Robby Kangwa remembers the exact moment he decided to become a teacher. But what unfolded was not just a career of teaching, but a life dedicated to creating more opportunities for children in his community to gain quality education. He did it as a teacher, then in civil service, and eventually as the Education Coordinator for Alliance for Children Everywhere (ACE).

Born in a small town outside of Kitwe, Zambia in 1952, Kangwa was one of the lucky ones. His family managed to scrape together just enough resources to send him and his brothers to school. But it wasn’t easy, he says. He and his brothers at times were split up and sent to live with different family members, just to make it work.

Kangwa was in secondary school, when he and his friend came across a young girl one day. She was maybe in third or fourth grade and was carrying a math book. Kangwa asked if he could see her book.

“I was impressed,” he says. “What they were teaching in that book was totally different from the books I was using.” Instead of rote memorization, that young girl was learning how to solve simple equations, including basic algebra.

“That’s when I just made up my mind that I wanted to become a teacher so that I could teach mathematics,” says Kangwa.

At first, he just wanted to teach primary school, because he always pictured in his mind that small girl he met with the math book. But by 1998, Kangwa was serving as a head teacher – or principal, as we call it in the U.S. – first at one school near Lusaka, then another. It was around that time, in 2000, that the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Lusaka also approached ACE about starting an education program. Up until that point, their work was focused on child welfare services, particularly for “children in distress,” as Kangwa puts it.

Read the full article about Robby Kangwa by Joanne Lu at Global Washington.