Education for the Rest of the Planet

A new paradigm of education is emerging before our eyes….one in which teachers play a secondary, support role to learners. Youth around the world hunger for knowledge and to use that knowledge to make their world a better place. Our role is to support, inspire and foster that drive, creativity and energy. The youth can solve the problems of the world if we give them a chance. New education paradigms are structured around the learner, giving them the tools to take control of their own education. Below are some of the people and projects aiming to support youth in these ways.

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Salman Khan single-handedly started a whole new education paradigm by simply drawing and talking. By using the power of free software – a simple drawing program and the ability to record Youtube vidoes, coupled with his skill and knowledge as a naturally gifted teacher, Khan began making one free instructional video after another. Khan leveraged the power of Youtube to reach out to an entire world of learners hungry and waiting for someone just like Khan to deliver  
knowledge in a down-to-earth pedagogic style. As Khan released more and more videos, he gathered a larger and larger following. His videos are now an education staple of Youtube and are  instantly identifiable….the rough colorful realtime handdrawings, his casual voice and the delivery of knowledge as if he were speaking directly to you as a human being.

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Figure 1: Khan Academy Knowledge Map shows learners where they are in their learning network

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Bunker Roy, the founder of Barefoot College has evolved an innovate new way to provide basic services and solutions to rural communities in developing countries. The mission of Barefoot College is to provide basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities, with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable.

The college is unique in that it employs villagers who have no formal education, but a rich trove of practical experience to teach at the college. It  embraces the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and applies his principles in everyday situations. The solutions can be broadly categorized into the delivery of Solar Electrification, Clean Water, Education, Livelihood Development, and Activism. With a geographic focus on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Barefoot College has operated for over 40 years and believes strongly in empowering women as agents of sustainable change.

The knowledge, skills and wisdom found in villages should be used for its development before getting skills from outside

The College has applied rural traditional knowledge and skills to build homes for the homeless, collect rain water in rural schools and community where potable water sources are scarce, as well as to spread socio-economic messages at the grassroot level through puppetry. Only technologies that can be understood and controlled by rural community have been introduced to improve the quality of life of the poor.

Sophisticated technology should be used in rural India, but it should be in the hands and in control of the poor communities so that they are not dependent or exploited

The Barefoot College has demystified technologies and decentralised their uses by transferring the access, control, management and ownership of sophisticated technologies to rural men and women, who can barely read and write. The College believes that even uneducated poor have the right to use technologies to improve their life and skills.

There is a difference between Literacy and Education

The Barefoot College believes that ‘literacy’ is what one acquires in school, but ‘education’ is what one gains from family, traditions, culture, environment and personal experiences. Both are important for individual growth. At the College, everyone is considered an education resource, the teacher as well as the student and the literate as well as illiterate. Therefore, the Barefoot College is a radical departure from the traditional concept of a ‘college’.

Equality of women

The Barefoot College has struggled to train village women, in areas that have traditionally been dominated by men. Since 1972, more than 6,525 unassuming housewives, mothers & grandmothers, midwives, farmers, daily wage labourers and small shopkeepers, who represent the profile of rural women from poor agricultural communities, have been trained as Barefoot midwives, handpump mechanics, solar engineers, artisans, weavers, balsevika (crèche teachers), parabolic solar cooker engineers, FM radio operators and fabricators, dentist, masons, and day and night school teachers. Women who are single mothers, middle-aged, divorced, physically challenged or illiterate are prioritised for training over others because they need the employment opportunity and income the most.

From Barefoot College’s homepage:

The College believes that for any rural development activity to be successful and sustainable, it must be based in the village as well as managed and owned by those whom it serves. Therefore, all Barefoot initiatives whether social, political or economic, are planned and implemented by a network of rural men and women who are known as ‘Barefoot Professionals’.

Rural men and women irrespective of age, who are barely literate or not at all, and have no hope of getting even the lowest government job, are being trained to work as day and night school teachers, doctors, midwives, dentists, health workers, balsevikas, solar engineers, solar cooker engineers, water drillers, hand pump mechanics, architects, artisans, designers, masons, communicators, water testers, phone operators, blacksmiths, carpenters, computer instructors, accountants and kabaad-se-jugaad professionals.

