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Dave Bonney, a member of Smithville United Methodist Church in Dunkirk, Maryland, poses with students from the Hanwa Secondary School in Macheke, Zimbabwe. In March of 2016, Bonney visited the school to help set up a program called Helping Others Help Others to improve scholastic achievement at the small, rural school. Photo courtesy of Dave Bonney.

Photo courtesy of Dave Bonney

Dave Bonney, a member of Smithville United Methodist Church in Dunkirk, Maryland, poses with students from the Hanwa Secondary School in Macheke, Zimbabwe. In March of 2016, Bonney visited the school to help set up a program called Helping Others Help Others to improve scholastic achievement at the small, rural school.

A satellite dish was installed on the roof of Hanwa Secondary School in Macheke, Zimbabwe to receive data available on the Internet, such as classic books, text books and Wikipedia, via Outernet transmissions. The Outernet program was featured at United Methodist Communications’ Game Changers Summit 2015. Photo courtesy of Dave Bonney.

Photo courtesy of Dave Bonney

A satellite dish was installed on the roof of Hanwa Secondary School in Macheke, Zimbabwe to receive data available on the Internet, such as classic books, text books and Wikipedia, via Outernet transmissions. The Outernet program was featured at United Methodist Communications’ Game Changers Summit 2015.

Dave Bonney, and students from Hanwa Secondary School in Macheke, Zimbabwe, pose in front of their school building. In March of 2016, Bonney visited the school to help set up a program called Helping Others Help Others to improve scholastic achievement at the small, rural school. Photo courtesy of Dave Bonney.

Photo courtesy of Dave Bonney

Dave Bonney, and students from Hanwa Secondary School in Macheke, Zimbabwe, pose in front of their school building. In March of 2016, Bonney visited the school to help set up a program called Helping Others Help Others to improve scholastic achievement at the small, rural school.

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‘Changing the game’ for a school in Zimbabwe

By Dave Bonney*

Editor’s note: Dave Bonney attended the Game Changers Summit in Nashville, Tennessee, in September 2015. Returning home with new ideas and communication strategies, he shares how Game Changers helped a small, rural school in Zimbabwe.

Using tools presented at the Game Changers Communication Summit last autumn, I recently introduced new teaching strategies to the Hanwa Secondary School in Macheke, Zimbabwe. I am a member of Smithville United Methodist Church, Dunkirk, Maryland. In March, I lived at the Hanwa Mission School for four days. I introduced a program called Helping Others Help Others (HOHO).

The United Methodist Mission School has 650 students. The secondary school, which consists of 150 students and six teachers, has forms one through four (grades eight through 11). Hanwa, located in an extremely poor, remote area of Zimbabwe, has a very low pass rate for the O (ordinary)-level national exams. Very few students pass the exams or continue their education beyond form four.

With staff input, we chose four key subjects (English, Shona, math and science). The staff chose 16 volunteer students to be group leaders. These were the top four students in each of the four subjects. Four secondary teachers also volunteered to mentor and teach the student volunteers how to present a lesson and peer-teach their classmates.

The goals of the program are to:

  • Develop a reading culture at the school;
  • Increase the pass rate for Grade 11 students; and
  • Develop new teaching strategies at the school.
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Thane Richard (left), publisher of Outernet, helps install a satellite dish that can receive data via a global satelite network. File photo courtesy of Mr. Richard. 

The center of the program is the Outernet Lighthouse. Outernet is a company dedicated to connecting everyone to free data. Using a global satellite network, it can beam information available on the open Internet to users by way of a receiver -- similar to the way radio works. Dubbed “Humanity’s Public Library,” the ever-growing collection of information ranges from Wikipedia to classic books to civil defense warnings and health information.

At the school in Macheke, a satellite dish was installed on the roof of a small cinderblock building designated specifically for the project. The educational materials and the Outernet library are sent from their satellite and captured on the classroom Lighthouse -- a hard drive designed to receive and store the data. Once in the Lighthouse, the media can be downloaded onto devices such as laptops and mobile phones.

New tools offer hope

The wealth of learning materials provides lessons and demonstrations, enhancing instruction. For the first time, students have audio and visual instruction as well as standard lectures. The Outernet also has a 30,000-volume library. HOHO student volunteers have more resources available than their teachers did.

We hope that as students receive extra and focused peer-led instruction, they will gain a better grasp of the subject matter. They may be more comfortable asking questions or asking for help from their peers. As students master materials, additional students will become group leaders and wear the coveted green HOHO T-shirts. Student volunteers will also increase their knowledge and understanding as they prepare to present lessons.

The school has changed the daily schedule. Previously, the day ended with a study period of an hour and a half. Each day, Monday through Thursday, is now half an hour longer. Shona and math peer-led instruction takes place on Monday and Wednesday, while English and Science classes occur on Tuesday and Thursday.  Each peer-led instruction is an hour, with additional time for small groups and one-to-one instruction. The instruction takes place in the specially designated HOHO building.

Along with the Outernet Lighthouse, Smithville United Methodist Church provided a laptop, portable projector, satellite dish, projection screen, 600 exercise books (four per student – one for each subject), 150 pens, whiteboards, textbooks, team T-shirts and an e-reader.

Students, volunteers, staff and the community are quite excited about the new program and technologies. The new teaching strategies have assisted the teachers and motivated the entire student body. We hope that if this program is successful, as measured by an increased pass rate, we will find the support to help student volunteers with exam fees and assist teacher development and education. We will also provide an additional laptop, more e-readers and a few tablets for the teachers

I am very thankful to the Game Changers Summit for sharing the ideas and strategies. I look forward to the next summit.

*Dave Bonney is a member of Smithville United Methodist Churchn in Dunkirk, Maryland. For more information on the Outernet data program, you may visit their site at outernet.is. The Game Changers Summit, hosted by United Methodist Communications, featured 3-D printers, text messages for disease prevention, the Outernet information system and more. Read more about how people are using technology to make a difference in the lives of others.

For more information on this story, email Laurens Glass, Managing Editor of UMCOM.org, at LGlass@UMCOM.org.