Kids Don’t Learn From People They Don’t Like

Last week I watched a TedTalk by Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, about the importance of positive and supportive teachers. She posits that no significant learning can occur without a genuine human connection between student and teacher. Pierson heard a fellow teacher once say, “they don’t pay me to like the kids”. I’m sure we’ve all had teachers like that -- the ones who don’t bother to get to know their students.

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One of the lines that got the biggest audience reaction was her response to that teacher: “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”. This definitely rings true for me. Thinking about my favorite classes in high school and college, they’ve all been taught by teachers and professors who I had a genuine connection with. My favorite professor, Dr. Bent, has taught four of my classes in college. Two of those classes have been my favorite courses I’ve ever taken. Dr. Bent has this way of engaging with her students like I’ve never experienced before. She commands the respect and attention of everyone in her class. She’s funny and is able to relate to us. She feels like a friend and a confidant, but is also one of the most intelligent and captivating people I have ever learned from. I could sit there and listen to her lecture for hours without being bored. I took a Feminist Theory course with her (one of the hardest courses I’ve ever taken) and she made it easy to understand the complex theories. She talks to us about her life and wants to hear about ours. Dr. Bent makes a point to form genuine relationships with all of her students, and that is the mark of a great teacher.

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Pierson says, “Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them. Who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best they can possibly be.” This reminded me of some of the interviews I’ve seen with our teachers in Zambia. When asked what they hope for their students, many of them have said that they hope their students achieve more and have a better life than they have. They say they want more for their students’ futures. They want to see them become doctors, nurses, and even teachers. The connection between these kids and their teachers are special. Teachers have the opportunity to play a huge role in our lives. I hope our kids in Zambia are forming the same bonds with their teachers as I have with mine.

Do you have a favorite teacher or professor that had an impact on your life? Click here to watch the TedTalk!

-Sofia

Remembering Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Earlier this month, the world lost Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid activist, and the former wife of Nelson Mandela.  Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is the lesser known of the Mandelas, of course.  But some would argue that she was the more powerful, though not without controversy.

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She was born in what is now the Eastern Cape province, to two teachers. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international relations, and married Nelson Mandela when she was in her early twenties. Five years after their marriage, he was arrested and jailed, where he remained for the next two and a half decades.

It was during this time that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela became a leading activist in the fight against apartheid and to free her husband. She was often detained, subjected to house arrest, harassed, and held in solitary confinement. She was held in exile, and allowed to leave only to visit her husband on Robben Island.  She was tortured on various occasions. But it was her voice that consistently reminded the world that her husband remained behind bars, and that apartheid was still the rule of law in South Africa.

“They think because they have put my husband on an island that he will be forgotten. They are wrong. The harder they try to silence him, the louder I will become!" – 1962

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When Nelson Mandela was released in 1990, they had spent close to a quarter of a century married but apart. Two years later they separated, and they divorced in 1996.  Winnie Mandela’s involvement in 1980s human rights violations were revealed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established as part of Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid government.  She was dismissed from her post with the ANC amid allegations of corruption, and she was later convicted of theft and fraud. She attempted a return to politics, but continued to be a divisive figure in South Africa.

Winnie Mandela is a reminder always to me – of the humanness of our leaders.  Without her, Nelson Mandela surely would not have become the face of the apartheid movement. It was “Madikizela-Mandela, unbowed, courageous and unyielding, who kept the untethered hope of the people focused and alive during the horrors perpetrated by the apartheid regime.”  And while it might be easy to try and elevate her to some sort of superhuman status because of all that she endured, all that she suffered, and all that she accomplished – it would be unfair. She was, after all, only human, and thus susceptible to moral errors that haunt us all.

“The years of imprisonment hardened me.... Perhaps if you have been given a moment to hold back and wait for the next blow, your emotions wouldn't be blunted as they have been in my case. When it happens every day of your life, when that pain becomes a way of life, I no longer have the emotion of fear. There is no longer anything I can fear. There is nothing the government has not done to me. There isn't any pain I haven't known."

