Africa: Transforming Classrooms with a ‘Tutu Desk’

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By Tami Hultman

Cape Town — Recently released from hospital, retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa celebrated his 85th birthday in October. Though clearly frail, he surprised and delighted friends and family gathered from around the world by presiding at a service at St. Georges Cathedral in Cape Town and attending an annual lecture in his honor. AllAfrica will mark the birthday year by a focus on one of the causes that the Archbishop has championed – a campaign to provide a simple writing surface for schoolchildren across Africa who have no desks.

Try this. Take a piece of paper and a pencil and attempt to write on it without using a desk or table.

You may or may not have a bench for sitting, but if you do, it will be shared and crowded with other people. If you’re lucky and agile, you’ll be able to crouch on the floor and use that as a surface, though it may have unevenness and imperfections that show in your script. But what if you are outside and have only the ground?

That is the dilemma of 95 million African children who desperately want to learn – and of their parents who often work long, hard days to earn money for school fees to secure their children the right to a place in school.

The crisis seems far away when sitting in AllAfrica’s high-tech headquarters in Cape Town. Editors work at computers connected to fibre Internet. An online ‘virtual newsroom – plus large screens and what we call ‘videoconferencing for the masses’ from Silicon Valley’s Pluot – connect this office with colleagues in Dakar, Nairobi, Monrovia and elsewhere.

Read the entire story here.

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