I first contacted Geoff Hucker [Founder, BTO] after reading about Beyond The Orphanage in The Age. I was impressed with the aims and strategies of the organisation, and particularly with Geoff’s passion and integrity. I immediately volunteered to assist in any way I could, and was asked to develop and implement BTO’s Child Protection policy. I have now been appointed to the Board, and my responsibility is Child Protection and assisting the local organisations with delivering education to BTO children.
Can you elaborate on the type of education programs you help BTO deliver?
Yes… well BTO indicated to me that English Literacy is the key focus as it is the passport to higher education and economic security. So our program – which is still being developed – is to assist the tutors in lifting the children’s literacy.
I have two colleagues from the Melbourne Grad School of Education assisting me in developing a curriculum for this – which local teachers and tutors can deliver, and which we can support over the Internet. We plan to use web platforms such as Edmodo, Facebook (at last, a real use for this!), Khan Academy and YouTube to help deliver this.
Greg, you’ve done field visits to our programs a number of times. What impact is the BTO education model having on the kids?
I’ve never seen children so hungry to learn as the children in Ethiopia. They can see the benefits of being educated – not just economic benefits, but social, psychological, emotional, physical as well. They love to use what they learn – even showing off their amazingly good English skills! – and absorb new learnings like sponges. Seeing some of the BTO children graduate from high school and enter university is incredibly inspiring – not just to us adults, but to the other children as well. Education is giving these children hope for a better future, and inspiring them to be their best.
You have years of experience working in the education field. Are there any exciting developments, in terms of delivering education programs to the developing world?
We are working hard on using Internet technologies to give Ethiopian children similar opportunities as we take for granted here in the West. It’s not without its challenges, but it shows enormous promise. Internet-based learning platforms, such as the Khan Academy, Study Ladder, MOOCs and Edmodo have the potential to provide students with a world-class education.
Volunteering for BTO and working with the staff and children is an enormous privilege, and one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Like many other cities in the developing world, Addis Ababa suffers from poor sanitary infrastructure. This means that many of the children in our program are forced into unacceptable toileting situations. Recognising the urgent need for change, our in-country partner Brave Hearts devised PROJECT FLASH TOILET (the ‘flash’ denoting the quick construction of quality toilets in high risk areas). With the...