Building Literacy and Academic Potential

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Earlier this year, I wrote about reading and math assessments in a small sample of students in Katete West. While there was much to celebrate, one finding was that some students were still struggling to read and comprehend what they were reading.  In grade 5 in particular, students struggled with English reading since this is the year that the language of instruction switches from Cinyanja (local language) to English.  In order to combat this issue, a literacy initiative is being piloted in two school in Katete West.

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There are a lot of solutions out there, but finding the right ones to fit in this specific context, a small NGO in a rural environment with limited resources, can be tricky. We finally came up with a low-cost option that we think will provide good outcomes -- a literacy boost initiative in two grade five classes. At the outset of the pilot, we discovered that some students struggled to read English, or could read but struggled with comprehension. This is a particular concern because later grades are taught wholly in English. I also learned that some of those struggling students transferred from other schools and had not been with Impact Network for grades 1-4.

One potential reason for low reading scores is that students do not have access to enough materials or time to read at their level to improve their reading fluency.  Additionally these same students may have limited access to literate adults to help develop their reading skills. Thus, in this literacy pilot, students will be reading silently or with a partner for 20 minutes each day after school using reading cards with short English passages grouped by their reading level.

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In order to give students targeted support, guided reading is done once or twice a week by Impact Network staff. The students have been divided according to their reading level – this allows those students with limited reading ability to go back to basics and focus on phonics and use texts at the appropriate level, while other students who are able to read fluently can focus more on comprehension. 

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 We are tweaking the program as we go, but two grade five teachers participating have reported that they have seen some improvements in the students’ reading already! We will be measuring oral reading fluency after the end of the term to determine the level of improvement, but I can say that I have observed students reading more confidently and eagerly. I was expecting some push back and reluctance in having to read every day, but during the guided reading sessions I sat in on, students have been very willing and participate actively.

It has been quite fun so far! When I visit, I walk around to a few students at a time and they are excited to show off what they can read. It is, after all, not their native language. I keep reminding them and their teachers, even in the U.S., where students have access to libraries and so much more, many can’t read in a second language. It is something to be proud of and celebrate!

-Monica 

The Importance of Investment in Education for ALL Children

My father-in-law forwarded me Nicholas Kristof’s most recent Opinion piece in the times – entitled These Kids Could Tutor World Leaders.  It’s a passionate piece about the importance of the investment of education, highlighting the millions of students who are still left out of the education system.

It’s a piece that has been written before, with different words and phrases.  And while reading about various schools in the Central African Republic it felt like I could have been reading about our schools in Zambia.  Kristof writes:

This remote village doesn’t have an official school, and there’s no functioning government to build one. So the villagers, desperate to improve their children’s lives, used branches and leaves to construct their own dirt-floor schoolhouse.

It has no electricity, windows or desks, and it doesn’t keep out rain or beetles, but it does imbue hope, discipline and dreams. The 90 pupils sitting on bamboo benches could tutor world leaders about the importance of education — even if the kids struggle with the most basic challenges.

This was the situation that led Impact Network to start our first school, in Joel Village, a decade ago.  Our communities would come together, provide a volunteer teacher, a space to learn, and whatever resources they could muster.  And as we continued to work in community schools, it’s a situation we’ve faced time and time again – dedication and potential, in some of the toughest conditions I’ve seen. From that first school in Joel we’ve grown to over 40, encompassing 5,000 students just like the 90 in Kristof’s articles.

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Above: One of our early schools that was operating out of a church before we built a new structure.

