Boyd Varty: A Short Story on What We Have Learnt from a 9-Year-Old South African Avatar

It’s amazing how quickly you get used to what you’re comfortable with.

Isn’t it ironic, for example, that Good Work Foundation (GWF) celebrates being a “digital-everything” organisation, and yet our team was a little nervous about online crowdfunding?


Apart from the novelty of it (we’re so used to filling in pages-long hardcopy applications), it’s probably because an online campaign is so visible: your progress and your result are up for the world to see.

What if you don’t make your goal?

Being pioneers at heart, our team at GWF decided to go ahead. The dream was that the campaign would go viral, that our vision would become an Internet hit, and that we would raise enough money to deliver “open” learning and digital, gamified educational content to ten rural schools for an entire year.

I have to say that the dream got the better of us and we took some risks.

Like spending money to create an online avatar, Karabo, a nine-year-old rural South African schoolgirl who shares her story on how she is able to access digital literacy in a remote village, and how that access has changed her relationship with education. I’d recommend you meet Karabo here, if you haven’t already (she’s a character!).


Karabo (far right) under the Digital Tree of Knowledge with her schoolmates from Tfolinhlanhla Primary School.

We also set our target high.

$250,000 high, in fact. And we only had six weeks to achieve that. We knew that $250,000 could reach ten schools and 10,000 rural schoolchildren for a year, and, at $25 per schoolchild per year, we saw that as a small price to pay for a new way of learning (click here to read the results of the Open Learning movement so far).

So what was the result? Let’s be clear, with our crowdfunding campaign, we did not meet our $250,000 target.

The reality is that we made just under $13,000 online and $12,000 offline. A total of $25,000. That’s enough to fund one school for an entire year.

But while our attention was trained on the online crowdfunding “meter”, Karabo, our online avatar and the star of our Open Learning movement, had been seen beyond our chosen crowdfunding platform, and we are thrilled to share the news that a South African corporate has agreed to support six more schools.

And last week, it was confirmed that an individual donor from the USA – who has always believed in reinventing “how” we learn – is going to support one more.

The result?

For Good Work Foundation’s Hazyview Digital Learning Campus, that’s eight schools done. Two to go.


The “hub and satellite” Open Learning model.

Once again, we learn that courage and determination go a long way, no matter where you’re from.

Just because we’re out in the bush doesn’t mean that we can’t bring Karabo to life online, creating an online avatar and video that can inspire people from around the world.

Just because we’re out in the bush, doesn’t mean that we can’t push ourselves beyond the paper application and into a new and exciting place of virtual story-sharing and fundraising … #JustDoIt.

Just because we’re out in the bush, doesn’t mean that we can’t be at the forefront of a group of international voices asking “What is a school, and how do we reinvent it for the 21st century?”

Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn from a nine-year-old schoolgirl!

To all of our Londolozi and GWF friends and ambassadors who put so much support behind Karabo, the Open Learning Movement and our first crowdfunding campaign, thank you for believing in our team and funding a new way of learning for rural South Africa.

Two schools to go. Karabo and I better get back to work!

P.S – Rumour has it that, in July, Karabo is staging a digital coup on the GWF Facebook page.

Written by Boyd Varty, a Good Work Foundation Trustee