The new global magazine Creative Sparks now has a new name: Southern Innovator. It is off to the printer and shall be released very soon. Keep an eye here for more details as the magazine launches and rolls out across the globe. It is a complex endeavour to pull together a global magazine to a tight budget and this is only the beginning. A small but talented and experienced team have been working on the project and have received cooperation and assistance from many people spanning many countries. It is hoped the magazine will play a helpful role in the push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals as 2015 approaches.
Education is recognized as critical for development and improving people’s lives. Universal primary education is a Millennium Development Goal and countries are now allocating more funds for primary education across the global South. However, the options available to youth after primary education are often very limited.
The World Bank estimates that only nine percent of youth in the developing world will be able to go to a university or benefit from higher education scholarships. For the vast majority of youth, getting a job is often the only viable option to securing a livelihood; but in most developing countries the number of formal sector jobs is low and the only option is self-employment. Acquiring relevant training and practical skills can be crucial to becoming successfully self-employed. But where will the training and skills come from and who will provide it and pay for it?
This dilemma is being addressed by the “self-sufficient schools” concept. The model combines entrepreneurship and vocational education through school-based businesses that blend training and revenue-generation. The principle is simple: entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills are taught by successful entrepreneurs.
The model is being pioneered in several countries and has been successfully applied by UK-based charity TeachAManToFish in Ghana and Paraguay, targeting rural youth from farming families through a network of 250 vocational experts and institutions in 45 countries. The approach promotes a model for making education both more relevant and financially sustainable in rural communities.
Self-sufficient schools share several characteristics: they produce and sell goods and services; they focus on developing an entrepreneurial culture; they make a direct connection between theory, practical work and financial reward; they encourage learning by doing; they strive to keep improving in order to remain economically competitive; students are encouraged to work cooperatively; and students receive support after graduating, often in the form of microfinance for their new businesses.
In the South American nation of Paraguay, the Fundacion Paraguaya – San Francisco Agricultural High School – run by an NGO committed to poverty reduction through supporting entrepreneurship – found that small-scale farmers not only knew how to produce food, they also knew how to make a prosperous living out of it when given the right tools. Taking over a school previously run by a religious order, the NGO had the opportunity to put the concept to the test.
The organization’s head, Martin Burt states, ”It is not a matter of knowing how to grow the crop, or raise the animal; it is a matter of how to make money and then how to be financially successful doing farming in poor countries.”
The Paraguayan school is half way through its five-year plan, and already is covering two thirds of its recurring costs from the production and sale of goods and services, including specialist cheeses.
Published: May 2007
A paper on the concept of self-sufficient schools: Click here
CIDA City Campus, Johannesburg, South Africa: CIDA is the country’s only “’free’, open-access, holistic, higher educational facility” and is “operated and managed by its students, from administration duties to facilities management. In addition every student is required to return to their rural schools and communities, during holidays, to teach what they have learnt.”
The First International Conference on Self-Sufficient Schools is being planned by TeachAManToFish. Expressions of interest are sought from all individuals and organizations interested in taking part in the conference. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.
African youth need to play more according to a new landmark study published in the UK’s leading medical journal, The Lancet. The study tackles the high rates of illiteracy and educational under-achievement in Africa and finds that malnourishment and lack of stimulation are leaving millions unable to benefit from schooling. It found projects that encouraged learning through play led to children boosting their IQs and getting better reading skills. And it comes up with a very simple and low-cost solution – but excellent opportunity for entrepreneurs – toys and play.
“These are not high tech interventions,” said team leader for the study, Professor Sally McGregor of the Institute of Child Health of University College London. “Research over decades in Jamaica (and other countries) has shown that women with only primary school-level education and a few home made toys can be trained to make a significant difference in the education, intelligence and mental health of disadvantaged children. The Millennium Goal of universal primary education for all cannot be met unless these children’s poor development is tackled.”
The paper – Strategies to Avoid the Loss of Developmental Potential among Over 200 Million Children in the Developing World – is published in three parts in the journal.
Twenty projects around the world were evaluated for the benefits they produce for children under five who use toys. McGregor, who has set up several projects in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda designing and constructing toys using whatever materials are available, was appalled by the widespread neglect of play throughout these countries. With play, the study found children read better, have better mental health and better self-esteem. In Africa it is ‘desperate, really desperate’ she says.
