A LEAP Foundation Update from Karen Gerdes:
In June 2013, I had the chance to visit with the CEO of the Good Work Foundation (GWF), Kate Groch, along with Mo Groch and Linky Nkuna, the GWF program coordinators.
I only had time for a brief visit with Kate before she was off to Scotland for a TED Talk to share the success of the GWF model in rural South Africa. One of the major points of Kate’s talk was that digital education in Africa “no longer has to follow – it can leapfrog” and be a model to help revolutionize education around the world. I believe this is absolutely true and that is why the LEAP Foundation has been such a big supporter of GWF.
While in South Africa, Mo and I taught a “supportive listening” and empathy workshop to the Teen Alcohol and Drug Prevention peer counselors at Madlala High School in Justicia. The village of Justicia lies just outside the boundary of the Sabi Sands where several private game reserves are located, including Londolozi. Madlala High School is a GWF satellite program run by the on-site coordinator Linky Nkuna. Linky – whom you may remember from Chapter 7 of “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World – was born and raised in the area, graduated from Madlala and worked at Londolozi before joining the Good Work Foundation team. Madlala is a typical rural South African school with very few resources and little support from the central government. GWF has provided the school with a computer lab and ongoing classes and programs designed to meet the needs of the students in the school.
Approximately 30% of the children in the school are orphans to AIDS. Other problems the students confront daily include devastating poverty, teen pregnancy, alcohol and drug-related issues, sex trafficking of young girls and domestic violence. However, the students in the school are not defined by these problems, but rather by their resiliency in the face of these distressing social problems. You can see by the smiles on their faces that hope still resides within them. GWF has provided them with resources and programs to help them one-day escape from poverty. They are learning how to create productive and meaningful lives. I left Madlala feeling excited and it renewed my commitment to help these kids in any way that I can.
Our next stop was GWFs Digital Learning Center in Hazyview, which is the largest town near the Sabi Sands area. The Learning Center has state of the art computers and learning technologies. It employs an amazing staff and offers programs for people of all ages. Mo and I interviewed the students participating in the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) program. ICDL is the most successful computer skills certification program in the world. Mo and I were assessing their English skills, academic needs and social support. They have all faced adversity and come out on the other side as thriving and striving human beings. One of the students was horribly disfigured in a fire when she was a young girl. She grew up in an orphanage in Johannesburg but the light in her eyes could provide power to an entire town! Another student, who is only 19, is the head of his household. His mother died in childbirth and he has cared for his sibling ever since. Their stories are all similar; they have overcome huge odds and driven by a passionate desire to learn they found their way to the Digital Learning Center in Hazyview.
The center has also become a second home for many primary students who participate in after school programs at the center. In fact, the center was providing services to AIDS orphans in one local primary school and the principal of the school approached Kate about the progress of his students. He told her he wanted all of his students to participate because the test scores of the students who were already involved in the program were so much higher than the other students in their classes.
I went to South Africa hoping I could make a small contribution while I was there. Instead, I was inspired by the students I interacted with they taught me so much about resiliency and hope. Martha and I want to thank everyone who has generously contributed to the LEAP Foundation. Your dollars have been well spent by the Good Work Foundation. GWF is changing the face of education in South Africa and now they are being used as a model in other parts of the world. I hope you will continue to support the LEAP so that we can continue to help educate the women and children of rural South Africa!
The Momentum is Gathering! A GWF Update
Check out this recent article based on an interview with Principal Cecilia Sambo, the first principal from a low-income, rural school to formally outsource learning to Hazyview’s Open Learning Academy.