With little guidance, encouragement and space to grow and exhibit their talent and abilities, people who have been considered ‘very ordinary’ and written off by society, are doing extraordinary things that defy description. 

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Global Minimum Inc (GMin) is a non-profit organization founded by friends from Sierra Leone and Denmark who went to high school in Norway.  GMin’s main focus has been to enable locals who create and implement their own solutions to local issues. 

Global Minimum president and founder David Sengeh
 

The Challenge

Identify a local problem and think up a local solution

InChallenge is a program which tasks young people to think about creative ways in which they can solve some of the most challenging issues within their communities. Currently, GMin runs Innovate challenges in Sierra Leone, Kenya, and in Cape Town, South Africa. The Innovate Salone and Innovate Kenya competitions are looking to identify and support innovative solutions to issues within the fields of Health, Energy, Education, Agriculture, Transportation, Telecommunications, Civic Media, and Engineering in a number of Africa countries.

The innovation challenge will encourage and help students create prototypes of their solutions while providing them with capital, mentorship and other resources during the process.

Gmin is not only interested in solutions to big problems. Important change can happen on a small scale, and even the biggest projects begin with small steps. The most important change a country can achieve—something the InChallenge projects look to inspire—is towards a creative and innovative mentality. InChallenge is about doing just that.

How it works

  • Schools in Sierra Leone and Kenya can nominate up to two teams of 3-5 students as finalists for the competition.
  • Up to 5 teams will be selected by an internationally acclaimed panel of judges to receive up to US$ 500 each to develop a prototype of an engineering solution to a well-defined local problem over a 2 month period.
  • The finalists selected along with our InChallenge Action Awards by the judging panel will be funded to further develop their prototypes.
  • Teams will need to provide details of how the prototype will be developed and why they are well suited to accomplish the project.
  • Each team will be assessed based on the recommendation from the school nominating them.
  • At the end of the competition cycle, up to two finalist teams may be selected as winners.
  • Each winning team will receive up to US$ 1,000 to further develop their engineering prototype.
  • Funds can be used towards buying materials and machining costs.
  • The award price is not meant for personal use of team members and must be used only for the project.

Approach

By enabling students with the creative freedom to design their future, Gmin lay the bedrock for national development. This is done  in three ways:

  1. Establish a Platform for Creation through a Competition
  2. Provide Mentorship for Youth
  3. Support the Network of Makers

1.  The InChallenge Competitions are looking to create a system where any young student can dream of an idea, and we provide the platform where these students can make those dreams happen. More specifically, Gmin aim to identify and support local innovative solutions to issues within the fields of Health, Energy, Education, Agriculture, Transportation, Telecommunications, Civic Media, and Engineering. Up to $1,500 can be won by teams of students to build their solutions.

2.  GMin will provide guaranteed mentorship (from professionals at Harvard, MIT, Sierra Leone, Kenya etc) to the teams that apply.

  • All teams that apply will be given detailed feedback about their proposals.
  • Each of the 5-7 teams selected as semifinalists will receive $500 and professional mentors for the two months development period for their first stage prototype. All Semi-Finalists will also participate in a hands-on innovation and entrepreneurship workshop where they receive critical feedback about their work.
  • The 2-3 Finalists will be given up to $1,000 to develop their ideas over the academic year and offered professional mentorship for the competition year.

3  A networking platform will be made available where innovative secondary students can connect with one another as they work on diverse types of projects.

Creativity & Technology

  • InChallenge is a GMin initiative with an aim to nurture and harvest the creative and innovative minds of African learners through design and implementation.
  • InChallenge is dedicated to improving the quality of life through the collaborative integration of scientific, socio-cultural, technological and entrepreneurial innovations.
  • Through networks of businesses, academic institutions, and public private partnerships both within and outside the project countries, InChallenge will continue to support teams with solutions that have the potential to create impact in domains including Health, Energy, Education, Agriculture, Transportation, Telecommunications, Civic Media, and Engineering.

About InChallenge

InChallenge is independently funded by GMin, individuals, public and private institutions. Donated resources help with the organization of the competitions, support and implementation of the best ideas and maintaining a network of innovators and entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa.

Interested sponsors/donors should contact us for further information at info@gmin.org.

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