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Educating South Africa's kids, one by one

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Today, with a team of volunteers working for his Trust, Bright is helping nearly 230 children – and some of their parents as well – to succeed.

"Why do I do it? That's how my mother raised me. She taught me to be compassionate," says Bright, standing outside the kitchen where volunteers were preparing a free lunch for the 230 young students participating in Teboho Trust classes on a recent Saturday. "When you are dealing with a child, it's a big commitment. That child, he has a face, a name; he has thoughts, he has a heart."

Bright's parents raised him not to pity those who are disadvantaged, but to be a problem-solver, he says. What can he do to help people improve their situation – for themselves?

In South Africa, where 35 percent of the population is under age 15, where 10 million citizens are either functionally or totally illiterate, where only about 30 percent of schoolchildren pass their exams and graduate, and where between 28 to 40 percent of the population is unemployed, improving education is about more than gaining a ticket to individual success. It's a matter of national survival.

The size of the task is daunting. But the persistence, optimism, and hard work of Bright's team show that even a few idealistic individuals can make a difference.

It all started in February 2001 with 10 children.

Bright, who had visited South Africa on multiple occasions since the fall of apartheid, was making good money as a consultant. But he was also taken aback by how much needed to be done. In the four poorest South African provinces, students were having to take classes in tents, in tin shacks, and sometimes under the shade of trees.

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