Learning to Dream

Nokothula is 10 years old and is top of her class in reading and writing. I met her yesterday at Mooiplaas in South Africa. This informal settlement of shack-dwellers has high unemployment and Nokothula’s class meets just a few metres from a rubbish dump where adults scavenge recyclable materials to sell on for a few Rand.



Nokothula’s ‘school’ is no ordinary school however. It is a literacy and numeracy class run by Open Schools Worldwide (OSWW) in the Ditshego Centre, a Methodist initiative for the people of Mooiplaas. OSWW trains local volunteers to teach a specially designed course for out-of-school children. If a child attends regularly they can come up to Grade 3 level (equivalent of P3/4) and then feed into the local school. Further support makes their completion of primary school much more likely. Children do not attend or are unable to attend school for all sorts of reasons but most can be traced to the curse of poverty.

My meeting came on the same day that UNESCO was reported saying that global pledges to provide education for all young people had little chance of being achieved, with “virtually no progress” in recent years. This is according to annual figures from the United Nations. Globally, there are currently 264 million children without access to school. The UN states that wider access to education would radically reduce poverty and improve security. It is vital in improving the health, economy and stability of some of the world’s poorest countries and yet almost 1 in 10 children do not have access to even primary education. Progress in earlier years has stagnated.

The worst out-of-school rates are in sub-Saharan Africa where 21% of primary-age children and 36% of young teenagers are missing out on school. About 61 million children miss out on primary education.

The UN study says that if all adults could complete secondary education, the economic benefits would lift 420 million out of poverty, reducing by two-thirds the numbers in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa an South Asia. For 25 years, world leaders have repeatedly missed internationally agreed targets. The current aim is to achieve universal primary education by 2030 but these statistics are sobering. Indeed current trends suggest that children will be missing out on school for generations. Also, girls are disproportionately represented.

Jeanette teaching

Jeanette teaching

At Mooiplaas, voluntary teacher, Jeanette Letele, says that Nokothula’s family came down from Zimbabwe in January. She could not read or write. Now she is top of her class and helps other children. Nokothula enjoys playing netball at the weekends and now likes to read stories. And what does she wish to be? A teacher of course. I hope that she achieves her dream. At least she now has the opportunity to go further in her education along with 150 other children who attend the morning classes and afternoon support at the ‘homework clubs’.

The UN report is indeed depressing but thank goodness that WDR partner, Open Schools Worldwide is making a dent in that statistic as 500 volunteers teach the literacy and numeracy programme to over 4,000 children in Southern Africa.

An innovative approach to a huge problem that some, it would seem, have given up on.

Transforming Communication in Global Development

Christian Aid Country Manager for Bolivia, Emma Donlan, describes how digital tools such as WhatsApp are transforming communication between Christian Aid staff,  partners and the communities in which we work. WDR partners with Soluciones Practicas (Bolivia) through Christian Aid Ireland. 

Digital communication tools, such as the messaging app Whatsapp, are transforming the way that we work in Bolivia, and how we relate to the stakeholders and communities with which we work.

Our partners have equipped families living in the Amazon with solar ovens to decrease dependency on firewood for cooking.

Using the solar ovens not only decreases deforestation but reduces the likelihood of children developing respiratory diseases from the burning of fossil fuels in their small homes.

Just last week, I received a Whatsapp message from Damaris, a lady who works in one of the indigenous communities in the Amazon.

She sent me photographs of the lunch that she was cooking for her family in one of our solar ovens with a message saying ‘Today we’re having chicken soup’.

The photos show her three children standing right next to their solar oven:

The children with the new solar oven

The children with the new solar oven

This is wonderful because it gives us an opportunity to have direct communication with beneficiaries in real-time.

With the click of a button I can send those images on to organisations who are funding our partners in this work, or  to colleagues so they can be used as a resource when they speak with supporters.


Digital communications allow us to close the gap between communities in the global north and the global south.

We no longer act as an intermediary, but rather a facilitator of communication and solidarity.


Photos courtesy of Emma Donlan