Mussa Ramadhani is a 19 year-old Form Six student at Tambaza High School in Dar es Salaam. With a spirited personality, he is a dream of a student for every teacher. Whenever there is a task to do; his teacher would refer to him. When the school participated in the Marathon in Dar es Salaam, he would make sure that everybody is around when the pictures were taken. And when a journalist comes to Tambaza High School, it is up to him to show the visitor the class rooms.
Mussa is full of energy to make the world a better place. On his birthday last year, 6th of February, he created the organization “Youth Inspiration Team”. Together with about 50 peers who joined the organisation, he aims to inspire other young folks to succeed in their life. “Our main goal is to show the African youth that they can accomplish whatever they want if only they believe in themselves,” Mussa says. He sees too many young fellows giving up too quickly, because they lack of self-confidence.
“Our team wants to encourage them to have faith in their personalities and work hard to achieve their dreams.” Mussa and like-minded teenagers would go to different schools and talk about the importance of studying hard, being disciplined and speaking English. They also want to raise awareness for environment protection. Every last Saturday of the month, they convene to clean up public areas such as roundabouts, parks, hospitals or bus stops.
Mussa had not always been that ambitious in his life. In fact, he had to be inspired himself first before he could inspire others. It was in secondary school when a classmate of his received the opportunity to go to the United States for an exchange program. Mussa looked up to him and wanted to achieve the same. “He was something of a model to me,” he says. Mussa realized how important it is to speak proper English to excel in life. He joined the English club at his school where he met like-minded peers once a week to discuss various topics in English. He also joined the United Nations club where they discussed global issues like climate change, poverty or diplomacy, developing skills like public speaking, negotiating and writing essays. As he was the president of the school’s UN club, he was also able to participate at the Model United Nations in Arusha where they simulated the general assembly, trying to find ways to resolve conflicts and tackle worldwide challenges.
Mussa feels privileged because he had all these opportunities, which is also the rationale behind the creation of the “Youth Inspiration Team”. He wants to give others the same chances as he had. “I wanted to share my experiences I was able to gain in these clubs,” he says. Sharing is something this young man likes to talk about. It surfaces regularly when he talks about this motivation. “Helping someone excites me,” he tries to explain. He says he feels uneasy when he sees someone struggling, while he has the key to the solution. And in some way, he will finally also benefit from sharing his knowledge. “By constantly creating a good environment around me, I will also have the means to move forward,” he says.
Mussa doesn’t even try to hide his ambitions. He talks about his goal of being a leader, doing something huge. “I want to make a difference in the world”, he says. In order to accomplish this undertaking, he is willing to work hard. Whereas other teenagers start going out, drinking beer and taking drugs when coming of age, Mussa abstains from these temptations. “This is not appropriate for me,” he says in a serious tone, adding, “I neither have the time nor the interest for these activities.” When asked if he has a girlfriend, he answers accordingly; “A girlfriend takes a lot of time; I focus on studying right now.”
This might sound a bit odd, and Mussa wouldn’t be the first model student that gets bullied by his classmates based out of envy. But Mussa doesn’t come across as a geek. His school mates in the class room seem to be eager to talk to him. When asked, they speak well about him. Mussa says he has never been mobbed for striving so hard. “I am always in a good mood and make other people laugh, this probably helps,” he says. It certainly also helped that he hadn’t been overly ambitious when he went to primary school, he adds.
Mussa’s hunger for success was not predetermined since he doesn’t originate from a privileged family. He grew up in Dar es Salaam in a very modest household. His mother didn’t make it further than primary school and has no professional training. His father left the family when Mussa was young. He is emotionally very attached to his mother. “She means everything to me,” he says.
On weekends he helps her to produce ice cubes for the water vendors on the street. He is grateful to her that she allows him to study despite her meager income. “Money is very tight in our household,” he says. The family does everything to keep the expenses down, to give Mussa the chance to study.
In the future, things should be better. Mussa will finish High School next year, presumably with good grades. Then he wants to go to university. Having focused on physics, geography and mathematics, engineering would be an obvious choice, he says. He is especially interested in aviation. But he is not sure yet, because there is also this other thought. “I always had the dream of being president of Tanzania,” he says. This would give him the opportunity to have a big impact in other’s lives and thereby improve the society. Mussa is reasonable enough to see that this is a job ambition that is filled with uncertainties. But he still has this thought in his mind. And didn’t President John Magufuli also study science in his youth?
The first thing Mussa would change in Tanzania is the educational system. “Today there are way too many students that drop out of school prematurely and thereby losing their self-confidence,” he says. Many of these people will find themselves unemployed. Mussa sees a lot of wasted talent. He wants them to stay longer in school and even those who drop out earlier should cherish what they have learned, he says. “Even after leaving school they should try to build upon their knowledge they have received,” he advises.
In the meantime, Mussa and his like-minded friends will do their best to inspire their compatriots to work hard and make it further than primary school. Right now, “Youth Inspiration Team” is seeking an official registration as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). This would allow the organization to step up their efforts. The public registration proves to be complicated though. Mussa is nonetheless optimistic that the organization will have an official status by the time he will have finished high school. Stating one of his guiding lines, he says: “Always be positive. Think of succeeding and not of failing, because the moment you say to yourself you can’t do it, you won’t do it.”