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Class of 2018 Present Formidable Virtual Thesis Presentations Under COVID-19

In the week leading up to the 11th annual ALA graduation ceremony, the Class of 2018 presented their final Thesis to the community. Although this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Thesis presentations were completed virtually, the opportunity allowed for a more diverse group of attendees ranging from family members to donors and alumni to engage in meaningful conversation.

The ALA Thesis is composed of three components: 1) Presentation, 2) Discussion and 3) Reflection. The presentation pushes the students to explore an issue using the seven ALA Traits (Africanist, Autodidactic, Entrepreneurial, Ethical, Collaborator, Communicator, Critical Thinker) and share how they have grown as leaders in the past two years. This year, the ALA network had the opportunity to engage with the graduating Class of 2018 as they reflected on their growth as leaders during their own ALA journeys.

Souleymane Diallo (Guinea-Conakry) whose Thesis was selected to be presented to the ALA Board of Trustees engaged with the subject of decolonizing education. His thesis was titled “Reforming the African Education Systems to Overcome the Mental Alienation of the African People“. In his Thesis, Souleymane engaged critically with the renowned Martiniquan psychiatrist and political philosopher, Frantz Fanon, who through his literature explains the need for Africans to decolonize their minds, and not just their land, highlighting the idea that Africans must reject colonized education in order to reclaim and be proud of their individual identities. Through his ALA journey, Souleymane reflected that he was able to engage in a decolonized educational system and even suggested the inclusion of additional authors to improve the focus on Northern Africa in the literature courses.

He has had two articles published by News Decoder and he is currently working on his debut novel titled Double Face {provisional title} on how the African identity has been affected by the ideologies of the West.  Souleymane is hoping to start working remotely for the next few months for the University of Niger before heading off to the University of Rochester where he plans to study Political Science and Business with a minor in Philosophy. He believes that working in education will enable him to shape the minds and ideologies of future generations.

Daisy Chepchirchir Biegon (Kenya) presented her final Thesis on Sex Education in Kenya, an issue to which she has a personal connection.  Through her research, Daisy learned that the African continent has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world, specifically in Sub Saharan Africa. During her first year at ALA, she was told by her mother that two of her teenage cousins had fallen pregnant and had to halt their education. Tragically, girls between 15-19 years old are twice as likely to die in childbirth as women aged 20 and above. Daisy began to question whether a lack of sex education in schools and at home was contributing to the high rate of teenage pregnancy on the continent. Her Thesis engaged in research around this issue and whether sex education is the key to reducing teenage pregnancy rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through her ALA journey, Daisy worked with her peers to establish the award winning student enterprise, CurriSex, which aims to provide comprehensive sex education to young girls in South Africa. Daisy’s conclusion was that when it comes to sex education, knowledge is power. Daisy will be heading a top liberal arts college, Macalester College. After University, she intends to adapt the CurriSex curriculum to fit the Kenyan context, work with schools across the country to provide women with the tools they need to take ownership of their bodies, and measure the impact of a proper sex education in these schools. She sees herself eventually focusing on public policy on the continent in order to ensure sex education is added to national curricula.

Tapiwa Gambura (Zimbabwe) presented her final Thesis virtually to faculty members and her peers titled “Speaking Truth to Power” engaging the question – “What does sustainable, strategic and impactful activism look like on the continent?” Tapiwa, an award-winning filmmaker, is a passionate activist. At ALA and through her leadership journey, she was truly able to find her voice as an activist and “Speak Truth to Power”.

According to Tapiwa, this idea indicates the importance of challenging individuals and institutions in power. In the presentation, Tapiwa identified the problems on the continent with activism and then provided her views on what sustainable activism should look like in Africa. These insights were shared in the form of a makeshift strategy designed by Tapiwa. Her reflection on her ALA journey enabled Tapiwa to share with the community where and how she discovered her voice as an activist. She will continue her education journey in the United States, where she will be attending Barnard College at Columbia University. One day, Tapiwa intends to return to the African continent and combine her interest in the film industry with activism in order to create a female-only film company elevating women and female voices. 

Souleymane, Daisy, and Tapiwa are three members of the graduating class who provided insightful and impressive presentations on systemic issues connected to their journeys of self-discovery and leadership at ALA. As the Class of 2018 continues to pursue their leadership journeys in universities or internships in a field of interest, the search is on for the next exceptional cohort of young leaders to join the Class of 2021.

Do you know any young change-makers in your community?