My perspective of education had completely changed since I met Kate Groch (CEO and founder of GWF), Dave and Boyd Varty from the famous Londolozi Private Game Reserve.
The Digital Learning Centre in Hazyview was a wonder filled space to me. The iconic “digital tree“ inside the campus barn had started to shape my vision of a new, holistic learning system. A great variety of people coming together, frequently to gather and chat – they learn from each other – across all ages, grades and social backgrounds; teachers and learners desire feedback from each other with respect. Later we called it “peersonal” – It reminded me of Raphael’s exceptional painting “School of Athens”. Different disciplines of wisdom and knowledge, openly shared, wrapped in exciting stories, “broadcast” in various contexts, being relevant for the learner. The focus was entirely on the learner – not a system or process or organization containing limiting regulations.
With this first spur of a human centered learning vision painted into my heart I continued my mission to disrupt the education space. Within the next few months I met with almost 100 startup teams around the globe and visionary researchers like Prof. Paul Kim from Stanford University.
Over a dinner – kind of a campfire experience – Paul and I figured out that we were brothers in mind and soul. We shared the same vision: to offer many millions of people an opportunity to learn – an opportunity to become what they are supposed to be and deliver what the Human Rights declaration commits in article 26:
“Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality”.
So Paul and I proposed to Kate to implement the first “Open Academy” in rural Africa. Based on a locally installed cloud system we enabled public schools around the Digital Hubs of GWF to participate in world-class education via a blended learning concept. Paul´s Stanford project team helped coach the staff and teachers and deployed the first pilot program within only three months. Around 500 learners were part of our first endeavour. Today we are proud to reach around 10,000 learners per week
I came back to Africa to help setting up the “Open Academy” pilot and lay the foundation for a localized sustainable learning approach.
Deborah, our 14 year old, joined me. While I was doing some work with the GWF staff I wanted her to help with the Kindergarden kids and experience a very different world compared to hers. She was struggling seriously with her school and my wonderful wife Verena thought this would be an invaluable experience for her.
Looking back today, I am still wondering that she was excited to join me on that journey when I asked her to fly with me for almost two weeks, knowing we would be close to each other day by day.
I could track the spoor of change of Deborah’s mind and heart after the first day. It was a deep experience to be with these young kids; she understood that they counted on the help of other people and it was her decision to help or not. No excuses. After my work with GWF was done we were pleased to stay on for a few days at Londolozi.
There was this amazing first game drive for the two of us. We will never forget the intense experience of elevated pulses when we joined the bush-green Land Rover Only a few minutes out of camp we crossed the Sand River and bumped into a female leopard playing and feeding her cub.
Deborah turned to me, smiling. Just like that, we were re-connected. The encounter with the Leopard had touched her; it made her understand there is more in life to learn and to love. We came closer at heart again, it was a re-genesis of our relationship.
Later in the week Deborah was tired and did not participate in the afternoon drive during which those of us who went were fortunate enough to spot Cheetah, which is a very rare experience in this area. Deborah was sad that she has not seen this wonderful wild cat – and we were about to leave the next day. At dinner with the other guests we spoke about the Cheetah. Talley – a fantastic empathetic ranger – could read my daughter’s mind very well and asked the other guests if it would be fine when we went out next morning to track the Cheetah again – and nothing else. Just so that Deborah could take this experience with her back home. She was very happy that all guests agreed. And lo and behold, Solly – the Master of all Trackers – found the Cheetah! It even let us see watch its incredible hunt. To see the majesty of this animal was truly breathtaking.
The days spent with the GWF family and later out in the wild with the Varty family were some of the most important moments in my life. It was like God wanted to send us a special gift to re-connect as father and daughter again. And I started to change the vantage point of view of business leadership…