Tackling education in developing countries
Waseda’s pioneering spirit becomes the backbone
Freshman year of college was the first time Atsuyoshi heard about social entrepreneurs, people who attempt to solve social issues through business. This influenced him and his friends to start a tuition-free cram school for students living in his hometown of Adachi Ward, Tokyo. To realize this goal, they conducted many trial and errors, trying to convince the ward office for example, but they were unable to come up with a real business plan and ended in failure during the brainstorming process. Although they were somewhat disappointed, they encouraged one another by saying, “this isn’t the end.” This experience later led him to an internship at Grameen Bank, where it all started.
Grameen Bank offers loans for small businesses in low-income communities in Bangladesh. The young entrepreneur became interested after reading about it, and during the summer of his sophomore year, Atsuyoshi went to Bangladesh with friends. While working as an intern, his motivation to officially start a project in partnership with Grameen Bank became higher, and he took a leave of absence in the 2nd semester of university. During the two-and-a-half gap year, Atsuyoshi started e-Education, a project to empower children living in impoverished, rural areas of Bangladesh by providing engaging, educational video content.
“In the beginning,” he said, “there were ongoing problems such as power outages and computer dysfunctions. However, the reason I never gave up was because I truly believed, without any doubt, that perhaps I could bring change to these children lives through something that has never been done before.” To motivate students at e-Education, he organized college tours for the students’ priority schools, taking hints from open campus tours at Waseda. In the first year he started this project, a student was accepted to Dhaka University, the top university in the country. He described this as “a truly inspirational experience.”
Atsuyoshi credits the supportive atmosphere at Waseda for his accomplishments. “The new challenges you face may feel impossible to overcome, but the accepting and nurturing environment at Waseda pushed me to go forward. If you can find one person, a friend or a mentor, you are glad to have met, that alone will make your four years worthy. Let your curiosity and passion run wild and have the courage to dive into whatever you think is your calling.”
Building a skill to involve people through small successes
Atsuyoshi describes himself as” not exactly the leader type,” but it was through his undergraduate experience where he learned how to organize people to take action. From time to time, what he learned in class gave him new ideas. He mentioned that a course on Romanis in Hungary pushed him to start a project there. As he continued on with his mission, there were some Waseda professors along the way who offer help and advice. Whenever something went wrong or he felt frustrated, he would return to his alma mater to rejuvenate himself before going back into the field. Through a series of small success, he became well aware of the importance of taking action and networking with inspiring people.
e-Education, graduate school, and future goals
Atsuyoshi says, “do it if you think something is interesting. Go meet people you’re interested in talking to. It’s from there where a possibility for new ideas exists.” Founded in Bangladesh, e-Education is currently in operation in seven different countries from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. He mentioned that his current personal goals are to expand the organization while obtaining his master’s degree in education in international development from the Institute of Education, University of london. In the future, through his experience and knowledge, Atsuyoshi hopes to dedicate himself in solving educational and income gaps not only in developing countries, but for Japan also.
※The information provided is based on an interview conducted in 2015.