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Necessary Arts Balances the Scales of Education

By Naima Thompson
Necessary Arts Balances the Scales of Education

According to the United Nations Declaration of Rights Article 26 #1, “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.”
As I read this Article, I shudder at the thought of countless students who sit in classes everyday without a thought in the world for the tens of thousands, if not millions, who will never know the inside of a classroom. The expectation of every country is to provide free primary school education for its children. Even if that goal was to manifest, what about education beyond the primary years? In Trinidad and Tobago, I sat in an all-girls secondary school and received a free and outstanding education. I took that opportunity for granted, armored with uniform, books, and spending money, oblivious to my privilege.
By then, I had already reconciled that all men are born equal, yet all men are most certainly not living as equal beings. I came to this reality when Peggy showed up one too many times to my primary school with the smelliest and dirtiest of uniforms, her hair standing firmly as a nest on her head, and without a single book, paper, or pencil with which to shape her future. I posed this concern to my mother with a mission to change Peggy’s circumstances to match my own. For I knew that I was no more deserving than Peggy, and I very much wanted to balance our own scales. The following morning my mother paid a visit to my school principal and just like that the scales were even…for a while anyway. It is with that same spirit child that I now continue to make strides toward evening the scales of education as best as I can with the tools I possess.
When I started the Necessary Arts School (NAS) in Harlem, NY some twenty-odd years ago, and realized the power of the program, I was determined to develop it in Trinidad and Tobago, my home of origin. Once that was realized in 2002, I envisioned the work spreading to Africa, my Motherland. Almost two years ago, that dream manifested in Kenya with our Reach the Unreachable program. With the help of several like-minded educators, Necessary Arts has stimulated minds through artistic expression from 1998 to the present, stretching from the U.S., to Trinidad and Tobago, and now on to Kenya.
In 2013, I walked as the only non-Kenyan toward the JEHO Orphanage located in the slums of Pipeline, Nairobi. The children greeted me with a warm welcome, as well as a great sense of curiosity. They learnt about Ms. Naima and the Necessary Arts School’s mission to bring drama workshops to them. Later, in July 2015, I was diagnosed with stage-one breast cancer and was shattered when my doctor pointed out that I would not be traveling to Kenya to continue the program.
And then it hit me. I had been able to unfold a dream, in which others were inspired to believe and espouse. The children would not be disappointed. Several international teacher volunteers led by the program director, Suzzanne Pautler, were ready to carry on the mission and will continue doing so with the next visit occurring in April. A strong bond of mutual trust and respect exists between JEHO and NAS, allowing for the sustainability of the program.
It is in this space of mutual regard that our partnership manifested its most urgent goal: the education of 18 secondary-school-aged boys and girls. The Necessary Arts School paid the full tuition and incidentals for each student at JEHO to demonstrate our belief in and commitment to the right to education for all. As a result, the teenagers at JEHO left their sanctuary in the Pipeline Slums and journeyed onto various boarding schools to earn a basic human right provided for free in many countries, but certainly not theirs: a secondary education.
We are committed to continuing this educational fund to sustain these students’ tuition fees throughout the years to follow. Part of that commitment involves reaching out to other humanitarians with similar desires to sponsor the education of our underprivileged youth, but perhaps with no trusted system through which to do so. Until the Kenyan government can balance the scales of education on its own, we, the privileged and abled humanitarians of the world, can weigh in and tip the scales for those who so deserve this basic human right of education.
If you are one of those humanitarians who wishes to contribute to our Education Drive, please contact [email protected] for further information about how you can get involved in balancing the scales of education. l
Naima Thompson teaches at GEMS Dubai American Academy.

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