The Massive Educational Deficit in Developing Countries: Full Video

``Projects for All`` - bringing hope through educational ownership

By Dr. Rod Berger

I am proud to share the full-length video version of a thought provoking conversation I had with Katrin Macmillan founder and CEO of Projects for All, a non-profit human rights organization providing services to developing countries. The organization’s mission, founded in 2013, is to empower communities facing human rights challenges by providing life-changing support and partnership.

Macmillan points to a “massive educational deficit” in poorer nations that critically curtails positive growth. Money in the world is not being allocated for education programs in developing countries in a fashion that sustains ownership and real life advancement for students.

In part 2 of the series, Macmillan talks about the challenges of shifting the paradigm away from a traditional education model to one that is community owned and led. Education funding for developing countries is still narrowly defined through the lens of books and schools, so changing the historical approach takes time and a collective effort.

Projects for All brings world-class education to remote places where there are often no schools and an intergenerational lack of education. Children are forced to raise themselves out of the depths of poverty, many with no parents or history of education. It is from this backdrop that Macmillan is building grassroots programs that become self-sustainable. It's a remarkable undertaking that deserves high praise for bringing hope and empowerment to the neediest of humanity.

Part 1 of the interview was originally published on The Huffington Post

Part 2 of the interview can be read below

 

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Interview - Part 2

Rod Berger:  Let's talk a little bit about the money side. Help me understand. For the novice, we think that there are dollars from philanthropy out there  - investment - when we're talking about groups like your organization.

But I don't know if we have a good sense as to what is out there. Are we flush with money? I say that with intended implications. Are we flush with money, but not managing it well?

Help me understand the business side of the non-profit world trying to support developing economies around education.

Katrin Macmillan:  I think we're not very progressive. It's starting to shift, but people are a little bit risk averse with regards to philanthropic donations to education.

It's pretty easy to raise money for a school building, a teacher’s salary for five years, and a whole load of books. Everybody can argue for that model because it's the model that we all came through; "That's what children need."

I'm not arguing against it. I think, in an ideal world, all children would have a well-functioning school with well-qualified teachers and up-to-date curricula and books. But it's not the case.

It's a much more literal request for education:  “I will build a school. I will put up some bricks. I will hire a teacher.”

And if we're going to do it differently, if we're going to change the paradigm, it does, suddenly, become quite difficult to fund raise.

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We found that there are a couple of big issues. We look at the life of what we call a Hello Hub in five-year terms; and, very often, people are taking a much shorter-term approach to fundraising - "a one-off donation" that will get the first part of it done, a structure done, for instance.

Secondly, I think that the funding world is pretty old-fashioned and people don't believe it's possible for children to become more didactic. And if they do believe that children need digital tools, they think they should always be managed through a school and via a teacher.

Whereas, we set ourselves the challenge of world-class education in places where there are often no schools at all and an intergenerational lack of education.

We are working with children with no parents and no history of education whatsoever who are pulling themselves out of a sewer to come and learn. We believe that they're capable of changing their prospects and leading that process, and we have a role to play in catalyzing that.

But it's a difficult sell to a traditional funding body that has different ways of qualifying education.

RB:  Let's close with this, Katrin. It's ironic, and it's sad altogether when we're thinking that Projects for All and groups like yours exist because we have governments that are not fulfilling what we might attribute to their basic role or function. Whether it's the land that they manage and or the people that inhabit that community.

How do we look at the role government plays in providing support and not being reliant on the philanthropic world or Projects for All to say, “We have to do this from the inside, or it will not sustain."

How much of this is battling governments that sit there and say, for whatever reason, “We know that there will be dollars from the West that may come in” which, in itself, is a cottage industry and they are okay with it?

KM:  I think it's important not to be okay with that type of status quo. Sustainable and scalable:  These are two absolute red lines for us.

The sustainability issue for us is that it needs to be community owned and community led. We never build anything for a community. They must build it no matter how complex and no matter how incapable they think it may be to complete a difficult task.

