Why development work must change radically

Imagine you are standing in front of a school class of 15–16 years old kids. Imagine they are all staring at you because you look different and they have never seen someone like you before. Imagine the silence which fills the room as everybody is waiting for you to say something.

Imagine you start talking and only a few seconds later the tension between you and the class is dissolving immediately. You can feel a rapid decrease in the concentration of the kids. They start talking to each other, even though you are still talking.

And now imagine this is not your fault. The kids are confused because they don’t understand what you are saying. They are not capable of understanding your language, even though you are using the most important language in the world: English.

Imagine there is no way of communicating with these kids, as they are not speaking your language and you are not speaking theirs.

Can you imagine such a situation?

I can! Because I experienced it. This exact situation I experienced together with my girlfriend when we were travelling around India in 2016. The school I am writing about is located in Bangalore, in the heart of India, with almost every international company having a location there.

Once you experienced this situation or a similar one, what do you do with all the frustration? With all the rage? With the consternation about the world, you are growing up in?

Right, you do everything you can, to change the situation towards a better one.
In my and my girlfriends' case, this meant to found an NGO with the purpose to support educational projects, especially in developing countries.

Three years later, we are running an NGO with more than 90 members, 5 educational projects in Africa and India, and with a budget in 2019 of about 30.000 € called world’s education for kids e.V.. The NGO is run by more than 10 active members who all are committed on a voluntary basis. Not really surprisingly, most of the active members have experienced a similar story than I told above. These members brought their own projects into the NGO and are now responsible for it. The NGO is more used as a platform by these people.

Together we believe in education as the key for change. Therefore, we are building school buildings where children were taught in the open air before. We are fighting for orphans to be taken into schools. We are working with responsible persons on-site to design profitable schools. We train teachers in order to increase the quality of education.

All of these activities are nice to have. But with only three years of experience, I get the feeling that these activities are not efficient enough to really improve the situation. I am getting the feeling that it needs a completely different approach for development work. Even though I still believe that education is the most sustainable way to improve the quality of life, we need a radical change. And here is why:

In my opinion, it’s a good first step that the kids go to school. But going to school is not everything. It’s all about what and how the kids learn. And currently, the way how these kids are learning is not helping at all. They are forced to learn by heart. They are only memorizing. The probability that the kids are getting inspired to change their situation by this kind of teaching is very low. They just don’t get motivated and inspired to change their position and situation. And this is not even their fault. As by nature, every kid is motivated and interested in learning and experiencing almost everything. But with a teaching system based on memorizing everybody will lose the motivation sooner or later.

Therefore we need a radical change in the learning and teaching systems, especially in developing countries, but not only in those. There needs to be a system which helps kids to explore new things, a system which motivates and inspires. A system that fosters personal initiative and creativity. I would even go one step further: We are in need of an entrepreneurial education system for developing countries. If the kids are able and are motivated to learn how to exploit opportunities, how to solve problems, they can make a fundamental change in their countries.

This is why also developing aid needs to change radically. The aid needs to foster such approaches. I call for more NGOs to focus on developing such approaches together with their partners on-site. And I call for more exchange between NGOs, universities, schools, companies, between everybody who is willing to work on new approaches for development work as well as on new teaching and learning methods.

Also, our NGO world’s education for kids e.V. will work on such teaching and learning approaches.
If you are motivated to join us on this mission, please feel free to contact us!

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