Perhaps even more telling, is the commitment that our teachers have shown each day, to help their scholars, to improve their own skills, and to enhance the villages that we serve.  On a recent trip to Zambia, I caught Petros in one of the classrooms in Joel on a Saturday.  Petros was one of our first teachers; I remember seeing him teach first graders at Kanyelele Community School on my first trip to Zambia in 2011.  Since then, Petros went on to be the Teacher in Charge at Kanyelele and eventually a Teacher Supervisor for Grades 3-4 across all of Katete West.  This is all to say, Petros doesn’t have classroom responsibilities anymore and he doesn’t teach students directly.  But on this particular Saturday, I happened to walk in and see him with about a dozen first-graders.  When I asked what he was doing, he said that the kids had shown up, and so, he was teaching them.  It was a small thing to him perhaps – but it spoke volumes to me about the commitment that he and his fellow staff members have to our students and parents.

The full article is here:

-Reshma

Reflecting on Micro-Moments from My Trip to Zambia

Greetings from Zambia! About two weeks ago I embarked on my very first trip to Zambia. While here, I am getting a closer look at our program, staff, teachers, and students and it has been very enlightening.  Within my first week, I had the pleasure of reviewing one of our teacher training presentations. This particular training outlined the steps to building a positive learning environment in the classroom. One of the components that really stood out to me and somewhat followed, or rather guided, me through this trip, was “Micro-Moments”. Research has indicated that our memories are based on tiny moments, micro-moments, which generally last a few seconds. These moments are divided into three categories: Positive, Negative and Neutral. We tend to remember the positive and negative and often push the neutral ones to the back of our minds. I will take you through a few of the positive micro-moments of my trip.

Mirco-Moment: Awestruck

6:13 A.M. on a chilly Tuesday morning, I come out of my room to take in the sunrise. And to my surprise, I was stopped in my tracks gazing at an unexpected marvel. As I turn to close my door, I notice one of our students, Pagalani, being wheeled to school by his mother with his two younger siblings sitting in his lap. Once they arrive at our school, the mother, with our security guard’s help, picks up her son and places him on the school steps. Waves and hugs are exchanged between Pagalani and his siblings as they jump into his wheelchair to leave with their mother and Pagalani patiently waits for the school bell to be rung (at 7 A.M. sharp) and learning to commence. The commitment of our students and parents were evident at this moment and motivated me for the rest of the day.

 

Micro-Moment: All Smiles

During my first field visit, I was able to sit in on Mervis, a 1st-grade teacher in Kathangwira, deliver a Cinyanja (local language) lesson to 57 students. After class, the students are in the standing in front of the school, so I decided to take pictures. I take a few group pictures and then I noticed a very stern-faced tiny person. I choose her and a few other friends and ask them to smile in the local language. Little did I know that this four-letter word, “Seka”, would brighten my day and inspire me to smile like the world is watching.

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Mirco-Moment: Teacher Appreciation

After observing a very interactive lesson on counting and utilizing the number line with our 1st graders, Tesila, a teacher supervisor, begins to coach Kennedy, one of our newer 1st-grade teachers. Just as we begin to examine the positives of his lesson, one of his pupils’ returns, holding a gift. This student has returned after dismissal to offer a symbol of gratitude, an ear of roasted corn, for an admittedly great lesson. The student shyly hands off the ear of corn to a deserving Kennedy and runs off giggling.  To see this little girl showing gratitude in the grandest form she knew and watching Kennedy humbly accept this token, truly warmed my heart.

 

Micro-Moment: Welcome Committee

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Mere minutes after I arrived in Joel, I was welcomed by several children who decided to take a break from herding livestock to greet me. They stop what they are doing to stare, then they disappear and I do the same to settle in. About five minutes pass and I hear faint whispers of  “Hello, How are you? I am fine”. Upon hearing this, I take a break from settling in to get to know my new friends. We don’t speak the same language, so we just sit and examine each other with our eyes. To make me more comfortable, I begin to play music to fill the moments between smiles,  awkward silences, and our laughter. We begin to dance and our dance session gets serious so I whip out my phone to capture this moment and my new friends stop in their tracks and run from the front of the camera to my side of the camera… And from there some of the most memorable selfies I have ever taken are snapped.

