Learn, Nurture and Grow: every child has potential

By Inaara Gangji. Inaara is 15 years old. She is a student at the Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School in Dar es Salaam. She lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

“The potential possibilities of any child are the most intriguing and stimulating in all creation.”-Ray L. Wilbur, Third President of Stanford University

Potential, is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future” and is from the Latin word potentialis, from potentiapower‘, from potent– ‘being able‘. Potential is something that is not evident physically, but it is rather evident in the form of a feeling, a feeling that cultivates the hope of something great. A teacher might say, “This child has potential”; what the teacher means to say is that the child has competence, the ability to achieve something extraordinary, but this will happen only if this potential is nurtured and grows. But, the real question is, does every child have potential? Or is it that just the smart kids that sit at the front of class, play no sports and spend all their time studying have all the potential?

In the previous paragraph, I put four words in bold: develop, power, able and future. What I want to explore is our understanding of these words. According to me, develop is to foster- potential needs to mature, progress and that is the only way results will come to life, power is to have control- to have competence in a certain field, able is to have capability- to have aptitude, and future is prospective opportunity- where the fruit of nurtured potential can be seen. I believe your understanding is somewhat the same too. But, if this is our understanding, then why do we sometimes fail to appreciate the potential of every child? Not every child is competent in the same fields- A child may be more creative, while another might be better at problem solving, while others are natural leaders and others are silent thinkers. The problem is not recognising potential, it is letting potential nurture and grow in the right way into something extraordinary.

I have been living in this very dominant South Asian community and to be honest, the stereotype of South Asian parents is very true in some cases. They expect more than you can give and although my parents are not forcing me to choose a certain career path, but many of my class mates have been influenced by their parents to choose to pursue that in which their potential does not lie. For example, one of my class mates is a very creative person and loves drawing and her parents know of her amazing ability, but just because her parents think that there aren’t many promising careers in the field of the arts (which is not true), she had to choose science subjects for her O’ Levels. By the time her mother realised the mistake she had made when a relative made her think about it, it was too late to turn back and switch subjects. Therefore, her potential which everyone knew of, did not get the opportunity to develop. If it would’ve gotten that opportunity, it would’ve turned out to be something exceptional in the future.

Potential comes in every form imaginable. In sports, academics, public speaking, creativity, technology, writing, etc.

Bill Gates had a great potential in mathematics. Math is important because it shares with programming the same modes of thinking. From his potential in mathematics, he developed and nurtured into the world of computer programming and today, he is the wealthiest man on the planet. It all started off in his school’s computer lab which had a microcomputer (which were rare in schools in his time). During lunch times Bill Gates learned to programme. He started with noughts and crosses but eventually they grew to include a Basic interpreter for the machine. No one taught him to programme, he learnt and developed his own potential by himself. Today, he owns the largest computer software company in the world and through the money he makes, he also helps other underprivileged people develop their potentials through his foundation- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Potential is also usually linked to passion. Most of the time, people love doing that in which their potential lies. Programming is Bill Gates’ passion and he had a potential in maths and what this combination developed into in the future is particularly notable.

Malala Yousafzai, a seventeen year old Pakistani teenager just won the Nobel Peace Prize a few days ago. Doesn’t this just prove the limitless potential every child has? She was being deprived the right to education by the Taliban rule in her hometown and being just a sixteen year old, she spoke out and challenged the Taliban. She could’ve been killed, but she had the passion for education and she stood up for what was right. Her story also proves that potential is not bounded by age either. This is an extraordinary antidote to those who treat children as lesser citizens of the world. Also, education helps nurture potential and is a basic human right. And as Hitler once said, “If freedom is short of weapons, we must compensate with willpower.”

All in all, potential comes in all forms, is not bounded by age or place of residence and is driven by passion. So that proves that every human young or old has potential, every child has potential. All potential deserves to be cultivated, all that is needed is the willpower and determination to develop this potential.

In conclusion, and in connection to the topic quote, it is really all about “carving the angel” and it shall let itself free. The angel being a metaphor for potential and carving being a metaphor for nurturing and development, and then giving it the liberty to discover what extraordinary change it can bring in the world.

“I continue to believe that if children are given the necessary tools to succeed, they will succeed beyond their wildest dreams!”-David Vitter, U.S. senator

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