By: Namara Lwansa (Featured Photo is Namara interviewing Miss Nankondo Mnyone)
When you were a kid left at home in charge of your siblings, what was your initial reaction? What did you feel? Or when your boss at work gave you an important office assignment to take control over, what ran through your mind? I bet you felt empowered. According to a Google search, empowerment is defined as the authority or power given to someone to do something. Power, as used in this definition, means the ability to do something. What is empowerment to you? There are different lenses through which one can look at empowerment depending on your culture, experience, etc. I got the opportunity to ask two of my classmates what empowerment meant to them. One of them, Miss Nankondo Mnyone responded by saying…
“I think empowerment is the push to be something better or do something better.”
I now want you to associate your response to the meaning of empowerment with the definitions provided in the previous paragraphs [There is no wrong answer.] You probably have a different response as well. Even I was able to come up with an alternative response. To me, the word empowerment means being supported. These two simple words have such a wide meaning in my dictionary; I could have defined it in many ways, but the reason for my choice was that every person has the power to do something, but it is the external environment that enables one to exercise their power or influences the extent to which power is exercised. It’s the support, the push, and the influence that empowers. It’s the amount of assistance and push we receive from the things around us.
It goes without saying all people have accomplished something in life and well, it may be directly or indirectly affected by their surroundings. Now, relating to the definitions provided earlier, the ‘authority’ is given by our environment (society). Our society is very vast and diverse; we see society in the form of schools, workplaces, and families, etc. As a student, I will examine the external environment in terms of education, which we get from school.
I think up to this point you may have realized my love for defining words, it enables one to associate it with their points of view. Now, education refers to the process of giving systematic information, especially at school. Again, I asked two of my classmates about their thoughts on school.
Zahra Aljabry thought of it as tiring, “I don’t like waking up and going to school each day, the tests and homework. It’s too much.” Nankondo Mnyone called school “torture.” I absolutely love the honesty in their responses, because it gives us a picture of the immediate thoughts. I then proceeded to ask if any of my two classmates enjoyed school at times and they both said they did. But unfortunately, sometimes it may be hard identifying a source of empowerment from schools because a lot of us fail to associate a ‘school environment’ as a ‘learning and growing environment’ but rather a pile of useless work. Learning to see our education as a huge part of our source of empowerment and as a launchpad for our rocket of aspirations is very important because once we do, we start to use the information to change the world and use the resources available to boost our abilities.
Nankondo feels inspired when learning a subject that she likes and is able to use it to make a change. For example, using computer science to create websites that help our society, such as fundraising websites. Zahra, on the other hand, feels inspired by learning English because it helps her to express herself. From this, we see how students are empowered through learning.
Research has shown that 86% of children’s lives are spent at school, where they grow, learn, and participate in many activities with members of our society. While attending school, we collect so much information which, in the end, distinguishes us from those who have not received an education. For example, when I was in third grade I learned that plants provided oxygen that human beings breathe. This was very
new information for eight-year-old me, and so I educated my family on it and how we need to take care of the trees we had. I felt really empowered because I made a difference in the amount of information I thought my family had, and I made a difference.
Another example of education as empowerment is when I’d learned about environmental degradation and ways in which we can assist our planet. I was inspired to participate at a local beach cleanup because I felt empowered by the knowledge I had received. The debate competitions in my school helped me learn more about public affairs and how I can speak more on them, I felt empowered when the support from my teachers pushed me to participate and use my abilities.
People can feel empowered in many ways such as speaking to their friends and hearing their opinions on life. It empowers them to have their own; it enables them to see life differently and do their best in life through their encouragement. Doing well on tests empowers them by helping them believe in what their minds are able to do. It gives us the authority to exercise our power. So many more examples can
be given since we all get empowered in different ways.
As I conclude, what I intended to have gotten across is that we all have power, and can seek empowerment from many different places, I tried to illustrate how education can be a source of empowerment to students. Although it may be difficult to grasp the concept, meditating on it helps us to understand more deeply how we can use school to be the best version of ourselves.
About the Author: Namara Lwansa is a 13-year-old Youth Impact Leader with The Frontrunners League. Based in Tanzania, Namara speaks and writes on subjects of social impact, embracing specifically the issue of empowering other young people.