 
Micro-Moment: Guest of Honor

After a long day at one of our most rural school, we took a detour to conduct an audit on one of our Expansion schools in Mthunya. As we closed out our visit, we were getting ready to leave and the Head Teacher request that we sign the logbook. Naturally, our Operations Manager for this region takes the book and begins to fill out the logbook. The Head Teacher stopped him and asked that I sign the logbook. Completely caught off guard, I ask if he is sure that he wants me to sign the logbook, as I am so used to blending in or at least trying to blend in. He assures me that I should sign because I am the newest visitor. He goes on to say that he has heard about me; I question what he thinks he knows about me, as we have only been there a few minutes. He rattles off a few facts: my name, my heritage (Nigerian) and that I was visiting from another country. I was so surprised. This offered a new and very personal outlook on my presence in Zambia and helped me to see that, try as I might to blend in; my presence is noted and impactful.

Micro-Moment: Exceeding Expectations

My first morning in Joel, I am having breakfast with Felicia, our Implementation Specialist and Monica, our Education Program Intern and we begin to recap my arrival. Felicia informs me that I am not what our staff, particularly what Caroline, one of our School Support Officers, expected. She goes on to explain that Caroline was not expecting to be greeted by “a young, cool, down-to-earth person that she could talk about things like hair and music with”.  While I am not exactly sure what she expected, I am happy that I was able to completely dismantle (and potentially redesign) her expectation of Americans.

 

Micro-Moment: The Looks

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The looks from students as I walk into or past a classroom, past students in the schoolyard or past children in the village. Noticing their eyes being fixated on me; someone who looks like them but seeing that there is something new and different about me. These looks happened throughout my trip and I was able to capture one. This young lady’s gaze (pictured below) was replicated 100 times over on my short stay. It is these glances filled with admiration, wonder, and excitement that will continue to push me in this work.

 
 

 

 

In reflecting on the last three micro-moments I shared, I am reminded of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s  Ted Talk, The danger of one a single story. Chimamanda speaks about differentiating the narrative of a people and the power attached to those stories, how they are delivered and who is delivering them. In these micro-moments, I am the one delivering a new narrative with the simplicity of my presence. By no means do I see myself as a superhero by walking into the communities that we serve as someone who looks like our students, parents, and teachers, but coming from similar heritage as the visiting American, that no one expected, is important! After thinking more deeply about the dangers that Chimamanda examines in her Ted Talk, I am confident that our students’ exposure to a varied narrative is not limited to me, but rather offered to our students on a daily basis. From the interaction with teachers from different backgrounds to reading books about African leaders like Nelson Mandela to using our tablets where their animated learning companion resembles them and speaks their language; our students are definitely receiving more than a single story. It is difficult to know something is possible unless you see it. And we are showing our students (and staff) possibility.

-Chinelo

Meet Sofia, our new Communications Associate Intern in NYC

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Hello !

My name is Sofia, and I’m the new Communications Associate Intern at Impact Network here in the Brooklyn, NY office. I’m going to be helping out with social media, the press list, storytelling, and other communication and administrative needs for the next couple of months! I’m thrilled to have the chance to be a part of this organization. Everyone deserves access to quality education no matter where in the world they live.

I’m originally from a small town in Northeast NJ, but now I live here in the city. I’m currently a senior at Pace University, majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies with a double minor in Peace & Justice Studies and Communications. In addition to going to school full-time, I work part-time at a small locally owned gift shop in the East Village.

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Last spring, I interned at an organization that was looking to end street harassment. I was inspired by their mission to create a world where all humans have the ability to exist in public space without being harassed, regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexuality, or any other aspects of their identity.

