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One School Project

We are building a highest-technology education platform for lowest-technology areas that is inexpensive and sustainable.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We are both a Massai girls high school and a laboratory for education innovation. We are in construction of a 200-girl secondary free boarding school at the literal end of the road -- the gate to the Maasai Mara National Park in far Southwest Kenya. For that, we are partnering with Maasai leaders who we have met through 15+ years of mission trips to the area. We intend the school not only to provide top education for the girls, but to also serve as a test bed for refining ideas that could be applied in any country or region. More specifically, we are developing facilities plans and specifications, curriculum plans, operational guidelines, equipment specifications, and teaching tools for "our" school -- but we want to produce documentation so that we can leverage that work for anyone else with a desire to provide improved developing-world education. Our best analogy is that we want to provide the sort of services a franchisor gives to its franchisees -- but for schools and for free. The idea we present here centers on technology for teaching. Specifically, as we have developed our school plan, we've been challenged by the cost and unavailability of paper books, and the variability in teaching skills. To that end, we plan to provide each girl with a digitized version of the standard Kenyan school books on a Kindle, and a full copy of the Khan Academy's 7000 lectures on a Kindle Fire. We are in the process now of cross-linking the books to the lectures. This will allow us to have a "flipped" classroom, where the lectures come from video, and the teachers act as coaches using various iPad-enabled software. It will also allow our girls -- whose incoming abilities will vary wildly -- to advance at their own personal speeds. This is an approach that is very popular in wealthy areas, but to our knowledge has not been applied vigorously in the developing world. It is also sustainable because the devices can be powered readily by small solar panels.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our initial beneficiaries are Maasai girls who would otherwise have no chance to attend high school. The Maasai are a marginalized people (much like indigenous people in the U.S.), and their women suffer the most because the Maasai are one of the most paternalistic cultures in the world. Our goal is not simply to be a school that provides basic education, but to be the top school in the country because our most gifted girls will be able to run as fast and as far as they can. We aim to produce leaders who will return to improve the Mara and carry on the singular Maasai culture. Secondary beneficiaries include operators of other schools who can use the materials we generate to improve their schools even if they do not have technical expertise of any form. And we want the ultimate beneficiaries to be children at all those other schools that employ the ideas we develop and nurture. We aim to develop systems that are inexpensive, easy-to-implement, and repeatable world-wide.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Many try to educate in the developing world and many try to use technology to do so. Our idea is unique because it bridges the gap between the "nuns" and the "nerds." Nuns are the people with huge hearts who typically run schools in developing countries (and they are often literally Catholic nuns). But they are often uncomfortable with technology. Nerds are the educational technology (edtech) people who have great ideas, but never get to challenge those ideas in an area that lacks electricity or internet access (among numerous other things). We think our solution -- using readily-available (often for free), sturdy, simple, and solar-chargeable Kindle devices and top-line Khan Academy content -- can work for our Maasai girls and can be readily replicated at thousands of other locations. We want to prove it.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

The One School project is an outgrowth of Helping Hands Jamaica-Kenya, which is a group of volunteers that has been traveling to Jamaica and Kenya for 30 years to provide all sorts of supplies (e.g., bikes, medical devices, and school supplies); to build and maintain clinics, churches, and other commercial buildings; and to build hundreds of homes for the poorest of the poor.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years
  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Our school inspiration was three Maasai men we have become friends with over the years -- Jackson Naeku, Tumate Tira, and Gabriel Keture. They have partnered on other projects, and we have worked on a primary school with them. We are now building the girls secondary school that will serve not just their community, but all of Maasai-land. Our inspiration for this project was the expense and limitations of paper books and teachers. We needed a better solution, and we suspect others do too.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace is influenced both by educating girls (where women get educations, there is less war) and providing general knowledge of the world around this community. Prosperity is increased by educating women, and by enabling the most gifted girls to fly. Planet is affected by providing a low-energy solution in this dry area most affected by climate change. (Note that we are pursuing other projects to make the school more sustainable, including designing the campus for grey-water re-use in on-site farming.)

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Our traditional model involves bringing U.S. volunteers to work directly with Jamaican and African residents, under a classic "shrink the world" theory. We will repeat that for our school, including by having U.S. volunteers work on the school and on community projects with the girls, come to provide "spot" teaching on topics of their expertise, and stay at the school for short and long time periods. We will also work directly with the three Maasai gentlemen we named above and with their village (the Orboma village near the Sekenani Gate of the Maasai Mara National Park), which is about 2 kilometers from the school. We also intend for the girls to work with the children at the primary school we have already built, which is adjacent to the secondary school.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Our community has an abundance of girls who we can enroll -- we have estimated a pool of up to 5000 for our 50 annual slots. The immediate community has also completed a clinic project for surrounding communities, and from that has developed a network of leaders who are familiar with each other and cooperate on other projects. We hear constantly about the community's excited from the school which is under construction now.

Geographic Focus

The immediate focus is the Kenya/Tanzania border, where the Maasai tribe is located.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

The school term starts in January, so we envision planning from now until January 2019, implementation for one school year through December 2019, and a few months to generate work product to make use of what we learn. So about 22 months.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jean-Marc Mercy

It's great to have you in the challenge, @John. Did you collect feedback from end users in order to solve a real problem for the community at the intersection of peace, prosperity and planet? I am curious to learn more about your project!

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