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Education in Africa

In a former career we were leading international development projects for over 10 years.  We fundamentally believe in the work that Shine delivers and we are donating yearly to support a great cause.

Who is Shine and what they do

Shine is a UK-registered charity that aims to tackle illiteracy amongst the poorest, most vulnerable children in Zambia, southern Africa.

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Shine’s vision is of a Zambia in which every child can read and write

Our mission is to help alleviate poverty in Zambia by tackling one of its underlying causes - illiteracy - among children in its poorest parts.  We are achieving this through a free literacy school for orphans and vulnerable children in a poverty-stricken shanty town in Lusaka. 

We aim to empower children with the skills they need to escape the cycle of poverty into which they were born.

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Our literacy school – Shine Zambia Reading Academy

To achieve its aim, Shine has built its own school called Shine Zambia Reading Academy in the compound of Kalikiliki, Lusaka.  The school has 190 pupils and 10 local teachers.  It charges no fees and its focus is to teach illiterate children how to read and write.  We enrol children whose families cannot afford to send them to school or cannot find them a school place due to over-subscription in government schools.  The children we enrol are between the ages of 8 and 12.  The literacy program lasts for 2 years and consists mainly of phonics lessons, English grammar, key word learning, storytelling and guided reading practise.

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Points to note about learning at Shine:

  • Pupils are between 8 and 12 years old when they enrol

  • Pupils pay no fees whatsoever at the school and receive free exercise books

  • Every child receives a meal at the school each day

  • Each class has only 15-20 pupils – this allows us to provide a high quality of education

  • Literacy makes up > 50% of the timetable. This includes teaching children how to ‘sound out’ letters and words in English using phonics, and lots of reading practice

  • Pupils also learn Maths alongside literacy and, in Year 2 of the programme, Science, Chinyanja (local language) and Social & Development Studies

  • Although teachers are not government qualified, most have childhood education certificates from local colleges; Shine has provided training for all our teachers in specialist literacy teaching by volunteer teachers and literacy experts from the USA and UK


After 2 years, pupils take their final exams. If they pass, they ‘graduate’ from the school. Shine then arranges places for them in nearby mainstream schools. They go directly into Grade 5 or 6, depending on their level. Pupils who do not pass stay at Shine until they are good enough to survive and thrive in a formal Zambian school

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Promoting a culture of reading

Our ambition is to ignite a culture of reading and to instil a love of books, both in our school and in the wider community.  Our school library was set up with this in mind and is the only decent library for miles around.  It provides a valuable resource for the children at our school and the local community.  The Shine library is stocked with around 8,000 books donated by well-wishers in the UK and US.

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The feeding program at Shine

Our pupil feeding program is an important part of the school day at Shine Zambia Reading Academy.  Children do not learn effectively on an empty stomach, therefore we provide all our pupils with maize meal porridge for lunch, which is cooked by local women employed by Shine.

We cover the costs of buying the raw materials - maize meal, sugar, cooking oil and charcoal as well as labour.  Without the meal they receive at Shine, many of the children would not eat at all that day.

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One of the schools I worked at just outside of Malindi, Kenya.

Here was a great literacy and numeracy project, but one of the resounding memories are the children talking pigeon Italian to me! It’s a tropical paradise lying on the Indian ocean, yet just inland there is poverty but great hope for a better future.


An hour outside of Harare, Zimbabwe. One of the few countries in Africa I feel is going backwards. Infrastructure failing and teachers in many cases not being paid. That and the rule of law constantly being challenged. Yet the children want to learn, want a future. I stood onstage speaking to 800 children trying to offer as much hope I could. I felt helpless.


In Beirut, working with the Ministry of Education I’ll never forget the edgy excitement of being there only offset by the fabulous relaxed atmosphere of eating in the hills or drinking tea downtown near the harbour. One of the highlights, after a day of Lebanese negotiation, was tea at Laduree. Yes, I now know there are all over the world but it was a very special occasion nonetheless!


Back in 2009, working with Lagos county Education Ministry. It was my first time in Africa. A trip I’ll never forget. Fabulous people, amazing warmth and energy, but I got a very dodgy tummy and was served a herbal tea, that to this day I don’t know what was in it…. But it did the trick.

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