Phil Christensen

Recent update from Phil: I retired in January 2017, I'm getting married again on July 16th (it's been almost 8 years since Deb passed), and I'll be moving back to the States (DC area) to be with my wife - leaving Africa after 37 years of international development work on this continent. [6-17]


How did I get here? Well, after leaving the School of Education in 1973 I spent a couple of years in the Chicago area working on Bahá'í teaching and youth programs, then moved to Eastern Ontario to work for five years as the instructional systems specialist at a technical community college. In 1980 I finally accomplished my long-standing objective to work in Africa, beginning with the Academy for Educational Development (AED) as Chief of Party for a five-year USAID project in Kenya that developed a radio-based methodology for teaching English to children in rural primary schools (a system now being used throughout the continent). I moved to Southern Africa in 1985, where I've managed basic education reform projects in Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia.


One of my main interests continues to be the potential of information and communications technologies to meet the challenge of providing quality education for all Africans. This helped guide our 1996 decision for Deb and myself to settle permanently in South Africa, where I took a detour into the world of dot-com entrepreneurship. I helped establish Cyberschool Africa, an innovative Web-based revision service for disadvantaged high-school students that operated until going the way of most dot-coms (i.e., out of business!) in 2000. At that point I moved back into the donor-funded development arena. I rejoined AED to establish their regional office in Pretoria and work on their USAID basic-education projects in South Africa and Ethiopia.


In 2004 I joined the International Development Division at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), for which I had worked in Swaziland and Namibia under a previous incarnation (the Institute for International Research, IIR). From a new AIR office, also in the Pretoria area, I managed a four-year project on child labor and education that the US Department of Labor funded. Then I took up my latest, and perhaps most exciting, professional challenge: planning and implementing a three-year effort supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for developing an innovative system, using radio and mobile phones, to deliver impact-driven agricultural extension services to (and from) small farmers throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Our ten-year vision is to improve the productivity and livelihoods of 80 per cent of this population, so vital to the continent’s future and so ubiquitous among its population. [6-09]





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