Meet Kpakpando Akaeze, a 15 year-old high school student from Lagos, Nigeria. You may have heard of her when news spread around the world about a group of girls from Nigeria who designed a urine powered generator. Kpakpando’s hobbies include traveling and conducting experiments. In January 2015, she was selected to speak about education and innovation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where she told world leaders that they need to step up their game when it comes to investment in education. He was asked a few questions and this is how he replied:
1. You and your friends made global headlines recently with your work on the using waste to create energy. What are some of the most important things you learnt during that process?
We learnt that nothing is ever a waste so we must not just look at it at the face value. Hence, waste should not just be disposed of – especially the waste that is non-biodegradable. It can be used alternatively to do different things; for example, from our findings, we discovered that banana peels have the ability to absorb heavy metals found in waste oil. Our team spirit was really built up, and we learnt to trust one another’s abilities. We also learnt that success can never be achieved at once, we learnt to identify success in the midst of failure as we failed repeatedly in our experiment but we never gave up.
2. Why do you believe that education is so important?
Education is important especially for children because it opens them to new ideas on how to make the world a better place both economically and developmentally. It lays the foundation for refinement of creative thinking and abilities. It empowers human beings, especially the women, preventing them from being relegated.
3. What are some of the education challenges facing children in Nigeria?
The value attached to education is not as important as it should be, especially for the female child in the northern part of the country. Some people still believe that investment in a girl’s education is wasteful as they will eventually end up in the kitchen.
Violence and terrorism are also challenges facing children in Nigeria especially in the northern part of the country. When there is fear among the children, their minds are not entirely opened to learning. And the teachers, some stop coming to school to teach the children because of the fear of losing their lives.
Boko Haram is against Western education and they had been involved in the killing of many – especially students, children and mothers – and kidnapping and destruction of schools and government property. The kidnapping of over 200 Chibok girls is still fresh on our minds. It is nearly a year now and the girls are yet to be found.
4. We’ve heard you say before that if girls are given the opportunity to study science they will realize how good they are at it. Why do you think that all around the world we still have a situation where fewer girls than boys pursue maths, science or engineering related fields? How do we change that?
Most men in the world today especially in the developing economies believe women are the weaker vessels so it is preferable for them to study what they perceived as less demanding courses and careers like fashion and music, and to leave core science subjects and careers like medical sciences and engineering to men, who they believe have more guts.
It has taken few bold women to take on those subjects and compete with men…but those women didn’t just do that without education. Many schools are encouraging girls to actively compete with the boys! My school, Doregos Private Academy, has really believed in the potential of the girls, and we are given the same rights and privileges as the boys. If every girl child is given a good education, they can level up with men and even be better. Behind every great man is a greater woman, so who says we are the weaker vessels?
5. What do world leaders – in government and business – need to do to make quality education a reality for all children?
Free and compulsory education must be provided for all children. Every child has a dream and ambition, all they need is moral and financial support. More should be made available in country budgets for education. If world leaders can provide that, then the whole world will be moving to a greater level of development….It is time we make sure that we leave a positive mark on every child; that they will remember for the rest of time. The future doesn’t begin tomorrow, it starts now.