Determined to Learn

Francine, in the middle, building a tower of cards during the icebreaker activity [Photo courtesy of Marcos Woehrmann ]

The penultimate day of the Langa Learning Center project arrived, and I could feel a growing sense of accomplishment and completion. We had come to Cape Town, South Africa to help the LEAP Science and Math Schools and the NGO Teach With Africa to create a new technology lab in the Langa township that their tutors could use to improve STEM learning for underserved middle school students. We had set up 25 laptops, complete with WiFi, BOX accounts, a server, and all of the other technological classroom necessities. We had inspired and trained 23 tutors in 21st Century teaching and learning, online educational software like Khan Academy, and how to design blended lesson plans.

Metrics aside, when I sat down with one tutor, Francine, I started to notice all of the gaps in what she had learned. Understanding the difference between a URL and a Google search in the Chrome bar was something that she and many of the tutors still struggled with. Her typing was slow because she used only two fingers. I felt frustrated that I didn’t teach her more in those two short weeks. What will happen when she gets stuck and can’t ask us for help?

In that moment, Francine quietly said something that gave me a surge of hope.

“I’m grateful that you guys traveled so far to help us, and I’m determined to keep on learning. When I get good enough, I’ll lead a workshop in my school just like you did for us.”

Cue the happy dance in my head! I realized that we couldn’t have taught these tutors everything they’ll need to know going forward. We gave them a great start, but more importantly, they were inspired to continue learning and to spread their knowledge to others. And that, I realized, is what this work is all about.