Bright-eyed and charismatic, thirteen-year-old John Mkirindi is known as “a man of the people.” He is as popular with his peers on the playground of the Same Learning Center as he is among the adults in the Center’s office.

“Everyone knows John because he comes into the office every time he attends a tutoring session just to say hello and ask us how we are,” Catherine Wales, Empower Tanzania’s Health Programs Coordinator, says with a smile.

John lives in a suburb of Same Town where he and his family share a single-room home. Their tiny unit is surrounded by seven others, all filled to the brim with families. There is never a private moment, but John embraces the company.

“John is always helping out,” says his mother Salome. “He is always reading with his brother (Daudii) and sister (Nainkwa) and he helps the neighbor kids with their English.”

Why does John choose to spend so much time helping others? John recently told his teacher, Yoeza Mnzava, with tears in his eyes: “We are taught at the Same Learning Center to help others…especially less-privileged people…as a way of paying back to our community.” 

John’s mother Salome and her husband Mkirindi want to provide a better life for their children but are unable to put all three through school because they are unskilled workers who are paid less than $12 a week.

“Because I don’t have an education, I can’t get a job that pays any money,” says Mikirindi, who, like his wife, was unable to attend school as a child or young adult. “There are a lot of people in this situation in Same Town and there is not much work.”

Children in John’s situation have very little chance of graduating from school. In Tanzania, the average person has only 5.11 years schooling and only 35% of secondary school-aged children attend school. However, he was chosen to attend the Same Learning Center, and now dreams of a bright future for he and his family.

“I want to become a doctor,” says John, who is ranked No. 1 in his class in both Swahili and science at Kiwanja Primary School. This dream would be impossible were it not for the support he receives through the Same Learning Center and his incredible attitude and dedication.

“Going to Same Learning Center means he can become whatever he wants to be,” says John’s father, Mkirindi. “If he wants to become a doctor, he can become a doctor. If he wants to become teacher, he can become a teacher. Because he has an education, he can get a job and he can help make life better for his brother and sister.”

This story was reported by Yoeza Mbonea Mnzava, Empower Tanzania’s Education Programs Director, Same, Tanzania.