School in a Bag

Posted in OLD The Archive

School in a Bag

Here's an equation to ponder:
1 radio + 1 volunteer + 1 dusty piece of land = 40 changed lives.

Imagine multiplying that equation by factor of 100?
100 radios + 100 volunteers + 100 dusty pieces of land = 4000 changed lives!

What about multiplying it by 1000, or 10,000!? That's what is happening in Africa. TWR-Africa, in partnership with Open Schools Worldwide1, and in collaboration with local authorities and schools, is planting Open Schools Audio (OSA) all over South Africa so that marginalised children can be given an opportunity to learn how to read and write.

An Open School is a place for marginalised children who have missed out on a basic education. They may have been abandoned, trafficked, orphaned, or impoverished, and so they've missed out on basic literacy, numeracy and life skills training. Open Schools exists to give them what they never had: an education. All it takes is a committed volunteer who loves working with children to facilitate a learning session - anywhere, anytime.

At an Open School, a volunteer tutor and the children gather around a radio or a windup MP3 player2 and go through a specially developed numeracy and literacy workbook. The advantage of the radio is that there is a common pronunciation for all the children. Also, the volunteer tutor can take the radio to any village along with the workbook, without the main tutor having to be present.

Recently, two TWR colleagues, along with their Open Schools Worldwide counterparts, went to visit an Open School in Hammanskraal, South Africa. They went to see what one volunteer, Maria, is doing with the little that she has. Their discovery? She is doing a lot! Her small contribution is changing the destinies of 40 young children just by using a dusty piece of ground next to her corrugated iron house.

The 40 children are split into their different age groups and come to the Open School at 15:30 on their scheduled days. Then Maria takes them through a series of lessons for the day, using specially designed workbooks. The purpose? To enable younger children to get back into the education system and to equip older children to enter the work place.

Part of the visit to Hammanskraal was to put up a simple structure to protect the children from the weather. Looking at the wooden pole and tarpaulin covering, Maria said,"The children are going to love it!"

Arrie Keith, an intern with the TWR Africa Regional Office, reflects on the day at Hammanskraal, saying, "My biggest impression was just, 'Wow!'. This woman has nothing, yet she's investing her life into these children so that they can have a better future. It's incredible." Maria isn't making excuses, she's getting stuck in and making a difference with what time and resources she has.

Currently, there are several Open Schools in South Africa, reaching out to marginalised children at risk. Please pray for more volunteers to come forward so that many more children's lives will be impacted.



Published: 29 July 2010
Maria is an Open Schools volunteer  
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