Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2007
Organization of Rural Associations for Progress


This profile was prepared when Dumisani Nyoni was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
With little government funding for education, schools in Zimbabwe have long been without an available supply chain to meet their demand for books and other equipment. This has stagnated learning and led to low teacher morale and high failure rates. Through the Learning Center for Rural Development, Dumsani works to change that by directly linking rural Zimbabwean schools with schools in New York City. Currently working with thirty-five schools in New York and a corresponding thirty-five in Zimbabwe, Dumsani arranges for the U.S. schools to send library books, teaching materials, stationary, sports equipment, clothing, bicycles, shoes, and financial support to their Zimbabwean counterparts. Redistributing books and supplies that otherwise would have been thrown away at the end of each year improves both students’ enthusiasm in classes and towards school overall. With sufficient resources in hand, schools also benefit from teacher training and mentoring programs.
Zimbabwean communities are not the only ones to benefit: Through regular email exchange and ongoing relationship-building, youth and educators in New York City gain an unparalleled understanding of life for their peers outside of the U.S. Far from a simple charity donation, Dumsani’s cross-continental partnerships add a global perspective to formerly isolated channels of information and learning. A newfound global awareness on the one hand, combined with the increase in resources on the other, both awakens young students to the range of possibilities available to them and drives them to become more engaged learners. To make the most of this changed perspective, Dumsani additionally trains the schools to provide leadership programs, boys’ and girls’ summer camps, and intergenerational learning initiatives.
Now two-years-old, the dual strategy of meeting basic needs from abundant supplies and creating access to the global community is showing dramatic results in teacher performance and morale, community attitudes toward education, and overall student engagement. Schools that were once derelict have libraries and sports equipment, and the students have shoes to wear. Thanks to the initiative, students are passing at higher rates, and a renewed culture of reading and learning has taken root.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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