Angelique Kidjo and The Importance of Education

This week our blog is written by Chinelo Nwosu, our Program Manager in the US.

Last week, due to an unexpected sudden change in weather conditions, I decided to take a taxi home from work. As I entered the car, I noticed that the driver, Baba, had a very thick accent that reminded me of my father. This intrigued me, so I began to inquire about his background. In the middle of us exchanging stories, he stopped and told me that I reminded him of a younger version of his favorite artist growing up, Angelique Kidjo. In an effort (failing, might I add) to impress my new friend with my knowledge of all things, I immediately retrieved my phone from my bag to Google, Angelique. As I scour through the search results, I hear Baba brag about her beauty, amazing musical career and her recent Grammy wins, and I’m sold! But what really stood out to me was her love for and commitment to education in Africa and her beliefs regarding its role in a child’s life (and its place in the overall development of Africa).

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Angelique was born in Benin, in what she considered, “a very special family”. She gave her family this specification because of her nonconformist parents. Early on her parents established education as a foundational principle in her upbringing. At an early age, Angelique and her brothers began a band and started earning money. It was at this time that she began to question the importance of education. She did not understand why she must go to school when she was already earning money. As one of ten children, her father made sure that each one of them attended school. This was surprising, not only because they were a one income household, but he was also going up against the cultural customs by insisting that his three girls should and would receive an education. While Angelique wanted to drop out, her father would not hear of it. He defended his position by explaining how education would enable her to understand the broader world. She took these word with her as she matriculated. She now uses her education as a source of empowerment. Employing this confidence to use her platform to lobby on behalf of women in Africa. Angelique’s education has also fueled her passions, she founded the Batonga Foundation, an organization that empowers and educates adolescent girls, and was the impetus for her career in educational advocacy for secondary school-aged girls.

 I’m a big daydreamer and reading about Angelique got my wheels turning. Her story made me think of potential; the potential of all of our students, their potential futures and the potential future of education in Zambia. Think of the possibilities!!

 Indulge me for just a moment: Close your eyes!!! (Well, don't close them because then you won't be able to read, but you get where I'm going.) Now imagine years from now, years after our current 4,000 children have matriculated through primary and secondary school and university. Imagine that these children embody the same fervor for education that Angelique developed all because of our work; our commitment to providing access to a quality education. Years from now we will look back reminiscing on those bright faces and recognize them as the advocates of education, global education champions, and policymakers. I, personally, cannot wait to see that day!