A long-time dream has recently come to fruition at training4changeS, one of East Mountain South Africa’s ministry partnerships. training4changeS uses the sport of futsal to holistically change the lives of young boys. Since 2019, they have strived to address the educational needs of the boys they serve. As of about a month ago, the long awaited program called School in a Box came to be in use, and has transformed the way these needs are approached.
Before this dream became a reality, Caleb Duttweiler, one of East Mountain’s staff, had been the primary content creator of the curriculum that the boys engage with in their weekly educational sessions at training4changeS. He alongside the East Mountain residents placed at training4changeS would look up stories, design games, and create math lessons for the boys. This involved a great deal of prep work, and placed the sustainability of the educational program primarily on Caleb’s shoulders.
In 2020 while visiting another ministry site, Caleb saw School in a Box for the first time. This incredible program is a literal box that plugs into the wall and needs no WiFi, as it contains its own router. It is an entirely South African based program running from Grade R to 12th grade, and has a variety of levels within it in order to adjust to individual learner’s needs and growth. This kind of individual attention to a learner’s particular needs is rare to find in a normal school setting because class sizes are so big. The program updates automatically, and uses South African stories and educational terms. Once a learner demonstrates mastery of a certain level, they move on to the next level. This even allows Caleb and the other teachers to introduce a points-based rewards system that will help motivate the boys to move through the levels.
After first seeing the program, Caleb brought it to the attention of Daniel Thomae, the founder of training4changeS, and conversations began to take form. Some intense fund-raising efforts from Daniel and East Mountain’s founder Rodney took place, and people from all over came together to financially support the vision of transforming the education aspect of training4changeS for the boys. Soon after, School in a Box made a grand entrance in June, 2021. The educational program within training4changeS is now more sustainable, the time needed for lesson prep work has been drastically reduced, and teachers are able to more easily assign which activities to give which child ahead of time according to the learner’s level. There is even a hope that using this material may provide the credentials that t4c needs to one day become an official school, which has been a long time dream.
“It’s exciting to have a locally created and innovative resource that is geared towards the specific challenges our boys face in the South African school system,” says Daniel. “We are grateful to be able to integrate technology into our weekly lessons, and to continue building on the amazing work Caleb has done over the last few years to develop individualised academic support structures for our boys…. Caleb and the residents have done such a good job of making learning fun for the training4changeS boys; we have seen a clear increase in confidence and ability in each child. We look forward to using School in a Box… hopefully for years to come.”
Several other partners of East Mountain are also using School in a Box, and some of the current year-long residents of EM have used it in their own educational journeys. “It is amazing that the boys at training4changeS get to use it now, especially since a lot of them come from different backgrounds and different schools which offer different levels of education…. It’s really helpful to cater to their needs and where they are,” says Fazlyn, one of East Mountain’s current residents. Another resident, Reinhardt, has been encouraged to see the efficiency that the School in a Box brings to the lessons, and it has been neat for him to bring his own experience with this tool into the classroom as he engages in ministry work at training4changeS.
Overall, this little box is big step toward fun, individualised, and sustainable educational assistance being offered to the young men that attend training4changeS. Daniel, Caleb, and East Mountain are excited to witness the boys not only learn material, but learn at levels that are most beneficial to them and their growth. We hope that this innovative program will change their educations and their lives for the better.