James Urdang, founder and CEO of Education Africa, focuses on breaking the cycle of poverty and empowering a new generation of leaders through educational interventions. Education Africa provides educational opportunities for various age groups among South Africa’s disadvantaged citizens. Projects target children and communities at pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary education level. In the past ten years alone, the reach of Education Africa’s projects has impacted tens-of-thousands of learners directly and well over a million learners indirectly through educator training and support.
In South Africa poor levels of education are often the result of a lack of infrastructure and resources, poorly trained teachers or even teacher absenteeism, poor attendance by learners and last but not least no emphasis on early child development. Furthermore, students often come from dysfunctional homes and the parents or caregivers themselves have limited to no education and are unable to assist the children. This results in people being ‘stuck’ in poverty, and communities experiencing constantly increasing levels of unemployment. Without improved education in underprivileged communities little will change.
James Urdang’s’ journey began in 1989 when he set out to establish Education Africa and, over the years, he has conceptualised many projects and secured the funding not only for their establishment, but also for their ongoing sustainability. The projects range from early childhood education to the tertiary level of education, providing education opportunities for children of all age groups.
James Urdang receives a 2018 Klaus J. Jacobs Award for his restless personal engagement in making change happen in South Africa. He wants to utilize the Award money of CHF 100,000 for Education Africa’s ECD project offering pre-school caregivers a cost-free and comprehensive training curriculum made up of theoretical classroom workshops, practical implementation within ECD centres, onsite support and ongoing assessment.
“We want to educate, equip and empower a new generation of leaders in South Africa.”
James strongly believes that it is unnecessary to reinvent the wheel. Rather, he brings project partners on board of Education Africa so that their expertise can be harnessed for the ultimate benefit of the community. On a personal level James has been mentored by the late anti-apartheid activists Walter Sisulu, Helen Suzman and Dr. Aggrey Klaaste. Nelson Mandela supported James in facilitating the production of the video, which called for the lifting of sanctions in 1993. During Nelson Mandela’s tenure as President of South Africa, Educate Africa ran the Presidential Education Awards.
In 2018, the Jacobs Foundation bestows 10 awards to social innovators and change makers in the field of child and youth development. Each award will come with an amount of CHF 100’000. The recipients provide solutions for positive child and youth development at low cost, which are sustainable and can be easily implemented on the spot. What the ten awardees have in common is their wish for social change and their restless personal social engagement. They are beyond talking – they act.