Throughout my time at Pace, I have gotten the chance to take some amazing classes that have opened my eyes to injustices both at the national and international level. I learned about girls all over the world in my “The Girl Child: A Global Perspective” course, the ins and outs of nonprofits in “Women and Change in the Nonprofit Sector”, and conflict transformation, humanitarianism, and international reconciliation in my peace and justice courses. One of my favorite and most influential classes I took at Pace was my “Feminist Activism” course. I had the opportunity to create and implement a campaign based on street harassment for an entire semester. Along with the rest of my class, we monitored social media accounts, shared stories of harassment, and posted flyers of harassment statistics all over our school. The campaign culminated in an artivism event, combining art and activism to bring awareness to street harassment in all of its various forms. We had over 100 students attend our event, making it one of the most attended school events of the year.

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I’m currently taking another really exciting course at Pace: “Gender and Human Rights”. The bulk of the class is spent attending the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) for two weeks in March. We will serve as delegates and advocates for specific causes that are most important to us, attending and participating in events. I’m so appreciative to have the opportunity to try my hand at international advocacy and see if it’s something I can see myself doing in the future!

I’m super excited to spend the next few months working at Impact Network! I’m already so inspired by the team, both here in NYC and in Zambia, and all of the work that the staff and teachers are implementing. I’ve only been here two days and I already feel so welcomed. I feel extremely fortunate and lucky to be able to contribute to the work they are doing, even in the smallest of ways!

 

Listen and Take Action for Girls Education

The #MeToo movement, which took the world by storm last year gave women a platform to discuss the abuse or injustices that they have experienced in their lives.  For many young women and girls it has been an opportunity to speak out and demand change.  But which voices are still silent and who do we still need to listen to?

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In rural areas of Zambia, where there is no internet and poor phone connection, linkages to wider social media debates are not possible. These are the areas where girls walk for hours to reach school every day and where periods of both droughts and heavy rains impede on mobility and access to resources.

In Zambia, 27% of females in rural areas have no education compared to 18% of males. A girl is more likely to get married and have a child by the age of 18 than to complete secondary schooling. In fact 86% of pregnancies among school going girls in Zambia occur in rural areas among grade 1-9 girls. 

 

So who is listening to what they have to say?

As adults, parents, policy-makers, managers of NGOs, teachers and defenders of girls’ rights, we often forget or don’t take the time to listen to the young girls around us. The conception that young people are unable express themselves fluently and have opinions about their lives is simply not true. But sometimes we need to ask other questions and be creative in the methods we use to listen actively.  

At Impact Network, we work hard to ensure that children in rural communities have their voices heard and are actively involved in improving school life. Through our work across the Eastern Province in Zambia, with 44 community and government schools, the aim is to ensure that boys and girls alike have access to quality education. We believe that it is through learning and active participation that young people will improve their prospects in life and contribute meaningfully to society.

Through one of our many initiatives to do so, we involve learners in age-appropriate and child-friendly activities in a ‘Student Council’ to participate in decision making. We take the time to truly listen to what girls and boys have to say. In a recent student council meeting, children in grades 1-4 were asked to speak what makes them the most happy in school and to draw accompanying pictures. Many drew pictures of their classrooms, using technology, getting school lunch and interacting with peers. One girl was too shy to speak about her experiences in school but when asked to draw, her pictures spoke for themselves. She drew herself playing football with her friends.

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In rural Zambia, it is rare to see girls playing football as it is often perceived as a boy’s activity and girls are often found on the sidelines. We need more girls to speak up about their passions and we need to listen to them, to ensure that everyone is given the space and opportunity to explore their interests – regardless of their gender.

At Impact Network, we can create safe spaces for girls and boys to discuss issues that matter to them. Through our Life Skills and Sexuality Program, content on growing up, peer pressure, reproductive health and safety are discussed in mixed groups of boys and girls as well as in gender-peer groups, facilitated by a trusted adult. Through the program, young girls and boys are given a forum to openly discuss issues that they face, share experiences and advice, as well as learn new skills that will help them in life.

 

“We are educating children, especially the girl child. With the help of the Life Skills and Sexuality education as part of the curriculum in our schools, we want to help our girls to handle themselves in difficult situations and to get boys to support their peers in different stages of life. Boys should know that they are important in solving the problems. For girls to be free from abuse, we need support from the community,” says Caroline Chibale, a 20-year-old facilitator for the Life Skills and Sexuality program in nine Impact Network schools.

