My Inspirational Teacher: by A World at School co-founder Sarah Brown

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post on September 24, 2012.

I have often said that you can’t define a woman by just one point in her life. I have had periods as a full-time mum, a writer, a campaigner, a charity boss and even a pretend Olympian. But perhaps the most difficult job I have had was building and running a business.

The thing I learnt most from it (and it’s a lesson business leaders from Duncan Bannatyne to Martha Lane Fox keep reminding me about) is that most booming businesses succeed because of the talents of their people. If the staff you employ aren’t able to gather the right information and solve problems quickly, even the best ideas will fail. Ambitious companies need talented workers, so it isn’t a surprise to me that business chiefs are among the world’s most passionate campaigners for education.

By uniting corporate leaders from across sectors and across continents, the new Global Business Coalition for Education aims to amplify their voices and bring the dynamism of the private sector to bear on one of the great public policy challenges of our times.

We have already organised successful delegations to Brussels and Addis Ababa and are looking forward to participating in the launch of the UN Education First initiative at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.

Our membership is growing all the time but you don’t need to run a business to be involved. Individual supporters can follow us on Twitter or check the home page of our new website for regular news.

Securing education for all is going to mean bridging old divides between the private, public and not for profit worlds. No one sector can meet the Millennium Development Goals on its own and I’m delighted to have the support of business leaders who recognise that the road to jobs and justice starts in the classroom.

As some of these leaders join forces this week to launch the Coalition, we were invited by The Huffington Post to share just why they believe education for every child is a right — and why business has a big role to play in achieving school places for the 61 million children worldwide who receive no formal education.

So the heads of some of the mightiest global corporations including Carlos Slim of Grupo Carso, Bill Green of Accenture and Dominic Barton of McKinsey, will be posting their personal memories of school days, highlighting their first steps on the road to success, and sharing their passion for finding every girl and boy in the world a place at school today.

For my part I started off at the Arusha School in northern Tanzania, where my mum ran her own English/Kiswahili nursery school, and my dad worked in educational publishing. The lifestyle was a mix of the ex-pat world and integration with local Tanzanians, which feels part of a long-gone era when this wonderful country was newly independent.

Years later I finished my schooling at Acland Burghley school in North London, which is where I encountered Joe Kusner, my inspirational art teacher. When we first met, I was determined that although I could appreciate art, I was no good at it myself. But Joe persuaded me that if I focused only on academic subjects, I was missing out on a lot. I can still remember his quiet words, and the feeling of humility at my arrogance in dismissing something simply because I didn’t happen to be good at it.

The art room was literally the heart of the school. It had such warmth and energy. There we learned to open our eyes to enjoying art, drama, music and dancing. Even though I later went on to work in business, it was in the area of promoting the arts that I made my mark. It was no surprise that when I tracked down Joe many years later, he had received an award from the Queen in recognition for his achievements as a teacher. Education is about reading and writing, but it is also about art and drama and sport and personal development. As a world — at the United Nations — we made a promise to educate every child. We need to keep it.

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