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

22 comments on “Learn, Nurture and Grow: every child has potential

  1. Noorin Fazal  on

    Well written, Inaara! You really got me thinking – with a growth mindset, we can nurture our potential at any age. I agree that the earlier we recognize our potential, the better; this way, we can build up our 10,000 hours of practice to become experts (read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink). However, I would also argue that we are never too old and it is never too late to harness our passion and potential to contribute to a better world. Thank you so much for inspiring this train of thought in me – I can’t wait to read more of your posts. 

    • Inaara Gangji  on

      Thank you everyone for your kind words and praises! I’m glad you all were impressed. 
      Ms. Noorin, I agree and I guess I’m just very much inspired by your lessons. And if you remember, these mindsets are exactly what I talk about in my Editor’s note! I’m glad I inspired your thoughts but how much you inspired my thoughts is unimaginable 🙂

  2. Boniface muthini on

    i like your quote it has inspired me alot because i grew up in childrens home and from point of view my relatives chased me away because i wanted to learn and they wanted to be warking at home.This is a good article inaara

    • Inaara Gangji  on

      Inaara Gangji 

      Thank you all for your comments! 

      Mwalimu Aziz, it was my pleasure and my experience at GE has inspired this work a lot. Thank you and the entire GE team for working so hard to make this Summer so memorable. 

      Boniface, I’m glad you could relate to this and actually most of the ideas here have been inspired by my experience teaching and working at Children’s Garden Home! I’m sorry to hear your story but I’m glad you found the home and kept following your dreams! 🙂 

  3. Stephen Olukor on

    Dear Inaara, 

    This is a good article from a fifteen year old like you. I am impressed by the fact that you passionately believe that education can unlock the potential in every youngster. 

    Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Let all the young people in the developing world realize their potential. Good piece. 

  4. Saliha Dawood on

    Inara, this was a truly inspirational article!!! I believe it is a pathway to motivate most of us 🙂 Very well done 🙂 

  5. Nizar Gangji  on

    “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” -Confucius 

    Great food for thought! 

    I’m so proud of you 

    Keep going and make your Father even prouder! 

  6. Mumtaz Gangji on

    This is some great work and you never fail to make me proud. 
    Recognizing potential is crucial for the growth of any human being and appreciating it is even more important. 
    I agree with Ms. Noorin and how a growth mindset is the way forward! 
    Keep going 🙂

  7. Inaara Gangji  on

    Thank you for your kind words Isbah, Mr.Anup, Asad, Vasila, Rafael and Vanessa. 
    I’m so thankful that my international GE family is taking the time to read this! It’s great to get feedback from all over the world 🙂 
    Most of all, thanks Mom and Dad; you two are my inspiration always and forever.


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