(The following text has been translated from a French newspaper: http://www.delitfrancais.com/2015/11/28/aaron-sur-le-chemin-de-lecole/)
Aaron Friedland, former fellow floor of the residence Gardner Hall, has just written a book for children,The Walking Schoolbus (Bus works, ed ). He also organized a fundraising campaign to improve access to education in an entrenched community of Uganda. After earning his BA at McGill, Aaron Friedland worked in a research organization in Barbados, and has traveled extensively. He is now in control of economics at the University of British Columbia. Since his apartment in Vancouver, he presented his project during a telephone interview with The Insider .
The Insider (LD): Where was your motivation for the fundraising project and how did you start writing the book?
Aaron Friedland (AF): To be honest, the book came before the project. I started to write the book five years ago while returning from a trip to South Africa and Uganda, where we worked for a humanitarian mission and where we helped build a playground for a community called Abayuda. It is a community whose school teaching mixture of different faiths, including Muslim, Christian and Jewish. The school is located in the village Nabagoya. It's an amazing community. We were direct witnesses of poverty and barriers to development. When the mission came to an end, I thought about the work we had done and I realized that we really enjoyed the experience. The group of people who went there to help received so much more than what he had given. Of course, we have provided the equivalent of several thousand dollars of infrastructure, but we have learned much more in terms of experience. And work was not going to be sustainable in the sense that it could not be maintained over the long term. So when I got home, after talking with all these children walking on incredible distances to go to school, I began to write this book for children.
LD: Did you write the book to raise awareness?
AF: Exactly, when I compare the North American education that I received, with the struggle of the South African and Ugandan students to go to school, there is a glaring inequality. My project was important for two reasons. I wanted to raise money for the children of these communities have access to education. We're trying to raise money to introduce three buses in this community. But I also wanted to make clear to North American students the luxury they enjoy. I wanted them to know that access to education is a chance, without making them feel guilty for all that. Especially they do not forget the privilege they have.
LD: The preview that was the book on the internet site is remarkable. Who designs these illustrations? And who are these two children whose book about?
AF: Of course, the site is only a glimpse of the final work. This is what I did before having the funds to create the book. I decided to make some illustrations. The plan is to work in the future, with designers and Ugandan students. For now, I work with an illustrator I met online, which comes from South Africa.
The two children ... I met many children who could have inspired these two characters. But the truth is that these children are fictitious and represent my vision of all the children I met and their desire to have access to education.
LD: What symbolizes The Walking Schoolbus ? What idea does he represent?
AF: The idea behind the title and the story is to show the experience and the daily struggles of those children, that is to say not only the distance between them and education, but also the dangers that they meet on the way to school. what symbolizes the bus finally, it is this ability of children to unite and fight for the real cause what access to education. At the same time, the bus represents access. When we see the feet of children beyond under the bus, we stop to ask questions. This is actually to represent how these children actually go to school.
LD: What is interesting in your metaphor is that it gives the idea of a genuine social movement across the nation and initiated by children. Do you think that education is really the key to development?
AF: Yes, one hundred percent. Especially from the perspective of someone who is in control of economy. The economic impact of the collaboration between beliefs great interest to me. I think the attacks in Paris and the events of the past month illustrate this idea a lack of education people direct them to extremist ideology. To me, the only real way to reduce these problems is to educate our young people adequately. More than just educate, means they must be given to learn the existence of various beliefs in society. I think the monotheistic schools are not necessarily a bad thing, but I wanted to show that we want to support a type of education that ensures lasting peace and facilitating access to a school that teaches three different beliefs simultaneously . It's beautiful to see how these children cooperate and it is this type of education that I want to support.
LD: In your biography you write that you wrote The Walking Schoolbus because you saw yourself unable to change the past and you were hoping to facilitate a more enlightened future. How do you see the future?
AF: When I see my experience in Uganda and South Africa, and especially the image of apartheid, I think many people have had difficulty accessing education, but there were also people which complement fallen into the cracks. I'm dyslexic, and I have seen many cases where the most educated and talented people fared well, while those who need assistance in their education, like me, did not receive any support.
In India, I have had an example of this injustice when poor children spoke to us in English and we answered them in German for not refusing to give them money all the time, and that children Indians began to talk to us in German. It showed me that the most gifted children, those who can take advantage of the education they receive, succeed much better. But many students who have more trouble with the academic system and require support mechanisms, like myself, are those that are not included in our societies without adequate social services. They are the ones that fall into the system vulnerabilities that are never really able to escape this trap that is poverty. Ensuring access to education, but also concretely improve education itself is my main goal. I'm trying to work with teachers to rework the curriculum and enhance computer learning.
The future for me will be to provide the best possible services for students of the three schools we work with. Working with multi-faith schools, encourage access to education, but also the teaching of tolerance and we wish especially repel religious fundamentalisms.
LD: What about students who want to add their two cents?
AF: Since Tuesday, November 24, students have the opportunity to participate in a contest to accompany us during an all expense paid trip to Uganda. They will have the opportunity to volunteer in the multicultural school and teach English. This is very interesting, from a sustainability point of view but also the opportunity to live an incredible experience. To enter the competition, you must follow two steps: give five dollars to the campaign and then publish a picture of oneself upside on facebook or instagram (or simply an inverted photo), by including the hashtag # TWSBflipaccess2ed and the link campaign in the description.
The approach of Aaron Friedland is an example of the effect that can have a cultural production on sustainable development by raising awareness of privileged people to the problems of others, but also through education that offers book. Education, like Aaron Friedland stated, is the key to a more equitable, sustainable, and promoter of peace. The unifying message of The Walking Schoolbus seems necessary at a time when the divergent beliefs seem to divide people, and where education seems to be the only way to teach respect and tolerance.