Warwick in Africa ("WIA"), an innovative volunteering programme from The University of Warwick which has now benefited over 160,000 young Africans, has launched an inspiring new film with BBC 6 o'clock news presenter George Alagiah.
Filmed in some of the most challenging township and rural schools in Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania, the film shows how children and teachers, with the right motivation and techniques, can achieve dramatic improvements in motivation, performance and ambition.
WIA is based on the belief that Maths and English skills are great liberators from poverty. In Sub-Saharan Africa there is a shortage of over a million teachers, even at current attendance rates. The poorer the area, the higher the shortage. For example, in one of the schools WIA supports, there was only one maths teacher for 700 children. Class sizes are also an issue, as the film shows, with one volunteer teaching a class of 126 children in one small room. The availability and quality of teacher training also varies enormously.
The challenges may be considerable but the talents and energy of the volunteers which come across so powerfully seem to more than make up for them. The volunteers are drawn from a number of sources, students from Warwick, local African universities and also the National University of Singapore, Warwick alumni teachers and local corporate employees from blue-chip businesses such as Ernst & Young and Standard Chartered.
Volunteers compete to go and are fully funded and as Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift says in the film, it "takes a very special person to be selected."
Mwajabu Omary Rajabu, a learner in Mustafa Sabodo Secondary School in Mtwara, Tanzania provides tangible evidence of just how special the volunteers are and the impact WIA can have.
“He changed my view on learning Maths and English. Now I am a winner. Before he came I got 25% in Maths but today I got 85%. I’m so happy.”
The volunteers also seem to have life-changing experiences. One, Louise Ackroyd who has now taken part five times, first volunteered as a Warwick Maths student in 2009 and has now taught in Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania.
Warwick in Africa inspired Louise to change her chosen career from the City to teaching. Already at 23 she is now a qualified teacher and Head of Maths at a school in Banbury.
“Warwick in Africa changed my life and priorities. It helped me to help others realise their potential through teaching them.”
This film is an ideal watch for a cold winter’s day with the energy of the volunteers, local teachers and most of all the children proving infectious throughout. The emphasis on impact and on having a rigorous model which has proven to be scalable, replicable, sustainable and so cost effective also shines through. The volunteering model means that WIA is able to teach children for c £10 per leaner per month and is achieving 30-40% improvements in test results.
In closing the film George Alagiah says:
"Like many of the children Warwick in Africa is helping WIA is nowhere near fulfilling its potential."
WIA's goal is now to help 200,000 young Africans by the time it is ten in 2015. To see the film and to support the programme visit www.warwick.ac.uk/warwickinafrica