My One-Student School Year

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

I was twelve years old when I was told I could no longer attend school. My mother called me to the living room and, for perhaps the first time, I sensed fragility in the woman who devoted her resources unequivocally to the care of her two children. “Iman, I can no longer afford to pay your fees.” she murmured. And so, the days of being confined to the school bursar’s office, allowing the harmattan dust to settle finely on my arms and knees as I awaited the friend who would surreptitiously provide me with summaries of the lessons I had missed; the days that embodied hope itself; gave way to cold, unfeeling nothingness.

As much as I could, I tried not to feel envious when my brother returned home at the end of each school-day, brimming with classroom anecdotes and complaints about excess assignments. I understood that the cost of tuition was rather high and this conferred the status of a privilege on my education. However, I could not ignore the underlying factors at play when my brother departed for his lessons and I remained at home, attending to the domestic chores. I had recently devoured the novel Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangaremba and had formed sharp ideas regarding African patriarchy and gender inequality. When I related my concerns to my mother, she dismissed them. What was the loss of an education and a few books? My intrinsic value lay in the execution of wifely duties, after all. I determined there and then that my pursuit of erudition was wholly mine and I would direct all my energies towards being a catalyst for change.

I spent a year immersing myself in books; raw narratives that addressed a spectrum of human experiences; Achebe, Brontë, Blyton, Rowling. By the time I returned to my old class, I already harboured the aim to further my education within an international setting. I had no mentor to guide my steps nor entity to support my goal, but I did find a community of young women that shared my outlook. They purchased the handmade jewellery I sold to raise funds and I compiled a guide to resources that could enable them attain the same dream I pursued.Thus, an unspoken contract was formed. I ultimately established the College and Career Access(CACA) Committee as a means to foster an interdependent network of female African students who would spur one another to realise their shared goal.

This experience exemplified the importance of effective co-operation to achieving great results; a principle that will be integral to my personal and academic journey. Above all, I have learnt that a proactive mind-set and great further education is the propeller of my ambitions and look forward to partaking of and contributing to the rich atmosphere of Colgate University, to become a highly impactful engineer.

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