Taryn Casey

Taryn Casey

Cape Town, South Africa

Taryn is the CEO of Edufundi, a mentoring and capacity building organisation that supports teachers at 48 Primary schools across four provinces in South Africa, where she manages a team of 25 people and is responsible for the overall management and strategic direction of the organisation. During her time at Edufundi, she has led a complete transformation of the organisation resulting in a change in programme design, delivery and staffing. These changes have resulted in externally evaluated, improved impact and outcomes for learners at the schools the organisation supports.

Taryn has over ten years of experience in the development sector in South Africa. Prior to her appointment at Edufundi, Taryn worked for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation where she worked in her capacity as a program officer to expand educational opportunities for disadvantaged learners by funding high quality education projects with measurable impact. Taryn is passionate about the plight of disadvantaged learners in South Africa and during her time at the Foundation she worked closely with the organisations she supported in order to drive for the best possible results and change the landscape of educational opportunities for these learners. She established herself as a credible voice in the South African education landscape and formed an expanded network of influential and critical thinkers in this space. She also engaged with numerous international experts and showcased some of their successes at various multi-stakeholder events.  

Prior to joining the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in 2009, Taryn was a Senior Project Associate at ECIAfrica Consulting. She also worked as a teacher, spending five years teaching English as a foreign language. Taryn has a Bachelors degree in English and psychology, an Honours degree and an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cape Town. Taryn is also qualified as a yoga teacher and an ASTAR facilitator (Awakening Spirit Through Art). 

In her spare time Taryn enjoys surfing, yoga, hiking and spending as much time as she can in nature.

Why do you want to be a part of the HundrED Community?

Our organisation has taken international best practice in teacher support and modified it for the South African context. We have proven the effectiveness of these techniques in very challenging circumstances. Our teachers work with some of the most disadvantaged children and teach large numbers (up to 100 learners in our classrooms) yet they still manage to successfully apply the methodology and form incredible relationships with their mentors. 

We have taken Doug Lemov's methodology and modified it for our communities. We have filmed all these techniques in four official languages, English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and isiXhosa. We believe that by showing our teachers that this international best practice is possible in our environment, we have been able to successfully support and change classroom practice.   Edufundi YouTube Channel

We work in public schools in South Africa and believe that we need to work in this sector in order to change the trajectory of the education system in our country.   

We believe the innovation in our programme is a very simple one, we have focused on training our mentors to be the best they can and then allowing them to establish meaningful deep connections with the teachers they support.   

We have achieved incredible results in the schools we support and we believe we are doing something special and we would like to share our story with a broader international community.      

How can education support students to flourish?

The children that we support live in dire poverty. Without access to quality education, they will have no way to rise above the circumstances of their birthplace. We believe that all children irrespective of where they are born and into which family, have the potential to succeed given the right support with the right teacher in front of them. 

For our students education is the only way that they can move forward in society. We believe that by creating access to quality support for their teachers that need it the most, we are making a difference in the future of our country and indeed unlocking the potential of our children.

Quality education for our children means that they will be able to access opportunities that their parents  couldn't,  and change the trajectory of their families lives.  

What role does innovation play in education change?

There are many innovations around the world which can be successfully used to change educational outcomes for students. I think where organizations need to be innovative is in how they adapt these methodologies to suit their contexts. It is important to respond to the needs and challenges of the communities which you support. It is no use bringing in completely foreign concepts and foreign staff and expecting local practitioners to adapt to these. 

It is important to adopt an asset-based approach, knowing that the communities you support have their own strengths and capabilities. Sometimes all it takes is a little support for these schools to see their own strengths and to gain confidence in their own abilities.       

Three HundrED innovations you love. (and Why?)

1. Encounter Edu:

We love that Encounter Edu has a strong focus on developing teacher knowledge, skills and experience in order to ensure that students are able to become critical thinkers. Encounter Edu does this through giving teachers access to live learning, free teaching materials and other professional development resources. Edufundi believes that in order for teachers to be the best they can be, there is a need for support, which is what Encounter Edu is offering.

2. Worldreader: 

Worldreader is a global non-profit organisation making positive changes through supplying digital reading content to underprivileged communities. There are over 40 000 digital books, stories and teaching materials in 43 languages that can be accessed for free. Worldreader aims to create a world where every child is a reader! 

3. Dignitas Project: 

Edufundi loves the strong focus that the Dignitas Project has on empowering educators to transform their school team through professional development and coaching. This is done through ensuring that teachers have access to tools and techniques that create an environment that is conducive to learning and improves learner engagement. Dignitas Project’s emphasis on helping teachers become positive change makers for both their school and learners is to be commended.

Three innovations you would love for HundrED to know about. (and Why?)

1. FunDza Literacy Trust:

This is an amazing literacy organisation that focuses on improving literacy levels in South Africa, as well as creating reading content for South African youth that is relevant to their lives. FunDza aims to get young South Africans reading, writing and learning!

2. Shine Literacy:

This organisation is doing incredible work by offering literacy support programmes in 77 primary schools in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal with the aim of addressing South Africa’s current education crisis. This is done through providing trained volunteers to Grade 2 and 3 students who support the learners with English reading, writing and speaking skills.

3. Wordworks:

Wordworks aims to change lives through improved literacy levels in South Africa. There is a strong focus on early language and literacy development in the first few years of children’s lives. Wordworks offers four amazing programmes, which make use of innovative, high quality multilingual materials to support early language and literacy learning in South Africa.