Poverty is a complicated issue, deciding to help those it affects is not
Before Future Academy arrived, Akram (aged 13) had never been to school. He knew three English words: hello, yes and Neymar. Akram quickly became our keenest student: first to arrive and last to leave, clutching his homework. He loves word searches, writing on the board and homework. Akram is nearly double the age of some of his classmates but he’s not bothered – in fact, the opposite – he’s appointed himself as an unofficial mentor for the younger students.
One year later he’s holding a list of some of the many words he’s learnt; he also knows Neymar is a proper noun and doesn’t really count as English vocabulary! Akram is still the first to arrive and the last to leave; he loves school.
Then one Monday, Akram missed his first class ever. He still hadn’t returned to class by Friday, so we searched for him. We discovered he’d got a job to help support his family; he was working in a clothes shop seven days a week, so he couldn’t come to school anymore. Sadly this is the reality for some of our children; we can choose to accept it or we can fight. At Future Academy we fight: before every lesson Chris delivers worksheets and materials to the shop where, in between customers, Akram completes his worksheets and word searches. Akram is a resourceful teenager and is desperate to come to school. Sometimes he is able to take a break or can find someone to cover for him; on these occasions he is now the last to arrive at school (out of breath, because he has run all the way) and first to leave – but still clutching his homework. Difficult situations require different solutions: our after school club has become a lifeline to Akram and others like him, as he is able to continue his education after work.