by Shafaat Abubakar Ukishima
Harvard Graduate School of Education Education Policy and Analysis
It has been 2 months since I started studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and my experiences so far have been even better than I had imagined. This Fall, I am taking a variety of classes at the Graduate School of Education as well as the School of Government. In my Education Policy class, I am working with a classmate on how to tackle the problem of high teacher attrition in early childhood education post-COVID from the perspective of a policy analyst. In addition, I have the fun opportunity to create a real business venture in my entrepreneurship class. Together with my teammates, we are starting an interior design company called “Space to Be”, which uses Social-Emotional Learning frameworks to design learning spaces for children who have difficulty regulating their emotions and connecting socially with peers and teachers. I am also cross-registering at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government to learn more about why structural transformation has failed in Africa.
To take advantage of all the resources available at Harvard, I joined the Harvard Business School’s Innovation Lab (i-Lab), where I will be working on my co-founded venture (Pendly) with my childhood best friend. The aim of Pendly is to create a network of schools across the world where students who wish to acquire the English language can learn through real-life experiences. My hope is that this project will expose more Japanese students to experiential learning, as many English learners in schools rarely get the chance to use their language skills in real-life scenarios. In schools in Africa, this initiative will be useful for children in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities who lag in their English literacy development.
I also became a board member for the Teachers for Equitable Education Policies (TEEP) student-led organization. The aim of the organization is to collaboratively discuss and create awareness about ways to include teachers in education policy making. In addition to this, I will be working as a student ambassador for the Center of International Development at the Kennedy School, to spread research ideas on development to the world of practice. At Harvard, the real resources have been the people I have met. Even in a classroom with lectures given by world-renowned professors, the importance of taking advantage of the perspectives given by fellow classmates is always emphasized. I have met people from every continent in the world, and while we each have our different backgrounds and interests, we are all connected by the shared vision of making our world a better place.
Aside from all the school-related activities, I have also had the chance to explore Massachusetts, which is really, as many Americans I have met here say, a “watered-down version of New York”. By watered-down, they mean safer, quieter, more student-friendly, slow-paced, and just very homey! In Harvard Square, there are a few Japanese restaurants that serve amazing ramen, so whenever I feel homesick, I just go there. I have a favorite café (Tatte) as well, where I get one of the best cheesecakes. Lastly, I enjoy going to Felipe’s, a super popular spot in the area with great Mexican food and cocktails, where all the Harvard students hang out on the weekends.
I am extremely grateful to Friends of UTokyo (FUTI) for giving me the opportunity to pursue my master’s at Harvard with their financial support. The scholarship has taken a huge burden off me, especially in these times when the Japanese yen is depreciating against the dollar. My wish is that whatever knowledge I gain at Harvard, millions of other children around the world benefit in some way from it. I am excited to continue exploring this space both intellectually and socially!