This profile was prepared when Flick Asvat was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2001.
The New Idea
In South Africa formal education is considered the path out of poverty that leads towards a better life–a powerful and nearly universal idea. But in a country beset by teacher strikes, violence, child abuse, and poorly equipped schools, children who try to apply this truism to real life can be more discouraged than inspired by it. After all, good study habits alone can not compensate for a bad education system, just as a strong work ethic hardly makes up for a lack of work to do. Too many children don't go to school, don't do well there, or can't get jobs upon graduation for the classroom to be their sole hope and refuge. Convinced that formal education has failed to give students keys to unlock their full potential for success–and that failure in this area is unacceptable–Flick is putting children in control of their own out-of-school educational programs. She has developed a concept, Bugrado, based on the idea that human beings have the power to change their circumstances. Bugrado has several tenets: mentorship, validation through experience, value of the person, empowerment from within, self-determination, and unity. Flick bolsters the sagging education system by introducing Bugrado to township children. Assisted by unemployed graduates and tertiary students, Flick identifies young leaders and trains them as mentors. She encourages students to take their own unique abilities–whether in dancing, mathematics, soccer, drawing, or anything else–find other students who want to learn from them, and form small mentorship groups. In this manner, the students create their own after-school programs that keep them and their peers off the street. The mentors not only share their skills with their "buddies" but also care for them and serve as role models. The "buddies" then become mentors themselves, find their own group, and thereby the Bugrado concept spreads. This cascade method allows ten leaders to eventually reach ten thousand students. Although Bugrado focuses on children, it brings together parents, teachers, and other citizens who are concerned about rising crime and communal decay. These adults see what the children are doing and become involved as coordinators and supporters.