Limburg educator to connect world of teachers with African pupils


Koen Timmers’ nomination for the Global Teacher Prize has opened the door he needed to expand his education efforts in Africa

‘They can search for solutions together’

Limburg teacher Koen Timmers is launching a new education platform in Africa that will see teachers around the world providing lessons to children via Skype. The first Innovation Lab will be ready next year in Tanzania.

Timmers (pictured), who teaches website design at De Verdieping CVO in Heusden-Zolder and distance learning at PXL University College in Hasselt, is launching Innovation Labs together with the Jane Goodall Institute. Timmers is well-known around the world for his projects that connect teachers and pupils to each other.

Earlier this year, he was one of 10 nominees for the Global Teacher Prize, a prestigious award with a €1 million prize attached. The nomination followed the launch of Project Kakuma, which provides distance learning to 100,000 children in the colossal refugee camp in northwest Kenya.

Though he didn’t win the Global Teacher Prize, his work did not go unnoticed. “It amazes me that I still every day get emails from both here and abroad asked me to come speak or to co-operate on a project,” he told VRT.

Lessons, and more

When the Goodall Institute came knocking, he didn’t miss the opportunity to take what he had learned from Kakuma and put it to work across the continent. He and the Goodall Institute have raised funds both at home and abroad to open four Innovation Labs.

Each lab will offer children a free space to connect with teachers from around the world. They will offer traditional lessons in academic subjects but also on contemporary issues such as climate change, gender equality and poverty.

“The focus will be on innovation and new technologies,” Timmers told VRT. “It’s not the intention that the children just sit and listen to a teacher in a classroom who will teach and asses them. It’s a community of teachers worldwide who will teach extra lessons via Skype. They will all work together and learn from each other. With themes like climate, clean water and poverty, they can search for solutions together.”

It’s a similar approach as Kakuma but also as his temporary initiatives Human Differences and Wai Water, which brought together students from around the world through technology to search for solutions to specific problems. “My ultimate goal is to get as many kids as possible into one of these labs,” he said. “I want to make quality education free and accessible, without all of the grading. I also want to give something back to the global community of teachers. I’m seeing for myself how this is growing.”

Photo: Eric Lalmand/BELGA