Banji Sayid speaks to students about overcoming obstacles on his personal educational journey
Unfamiliar stories offer new perspectives to the familiar topic of education. On Wednesday, Nov. 15, Banji Sayid, a young Ugandan lawyer and executive member of the Commonwealth Students’ Association, offered passionate personal insight on the value of education to the Mount Allison community.
Sayid met Mt. A president Robert Campbell last year in Uganda at a conference about student perspectives on modern education. There, Sayid shared his story about overcoming academic obstacles with Campbell, and was invited to come to Mt. A to speak on the topic of access to education as part of International Education Week. Sayid is especially interested in sharing stories and gaining new perspectives on education, saying, “I think humans naturally love to hear other people’s stories.… A narrative is a good way of understanding the world and its people, and you draw some lessons from that.” Sayid used stories as a way to relay the value of education to a small and engaged crowd in the Crabtree Auditorium.
At the talk, Sayid spoke about challenges facing access to education in East Africa. While education is government-funded in Uganda, it is difficult to access because of the conditions of the schools. Sayid told his own story about his struggles to access education, explaining that he had to move from his remote home to a nearby city. Here, he worked in the house of an abusive employer to afford lodging. In one instance, he was found reading the newspapers that were intended to be used as kindling for a fire and was beaten. In another story, he explained that the woman in the household would only agree to let him go to school during the day if he were to work throughout the night. “What kept me going was the goal to be better,” Sayid said. “Education should, ultimately, change who we are.”
After graduating from the public school system, Sayid made his way to the Uganda Christian University, and graduated with a law degree in 2015. Sayid explained that he became a lawyer to help others. “Justice should not be something that is only available to those with money,” he said. “For me, if you acquire an education, it should not be just about you, it should be about helping your community.”
The talk left a lasting impression on some of those who attended. Mt. A student Peter Cooke said, “It was very powerful, as a student who sometimes can be distracted, to be reminded how serious it is to pursue my education and that I have a lot of opportunity here that I really have to take advantage of.” Adam Christie, director of student life and international services, said, “It’s opportunities like this that really give us the opportunity to rethink and learn more about the value of things. When we grow up in a certain context and are surrounded by the familiar, it is often hard to understand what is unfamiliar.… When we have visitors like Banji we have an opportunity to reflect on what’s important to us.” Sayid’s stories delivered the message that education is important and should not be taken lightly. The lessons he shared will continue to inspire students to take advantage of the opportunities provided at the University.