For girls to complete school, there are many other challenges that need addressing. The financial barrier is a very real struggle for many large families in rural communities, and often boys are prioritised by parents to go to school. At Impact Network, schooling is completely free and all associated costs covered.  Removing the financial barrier  is one less challenge that girls need to overcome.

“I was able to complete my secondary school, as I had support from my parents. But there are families who cannot afford to send their girls to school. So many girls drop out because they do not have the financial support from their parents. But the financial status should not prevent girls from becoming who they want to be in life. I want to be a good role model, and I want girls to look up to people to know that they can become whatever they want to be,” says Chibale.

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International Women’s Day is all about celebrating how far the movement for women has come and to acknowledge all of the important work that Impact Network and other organisations are doing for girls. Yet it is also very important to highlight the many challenges that billions of women still face around the world and how much still needs to be done.

At Impact Network we are adamant about listening to what young girls have to say, sharing their stories and more importantly taking action to ensure that girls are not only safe but thriving in school and beyond.

-Felicia

Leave the World Better than you Found it and Other Relections from Gate's Foundation Annual Letter

Each year, I look forward to reading Bill and Melinda Gates’s Annual Letter.  As most people in our field, we follow the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation closely – not because we are always looking for money (although we are!), but because their work drives so much of the work in development and other foundations.  It is the largest foundation in the world, and it’s 50% bigger than the second largest foundation – so it’s focus areas often become focus areas across the globe.

This year, the letter tackled 10 of the toughest questions they receive, and I wanted to highlight a few of the answers (you can read the full letter here: https://www.gatesnotes.com/2018-Annual-Letter).

Why don’t you give more in the United States?

It’s so interesting that this is a question that is asked often – The Gates Foundation spends $500 million a year in the United States (compared to $4 billion in developing countries).  To me, that is a LOT!  The Annual Letter explains that when they first looked at the health field across the globe, it was evident that their resources could save millions of lives if allocated to causes like vaccines in developing countries.

But it also reminds me of a question we often get asked – why Zambia?  While our story has a little bit of insight into our co-founders’ history with Zambia and the Peace Corps, there are other reasons too!  For one, Zambia has had a relatively peaceful history – under the 2017 Global Peace Index, Zambia is one of only 8 African nations to receive a High State of Peace rating (http://visionofhumanity.org/indexes/global-peace-index/). The country has avoided a civil war, even after transitions of power post-independence.  And the people – as I have learned – are uncharacteristically friendly.  The feeling when you reach Joel village is one of good will – amidst children screaming “How are you”, you’ll often find women eager to greet you, grandmothers wanting to shake your hand, and shopkeepers asking you if you’d like a cola. 

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And furthermore, a dollar goes an incredibly long way in Zambia.  It costs our team in Zambia just $40 a year per student to provide a high-quality education to one of our scholars.  For reference on what it costs us here – New York spent a median of $22,658 per student in fiscal year 2015 (http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/pubs/research/education/pdf/education.pdf).  So investing $1 into an education system goes over 500 times further if we invest in Zambia vs New York.  I know – crazy!

What do you have to show for the billions you’ve spent on US education?

Bill Gates answers this tough question honestly – “A lot, but not as much as either of us would like…Unfortunately, although there’s been some progress over the past decade, America’s public schools are still falling short on important metrics, especially college completion.” 

My answer feels similar – what does Impact Network have to show for the (thousands) we’ve spent on Zambian education?  A lot, but not as much as I’d like.  We have educated over 5,000 students who have passed through our school system.  Our evaluation from American University found that we are improving literacy and numeracy skills at a fraction of the cost of government schools (http://www.impactnetwork.org/our-evidence/).  And we’ve grown so much over the last year to welcome more 4 times as many schools into our eSchool 360 family.

