My experience in Zambia has been the most amazing experience of my life. I learned so much more about development than I ever could have from books, articles and lectures. I learned what it feels like to live in a completely different environment for a while, and what this does to one’s perception of reality. Before moving to Zambia for 6 months, I raised money for the project I was going to do. With this money, my partner Mabulani and I set up an eco layer farm for the local school in Siansowa, together with pupils, teachers and other members of the local community. We did this after interviewing several people, and holding community meetings to discuss the possibilities for a new project. I believed – and still believe – that this type of bottom-up development was the best way to help people out of poverty. However, along the way I also realized that the people that we intend to help out of poverty are also perfectly capable of doing this themselves, if they get the opportunity to do so. I disagree with a discourse that renders people in developing countries helpless. I believe in empowering people and leveling out the playing field so that they get the opportunity to create the life they want to live. This is a freedom that everybody should have.
A very important way of enhancing capabilities and freedom – Amartya Sen’s idea of development – is by creating opportunities for education. In the words of Sen: “illiteracy muffles the political voice and leads to insecurity”. Even basic levels of education can “help with health policy”, “stimulate an interest in human rights” and make people more aware of their legal rights. Educational backwardness can be “a key reason for lack of development” (Interview, 2017) . The Amartya Foundation will thus start focussing on sponsoring both adults and children who cannot pay for school fees themselves. We will do this through a scheme that keeps ownership with the students. How do we do this? Read all about it on www.amartya.nl/sponsorships.