The communities that we partner with build their own Hello Hub. They are, then, responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, and the protection of this amazing state-of-the-art technology.

A lot of people don't think a Hello Hub will last the night because it's worth many thousands of pounds. But they will because they are community owned; and that extends beyond the immediate community and the home of the Hello Hub to the local government and, eventually, to the national government as well.

It's about local ownership. If the community and the local government - and, hopefully, the national government - are proud of the project, are proud of its cutting-edge nature and its results, then, they will support its development.

We always work with the local government to get permission and partnership to build a Hello Hub. I think it's about bringing them in but also changing the dynamic. It’s not about sitting around and waiting for someone to solve the problem. It's about working in partnership to solve the problem together.

The reality is that a lot of the countries that we work with do not have enough money to reach every child with an education; and, very often, they don't have the intention to do so.

But if they are getting credit for something that's successful, then, we have seen that they want to replicate it. If we can let local governments know that the community that built that Hello Hub are not grateful to Projects for All, but rather they're grateful to their community leaders and their local government, then, it has an effect on getting access to work with more communities and local government wanting to invest in more.

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So we ask the local government to make an investment alongside us. One way that they can do that is to donate land.

Land rights are significant. It's not an insignificant donation. They also have some investment and responsibility to the project as well. And I think it always needs to be the case.

RB:  Katrin, when you lay your head down at night, and you try to evaluate the progress that you and Projects for All have made in a given day or year especially when it seems that the targets are always moving - where do you find solace in the work that you're doing?

KM:  I am most encouraged when problems that arise at Hello Hubs across Africa are being solved by the local community.

When we have flipped the habit and paradigm and the community is no longer saying, “Oh, this has happened and we need help with that and we also need this,” when they have started to say, “We've organized a community meeting to understand how we're going to manage the power supply, how we're going to regulate usage,” that's when I know we're starting to fly - with any project, actually.

There's always an exit strategy as well. We would love to become obsolete. And that's why we are publishing how-to guides. If other people want to build a Hello Hub, and they want to contribute to the code, and they want to get into the open source nature, we would be delighted if governments and groups that are larger than our own and have more of a capacity took it, improved it, ran with it, and scaled it.

We're not in competition with anyone to reach communities where there's an education deficit. I think we do have the possibility of ending the education deficit. It is possible with the right approach. We're willing to work with anyone who will partner with us to achieve that goal.

When I see that the partnership is really working and the ownership is happening, then I feel we're on our way.

RB:  Planet Earth and all of us that inhabit it benefit from people like you who are willing to fight a fight that so many of us, sadly, are not willing to because of our own challenges.

We don't want to disrespect our efforts but what you're doing is very substantial in the development and the ongoing growth of our species, and I think that goes without saying.

Continued success and we hope that people will learn more.

You can go to Projectsforall.org. Obviously, you'd want to check out the how-to guides and the blog. It's very thoughtful information and very visual and vivid in its presentation.

Thank you, again, Katrin.

KM:  Thank you so much, Rod. It's lovely to talk to you.

RB:  You're welcome.

About Katrin Macmillan

Katrin Macmillan is Founder and CEO of Projects for All, a non-profit human rights organization based in the United Kingdom and the United States. Katrin has worked in development, human rights advocacy and humanitarian aid in Africa, NYC, and London. She is an award-winning producer, coordinated advocacy events, and has worked as a development consultant. Katrin co-launched Bwari Soap Co, and initiated the emergency relief for Jos.

She also worked with the Developmental Association for Renewable Energies to build Africa's first energy-autonomous housing using recycled bottles. Katrin has addressed international academic forums on human rights and humanitarian aid, and has written for the Huffington Post, The Times and Time Out New York.

Katrin lives in London with her husband Tom and their children Cressida and Hugh.

Follow Katrin Macmillan on Twitter

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