By Margaret Hubbard, Early Childhood Studies Student at the University of Northampton

With God’s grace, I will graduate from the University of Northampton with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Studies, this July. I say that with both certainty and uncertainty. The certainty comes from knowing that I would have successfully completed my 3-year course, and therefore deserve to graduate. The uncertainty comes from not really being able to look forward to anything this past year.

I can’t be the only one who has gotten excited for something that didn’t (couldn’t) happen because of the pandemic. In my case, I have missed out and will miss out on two of the biggest moments of my life so far. One being an in-person graduation, and the second being completing my Erasmus exchange program in The Netherlands. The latter is definitely a story for another day.

For me, the thought of leaving London to study at the University of Northampton was exhilarating. However, first year was a weird year for me. Sometimes it still shocks me that I was actually that student who would come to class 20 minutes late, barely complete any intersession activities and be getting grades as low as a G. I didn’t even know they gave grades that low until that day.

I would never forget the first assignment I submitted. It was a skills audit and a reflective piece about myself. I wrote: “I believe that I’m not fully reflective, self-aware or self-motivated – however, I also believe I have the potential to be.” – Excerpt from my October 2018 essay.

One thing I can say, is that I respect my honesty; I’m grateful to be able to look back and realise how far I’ve come. I’ve gone from a G to A’s; from struggling to write 2,000 words to having way too much to discuss in a 10,000-word dissertation. I have a lot to thank God for.

Now, I AM fully reflective. I AM self-aware. I AM self-motivated.
Most importantly, I am proud.

Speaking of proud, I am a proud Sierra Leonean. Although my country is one of the poorest countries in the world and is still recovering from the decade long civil war starting in 1991, I believe my country has great potential to thrive. Having one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world, I think there is a clear area of underdevelopment – the education system. The most important thing I have learnt at the University of Northampton is that education begins in the early years.

My dissertation journey allowed me to learn so much about my country, myself and my dreams. I found out so many areas in need of investments just by speaking to fourteen early years practitioners and five children in Sierra Leone. I can only imagine how much I would come to discover in my future research.

Ever since I truly believed God’s plan for my life, everything I did somehow brought me closer to fulfilling my calling. It’s like destiny is guiding me to what I need to do - transform the early years education system in Sierra Leone with the introduction of a more creative, play-based curriculum.

You see, throughout my journey, I turn to God for strength and guidance. I always pray that one day Sierra Leoneans will rise as one and help one another, rather than fishing for themselves or asking for international aid agencies to save the day. I tell you, it all begins with educating the people of Sierra leone.

Early years practitioners and caregivers should be educated on the importance of play and creativity for the development of children. Rote learning and formal teaching should be a thing of the past, don’t you think? Adults should be encouraged to be creative and playful pedagogues and carers, providing safe and stimulating environments for young children.

As a result, young children in Sierra Leone should be the human embodiment of creativity and curiosity - discovering and sharing many different ways to learn. Children should be thinkers, dreamers, knowledge-collectors, doers, free, playful and most importantly, children.

We must have UNITY to provide FREEDOM for children who deserve JUSTICE!

Let the children play.

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