But there are still students in our grade 1 classes who are struggling to learn their letters. There are grade 4 students who rely on tallying basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division rather than faster functioning mental math skills.  And there are grade 5 students who are having trouble with the transition from Chinyanja to English.

While we take the time to celebrate our wins, it’s also important to keep an eye on what we could be doing better.

Why are you really giving your money away – what’s in it for you?

I’m sure this is such a common one for Bill & Melinda Gates – and Melinda Gates answers it beautifully: “We both come from families that believed in leaving the world better than you found it.” [As an aside: This is what I try and tell my 2-year old when we go somewhere else to play to get him to clean up – incidentally, I am usually the one picking up puzzle pieces and tripping over legos, so I’m not sure my messaging is working].

It’s a simple thing really – leaving the world better than you found it.  And like my example above, it can apply to our regular everyday lives as well.  Pick up litter off the street (my father-in-law does this constantly, even when it’s gross!).  Take someone else’s recycling to the curb sometimes.  Be kind to the person behind you in line.

I highly recommend the full letter – you can read it here: https://www.gatesnotes.com/2018-Annual-Letter

- Reshma

Inaugural Impact Academic Olympics

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We were inspired by the current display of athleticism in Pyeongchang, South Korea. While Zambia might not be a conducive environment for the “Winter Games”, Impact Network hosted our very own Olympic Games, “The Impact Academic Olympics”.  On February 17, 2018,  we began our inaugural event!

With this being our first Academic Games, we were not sure what our the day would bring, but we were sure that our fierce competitors (and legendary rivals) from Joel and Kanyelele would bring nothing but their best. We opened the day’s events began with a warm-up for all of our athletes to prepare for a day of fun and learning. The day consisted of two events: The 100 meter Dash and Spell (a spelling relay race), and The Number Showdown (400-meter sprints with math problems as hurdles every 100m). Our events focused on literacy and numeracy, and also added a touch of athleticism and dash of fun.

We closed the day's events with a small closing and award ceremony, which was filled with celebration and smiles because everyone was a winner! Not only did all of our student receive a certificate of participation but they were also able to practice their educational skills in a new, interactive and fun way.

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I hope our student participants will store this day in their memory bank for inspiration and maybe one day, years from now, we will see one of our scholars participating in the Summer Olympics or even the Winter Games.
Thank you to our awesome team in Zambia who helped make this happen!

-Chinelo

 

Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics have been on my mind (and my TV!) – as a Canadian, the winter ones have always been more special to me than the summer ones.

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Zambia is not competing in the 2018 Olympics, though this year is the largest African contingent with eight countries and twelve athletes participating. Today, Canada tied with Germany to take home the gold in the two-man bobsled, and I was reminded of the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games.  This was the year when Jamaica sent in a bobsledh team – the true story behind the movie “Cool Runnings”.  The team was made up largely of track sprinters (the lore says while recruiting they showed a video of the sport to a group of potential athletes and all of the athletes left the room!).  The athletes had a crash course in bobsledding in New York and Austria, where they faced the harsh realities of weather and training.

At the 1988 Olympics, they became a fan favorite because of their status as the ultimate underdog of the games. Not only was there the novelty of having a tropical country compete in a cold-weather sport, but they had very little practice going down a bobsled track before, and they borrowed spare sleds from other countries to compete. In a show of brotherhood, other bobsledders were quick to give them guidance and support. They did not officially finish after losing control of the sled and crashing during one of their four runs. However, they showed significant improvement throughout the games and impressed observers with some fast starts. 

This is the ultimate example of achieving the impossible.  A team with limited resources, little practice, and no exposure with a sport could work hard, and be good enough to actually make it to the Olympics!  It’s amazing!  If they can do that, then all of us today can get through our work for the week and accomplish our own goals.  All of us can do our part and make some progress towards providing our 4,000 scholars with a top-notch education. Unless of course, any of our Zambian staff is thinking of competing in the ski jump next Winter Games… :)