Where Violence Breeds, Education Equals Hope

Every day, more and more people arrive in Nairobi, drawn by the hope of a better life, only to settle in slums. More than half of those living in Africa’s urban slums are between the ages of 15 and 24. Without access to education, this generation has little hope of escaping its straitened conditions. We must capture the potential of urban youth before they are led to believe that the path of violence is their only option. 

— Kennedy Odede, The New York TImes

Teach For All’s work in Africa has brought us into contact with some of the most driven, high-impact social entrepreneurs in the world. Our work with Kennedy Odede has been a true privilege, as his passion for education and deep and personal conviction have helped push our sense of urgency and clarified our purpose in the region. In June 2013, Kennedy led Teach For All's COO, Nick Canning, and me on a tour of Kibera, Nairobi—the largest urban slum in Africa. While showing us the school, library and youth center he has built through his organization Shining Hope for Communities, he also gave us a bit of insight into the experiences that led him to a life so different from many of the people he loves most in the world. It was his study of Nelson Mandela, of Marcus Garvey, and of other US Civil Rights Movement heroes that inspired him to dream himself a bigger future than any he’d seen in person. His belief in education and its power to unlock opportunity led him to create an organization that cultivates those same dreams in the lives of young girls and boys in Kibera. He has been a personal and professional inspiration.

Perhaps it’s because of the opportunity I’ve had to get to know Kennedy that his recent op-ed in the New York Times stopped me in my tracks. It is not often enough that I get to read something that is so instantly arresting, distressing, and impassioned. Kennedy paints the backdrop to urban poverty in Kenya with clear, vivid language that reveals to the world what is at stake for our kin in the places that are rarely accurately portrayed.

Kennedy's editorial serves to remind us all that no one is born a terrorist. Children can either live in a world where their daily lives are free of the risks and despair that make terrorism a seemingly viable option, or we can continue to ignore them and watch our current global reality progressively worsen. It's my hope that Kennedy's words inspire readers to increase their conviction about the roles we all must play in bringing more justice to this world. They certainly did for me.

Read “Terrorism's Fertile Ground” by Kennedy Odede in the New York Times.