with the space, skills and mentors needed to further develop as a social entrepreneur and leader. She is currently spending her gap year as the Student Outreach Program Manager of TEDxKibera, and will be enrolling as a freshman in Williams College in September.

Tabitha was a panelist for a session at the 2011 Skoll World Forum. Her letter below provides a brilliant illustration of the need to listen to the hopes and aspirations of young people.

On March 31st, I had the honor of joining the The MasterCard Foundation in a panel at the 2011 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship that took place at Oxford University. Our session was entitled: From Poverty to Prosperity: Engaging the Next Generation. My role as the youth representative was to elaborate on what today’s youth want from education.

A deep and multifaceted topic indeed! I am very humbled and delighted, to have been able to contribute towards this very important discussion. More so, I am honoured to have had the opportunity to sit and listen at the feet of Ann Cotton and Martin Burt, both of whom are such great inspirations to me. It moves my heart to know that there is such a dedicated team of people who are already working to improve the access and quality of education for thousands of youth across Africa. What great hope I have to see that some of the world’s sharpest minds are looking to rise above the status quo to impact lives for the better. My belief has been affirmed. My dream for my continent has been refueled. I am confident that I stand on the shoulders of great men and women, who are blazing the trail for me and for other young people who believe in a better world.

In my presentation, I quoted Nelson Mandela who once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon with which we can change the world”. After attending the forum and listening to the speakers, I can ascertain that only through education and learning can we, the youth, better prepare ourselves for the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead of us. I am very glad to have contributed in whatever small way to ensure that this worthy cause comes to fruition.

On behalf of the thousands of young people in Africa that are seeking a brighter future, I would like to say thank you. The sum of all your individual efforts is what lubricates the wheels of change in our lives.

– Tabitha Wambugha Tongoi

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