Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Our new structure is not much to look at

David Jenkins, Simin Shokrullah and Benazir Noorzad have been working hard these past few weeks to mobilize from their communities in Bo City and Kabul the first two breakaway learning clusters. And as MOGwee transitions to The BreakAway Learning Project, it’s time to reconsider the shape of things.
David Jenkins reviews potential study spaces in Bo City

Take our project, for example. When we started as a C-corporation, we imagined a marketplace of curiosity-driven conversations. Our focus was on the value-added which a for-profit corporate structure could bring to a fee-based marketplace. But we learned with time that curiosity doesn’t drive teen learning activity. Instead inflexible curricula, schedules, tests and college-admission drive them. What the heck happened to our teens? Re-awakening that curiosity, we learned, would take a transformation of the whole teen learning system, beginning with a social movement to break-away from schools.

That’s when my friends and I realized we couldn’t get there as MOGwee, but need to dissolve this corporation and re-define ourselves as a not-for-profit organization. We’re striving to change the way people look at the teen learning process, and we know that in many cases, that’s hardly a profitable venture. But if The BreakAway Learning Project can get its first few learning clusters going in some of the most challenging places, we’ll keep pushing toward that stick-in-the-mud mainstream.

Now there’s another structure that we’re revisiting, and that’s the brick-and-mortar place called school. David spent the early days of March visiting and photographing apartments, houses, even storerooms half-filled with merchandise. We have been struggling with the financial reality that teens need safe, dedicated, wifi-enabled study space and supervising mentors, and yet can’t afford much more than US$20 per student, per month. When Sierra Leone’s low-quality and over-priced wifi costs are added, it seems nearly impossible to make an affordable package.
Will the Bo City cluster get started
in this storeroom?

But our students are persistent, and so we are finding a solution in expanding their numbers. By tripling the cluster as 3 groups of 8, creating a rotation schedule that provides each student 30 hours per week of wifi-enabled access to the study space, and supplementing the professional mentor with volunteer peer mentors, we can achieve a product that meets the students’ needs and their budgets.

We’re revisioning “school” as something much simpler-- lights and chairs, electric sockets and a router-- even as we’re creating for each student a completely personalized learning plan, with the best of online courses, tutorials and chats.

Possibly the favorite space found yet

Our new structure is not much to look at. But you’d be amazed what 20 bucks and a router can do!

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