3 Insights for Education Development in Rural Africa

Kate Groch has been working with grassroots education in rural Africa since 2003, focusing on making a difference in some of this country’s lowest income communities.

I had an interesting question for her:

“In your 12 years of experience, what three insights for education development in rural Africa do you have? In other words – if I was to start my own education project, what would your advice be?”

Kate’s immediate answer was: “get started!” And she meant that seriously. Other than that, here are three insights that she would share, summarized as “the community, the standard, and the curriculum.”

Blowing bubbles

2005: Kate Groch with the children in the karoo.

Spend time in the community

Find a local partner who can assist with connecting you to the correct people. Rural education projects will not survive in isolation. Invite partners and, for the first while, just ASK and LISTEN: let the learners and job needs of the area guide you to what courses or education interventions should be offered.

Create a “world-class” standard

Go after world-class courses, not “basic” or “beginner” or less challenging. Young people in rural areas MUST have access to the same qualifications as people living in Johannesburg, New York, or Hong Kong. It DEFINITELY should not be easier because we are rural.

Don’t depend on “digital” for the curriculum

Don’t wait for an Internet connection: one of the biggest challenges in rural spaces is “the getting of bandwidth”. Many organisations say they will start a programme only once they are online. We have learnt that so much digital education can happen without Internet access or with limited Internet access. Get started. It only takes one modem to download a range of great apps.

Second, make sure you teach holistically. If a young person has had a wobbly start to their education, then an IT qualification is worth nothing without English, basic life skills, and an understanding of self.

Then take a deep breath, jump off the bridge and get started.