• Scarlett Aylen

Oxford material, but he won’t ever get the chance.

Updated: Oct 22, 2018

It broke my heart. A 13 year old. So intelligent and full of inquisitive questions. This boy, however. He was not going to fulfil his obvious shining potential. Why? He lives in Ghana. A place he does not have the opportunity to do what I did, that I did not even think twice about: I applied to study at the University of Oxford. I took it for granted. How I could just apply to the most prestigious institution in the world. I sat there clicking away, filling in my application on my laptop.

This boy, sat in Ghana. Sat a literal thousand miles closer to me than hopping across the pond to the US. If he even knew about the chance to apply to a university like Oxford, like I did. It would be near impossible. He just doesn‘t have the resources... or even the education, or help available to him to apply, let alone the thought of actually going to study somewhere like that . It made me feel incredibly fortunate for even having the opportunity to fill in a university application for Oxford and even have the chance to go to any top ranking university at all.

I was sitting in a large airey room. It was hot but the fans on the ceiling were rumbling above us, as they have been doing for the past hour. Below them we sat in two circles. Each circle composing of four volunteers from a multitude of developed countries: the United States, Canada, England and Scotland.

I sat in the circle with my fellow volunteers, surrounded by intersted faces of children in a large Protestant church lead building in the middle of Accra, Ghana. A less developed country only a six hour flight from London’s bustling streets. Closer to me than New York City.

When it was my turn to act as the wise owl sent from the developed world to help the children of Africa, like suggested in all promotional videos on the television, I sat and I asked the young ladies and gentlemen what they knew about FGM.

This particular group of children were clearly educated to a certain extent when they answered me, but I was already internally aware from the way they were clothed that not one of them were living in slums, like other children I had met. They knew what FGM was- Female Genital Mutilation - but when I asked them what they could do to stop it, the circle went silent. I had found the gap in their education.

We spent a long time talking to the group about how they can ask for help from their communities. Yet they came back with the same negative responses revolving around the idea that nothing will ever change in Ghana. Somehow, after I had managed to fit in my important information to teach them about getting help if they are worried for a friend that might be at risk, a select two young men kept raising their hands to ask me questions. The conversation soon enough steered away from FGM specifically, and onto human rights and the differences between life in Ghana and life in the U.K.

The leaders managed to calm the intense discussion within our circle, and asked us all to form a large circle. In this larger circle, these boys yet again showed me their inquisitiveness and we had another very in depth discussion, practically continuing right where we left off- they clearly hadn’t finished with what they wanted to tell us! The specific young boy this post title about, was speaking with incredible knowledge of the problems Ghana has- with its human rights issues- acknowledging that there was a giant hole in awareness of pronlems such as tradition, leading on again from FGM. This young man went on to explain, with the help of the other young person, that it was all very well having people come in to discuss education with them all, but that they go home to their parents and their parents think it is all a lie, and do not believe what the children are uttering about that they learnt, simply because of the adults aren’t educated as well, they aren’t going to understand either.

Ghana has a very traditional unwritten law to respect your elders. However fantastic and respectful this rule is all around the world, it just doesn’t take into account that the children of today are the elders of tomorrow. These children had it so set in their heads that they were unable to make a difference. They explained that the older students at school made them clean, and when they reached that age at school, they would make the younger children do the same. I was horrified that the reason they said they would do that is just because they want to ‘get back‘ at them. It upset me that they knew it was a horrible thing to force younger children to clean the school and stay late, but it upset me even more that they believed in taking out their upset for one group of people on another group. Not fogetting that this second group are a whole lot younger than them and unable to defend themseves as much. I tried to get it into them that’s for change to happen it needs a generation to make it. The debate ended with them thinking about this theory intensely.

I will never forget the intelligence that this young man showed. It would surprise me if you haven’t heard the common quote that ‘the person that can figute the cure for cancer is living in a slum and will never get the chance’. Sitting in this room, in the middle of a country that the quote is talking about, I realised how incredibly true this was. This young man, only a thirteen year old. Yes he may have had more money than some in Ghana, but at the end of the day, Ghana certainly doesn’t have good universities with future British government officials and company directors in the making, as the education system just isn’t established enough, and the money he does have in Ghana, certainly won’t allow him to move to the U.K. for his education.

I know for certain that this boy was destined for amazing things. He really was. I actually regularly think about think about him, and it makes me want to do more and more to help. I am glad that I am doing what I am now, because one day I want to help these people, like him, that are going to be the next nobel prize winners for scientific research, even more than I am trying to do now.

It was quite a while ago that this day occured in time, which is why I am unable to recall the exact details. That itself has taught me that when I learn incredible things such as this, to always write it down, if not, take it further, because in the future I could help be the change.

My advice to you is to remember this story and what people say about those people locked in poverty that could hold ingeniouity, and if you come across someone, like this young man. Think about what you could do to help them fulfil their potential. And most importantly, try to act on your thoughts. And remember how fortunate we are in the United Kingdom and countries alike, to simply apply to a university of our choosing, including the most prestigious and world renowned ones. Sitting right on our doorstep, but impossible for most.


Recovering Confidence After Scoliosis surgery is a new not for profit organisation, founded by Scarlett Aylen in 2018.

 2018 Recovering Confidence After Scoliosis Surgery RCASs. Scarlett Aylen. The United Kingdom.