The Long Arm of…Education

Education in Kenya’s Prisons

I was heavily involved with this film – I remember like it was yesterday the long Skypes over dodgy WiFi with our contributors in Kenya, the panicked emails with the fixer who was supposed to get our permissions sorted for us, the heart-stopping moment when the Kenyan embassy tried to confiscate the Director’s passport…so it’s wonderful to see all that work emerge as a moving, poignant film!

The African Prisons Project, run by the enigmatic Alexander McLean, works to educate the inmates of Kenya’s overcrowded prisons, many of whom are illiterate. They’ll teach them through from primary to Higher Education – some even graduate with a Law Degree from the University of London! Along the way, they learn how to defend themselves in court, to stand up against injustice and to help out their inmates and families. This project really is life-changing.

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Educating Entrepreneurs

How Uganda is educating their young people out of poverty

Having spent months having Skypes with and writing late night emails to these amazing people in Uganda, it feels so rewarding to finally see them in action!

This episode is about Educate!, an American organisation that helps tackle the 70% unemployment statistic in Uganda by teaching its young people how to start their own businesses. Its emphases are on gender equality, community support and collaboration. It seems like a fantastic initiative, not spoon-feeding help to a country in need, but rather teaching its people to help themselves.

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Innovation in Armenia

Armenia: Where Art Meets Technology

Technology is at the forefront of 21st century innovation. But for countries like Armenia, which have only recently gained independence from the Soviet bloc and are struggling to maintain a stable political system, let alone education system, investing in the technological education of their young people is difficult.

This is where the American-funded TUMO organisation steps in. Run by the ever-energetic Marie Lou Papazian, five of these centres offer top-of-the-range technology to students, and run workshops on how to use it. These range from robotics to rock music, and they’re all for free.

It was a pleasure and an inspiration to work with Marie Lou and the enthusiastic, hard-working team at TUMO, as well as the documentary company we used to help make the film. Armenia has a lot to offer in terms of talent and passion, but its younger generation need to be given the resources to make the most of their fantastic brains.

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Democratic Teaching

Democratic Teaching in the UK

This was by far my favourite film in the Rebel Education series – and as an added bonus I can claim credit for some of the camerawork! This film tells the story of one man from New Zealand who realised there was a better way to teach English. He brought his new system to the London Nautical School, an inner city comp with a high number of children from difficult backgrounds. And the effect he has had is unbelievable.

As you’ll see in this film, Chris Waugh’s system has changed the lives of many of the children in this school. He believes that the children should be entrusted with choosing their teacher – so each teacher presents them with a course themed around something that’s important to them. It allows the teachers add a personal touch to their classes, and it gives the pupils greater responsibility for their own learning. Chris also makes use of technology to allow the pupils to work towards ‘badges’ rather than assignments, which gives pupils greater flexibility in their learning and allows them to achieve more.

The results speak for themselves. GCSE grades have shot up; pupil satisfaction is at an all time high. But Chris never wants to stop fighting. There’s always going to be more work to do, more schools to change, more pupils to inspire.

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Saving Mexico’s Children

The Power of Early Education

One of the films I worked on last summer is now available to view online. If you do have a spare half hour, I can highly recommend watching it. It’s about a passionate, energetic, brave woman who is single-handedly turning around education in Mexico; I am honoured to have worked with her.

The Mexican state education system fails its students miserably and is ravaged by corruption. But Elisa Guerra saw this and decided to set up her own school, using her own materials, to make sure her children received the education they deserved. She realised that bad primary education is worse than no education at all, so she encourages children as young as three to learn a different language, play a musical instrument, get involved in sport, appreciate art and culture. This stimulation encourages children to think, not just to learn.

In an ever-changing world, our education systems are struggling to keep up. But a few amazing people are working to change that. These films tell their stories.

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