Education in Eden

Education that Pays for Itself (the annual conference sponsored by Teach a Man to Fish) nestled itself this year into the hills outside Cape Town, South Africa in a little town even the natives hadn’t heard of called Karatara. I spent the week surrounded by a couple hundred bright, compassionate, incisive people from all over Africa, South America, Australia, and several other former British colonies (my accent was a mess by the end of the week, even I couldn’t tell where I was from!) brainstorming, debating, reporting and planning…changing the world.


Karatara is home to a remarkable little school called Eden Campus…and not much else. The school is a long way from self-sufficiency, but they have some electrifying ideas about getting there. Here are a few of my favorites:


The Business Plans: Business plans (prepared by the students at the start of each school year and with each new enterprise) at Eden Campus aren’t filed away in some dusty storeroom. Far from it. The goals, market analysis, personnel profiles, and financial projections for each enterprise are arranged by the students into an attractive and durable display and posted right in the locus of business activities, be it staked beside the compost pile by the worm farm prototypes or framed on the wall of the salon.


The Mission Statements: When they arrive at Eden Campus, each student prepares a document designed to get at the heart of his or her Eden Campus experience. Completing a series of prompts, the students create a personal mission statement detailing their expectations of the campus experience, what they feel they bring to the school, and what they plan to do with the knowledge, skills and ability they gain here. The statements, also mounted on colorful paper, are posted in the student’s classroom and become a pillar for personal and formal evaluation and assessment throughout their Eden Campus experience.


The Accounting System: Just like San Francisco, Eden Campus employs a professional, certified accountant. However, here, part of that accountant’s job is to coordinate and train the student accountants “hired” by each business. The students keep the records, with the accountant performing audits, and basic profit/loss figures for each month are posted for all to see. Within each of the businesses, students hold monthly company meetings to review the full financial and production reports, discuss HR issues and make strategy decisions.


Brilliant, eh?


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