African primary school enrolments and literacy rates are among the lowest in the world, with over 42 million school children in sub-Saharan Africa not enrolled in school, and many children not able to afford to go or stay in primary school. Today a little more than half of African adults are literate and some 60 per cent of children go to school, according to UNESCO. The agency has forecasted the need for an additional 1.6 million teachers in Sub-Saharan African classrooms by 2015 – an increase of 68 percent.
The materials used to construct the toys do not need to be expensive or sophisticated. Toys can be constructed from banana trees, mud, corn on the cob, old plastic bottles, or cloth and straw dolls. It is key that the toys are safe for children under five and that anyone building such toys for sale must follow existing manuals.
McGregor continues: ‘One mother in a village was doing marvellous things with tiny scraps of material to make a doll. She received no recognition in the village for the work she was doing yet it was so important. It doesn’t take much – dolls or simple wooden blocks – they are so versatile. You see schools with nothing – it is unforgivable. The problem is how poor these people are – food just takes priority over toys – it is that stark.”
Locally produced toys are key to resolving this crisis for several reasons. Cost is the most important, with those most adversely affected also the least able to pay for toys and who are already living a precarious existence where basic survival takes precedence over play. Another factor is Africa being home to the countries who import the least number of toys: Somalia, Liberia, Togo, Rwanda and Chad. But the situation for African toymakers is often desperate as well, with many craft workers living at the economic margins. Several initiatives have emerged in the last couple of years to address this problem and ensure African toys are local and toymakers earn a living.
Initiatives like the African Toyshop based in Johannesburg, South Africa – a fair trade business – work to ensure African toymakers can make a living and get their wares to as wide a market as possible. The toymakers featured all use natural resources or recycled materials. Most work at the village level and produce toys that are culturally relevant to Africa. The organization COFTA – Cooperation For Fair Trade in Africa – is a network of Fair Trade producer Organizations in Africa involved and working with disadvantaged grassroots producers to eliminate poverty through fair trade. It is an excellent resource for grassroots organizations wanting to work with African toymakers.
Published: January 2007
The UK charity TALC – Teaching-aids At Low Cost – is planning to make available toy making manuals on a CD. Tel: (0) 1727 853869
This website also has excellent resources for budding toy and play area makers in Africa.
Southern Innovator’s Fifth Issue Profiles Innovators in Waste and Recycling
United Nations, New York, USA, 28 April 2014
• Fifth issue of Southern Innovator tackles ways to improve human development in a worldwith finite resources • 60-page color magazine offers a snapshot of our fast-changing world
The fifth issue of Southern Innovator (SI) magazine is out now. It explores how innovation can tackle the challenges of improving human development on a planet with finite resources.
SI researchers identified innovative, low-polluting options to the world’s energy needs. They found that it is possible to alter the way that things are made to reduce or eliminate waste and toxic pollutants harming human health and damaging the environment. And not only that: they also discovered that there are sustainable incomes to be made from the economy of waste reduction and recycling – an opportunity that has yet to be fully realized. The innovations shared here demonstrate that raising living standards in the global South and responsible use of the world’s resources are not necessarily incompatible.
Some innovators are transforming attitudes towards fashion, proving that it does not have to be a wasteful industry. Others are turning commonly found waste – food waste, or human or animal excrement – into fuel for heating. The link between good design and the efficient use of resources is apparent in many of the innovators’ solutions. If a new, green economy is to work, then it must appeal to people’s aspirations and be something that they want in their lives and are willing to work to achieve.
Southern Innovator (southerninnovator.org) champions a 21st-century global innovator culture. It is based on intensive research and produced by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation in (UNOSSC) in UNDP. UNOSSC also organizes the annual Global South-South Development Expo (southsouthexpo.org), a traveling celebration bringing together Southern innovators, with previous venues in New York, Washington, D.C., Geneva, Rome,Vienna, Nairobi and Doha.
We hope that you enjoy the magazine and find its content interesting and illuminating, a snapshot of a fast-changing world awash with innovators, creators and doers making their world a better place.
For information on sponsoring issues of the magazine, either through helping to fund its print run, or through an insert relating to an issue’s theme with pertinent content for our readers, contact Cosmas Gitta at email@example.com.