A couple of weeks ago I travelled from South-Africa to Madagascar. I went there for a few Correctbook meetings, but this way I could also chase my personal dream (more about that later in this blog). I had some introductory talks with UNICEF Madagascar and Save The Children in the capital Antanarivo.
I also had a meeting with another non-profit organization. Not in the capital, but in the south of the country; Port Dauphin/Tolagnaro. A blueprint is made for a pilot project for 150 children. And obviously this will become more when this succeeds, ‘cause this organisation supports over 40.000 children. They want to conduct small-scale research. If the writing skills of the kids will truly improve with the use of Correctbook. So, a bit like the research by Edukans.
After the great launch in Rwanda (more about this in the next blog post), I went back to Cape Town. From there I travelled to Johannesburg to go on an orientation trip. As I wrote in my latest blog post, our goal is to sell the Correctbook Originals in Africa as well.
But, where to begin? To find out, we needed to do some field research. So, I got to work, visiting a lot of stores in Johannesburg. The effort paid off, because we learned that the best thing we can do is focus on the somewhat higher segment stores when selling the Correctbook Originals here.
Written by founder Sam
Do you know Samuel already? A couple of months ago we hired him as Regional Manager for Correctbook Africa. He lives in Kenya, so now that I went there, I finally had the chance to meet him in person! Samuel used to work at a printing office. That working experience comes in handy now. Before he joined our team, he ran the project with Edukans and the Dutch National Lottery. Because this collaboration went so smoothly, we were both in for a further collaboration. Samuel’s role for Correctbook means he makes sure all things run smoothly for Correctbook Africa B.V. and believe me, that sounds easier than it is!
We went straight to work together. Kenya already has a production location set up for the Correctbook ‘exercise books’ that the school children in a.o. Kenya receive. This is the production location where we also want to be able to produce the Correctbook Originals. That’s why it has to be expanded. What is crucial for this? The printer of course. A good reason for me and Samuel to visit the printing office. We discussed how we can create the possibilities for the Originals and get this train going.
Back to where it all started…(written by founder Sam)
Where is that? South-Africa! Back in 2014 the idea of Correctbook came up with me right here. Now I am here for the second time, ready to take the next steps forward to establish Correctbook Africa. And I’m not the only man on this job, I’m doing this together with Roel de Haas: co-owner of Correctbook Africa. I met Roel through Edukans.
Who is Roel? I will tell you more about that first. Roel worked for his own company for years, organising the logistics of development aid projects in different African countries. He made sure millions of books were produced at the right locations and were safely transported to the right destinations. He developed this responsibility to such an extend that he could even present track & trace codes for these transports! Awesome, isn’t it? I am super happy with Roel joining the team, because he brings in a load of valuable field experience and a network of contacts in Africa.
Together with Roel I visited an old acquaintance; the director of Afrika Tikkun (a South-African non-profit community that upholds youth development as the hallmark of change). I had last seen him years ago, when Correctbook had just started. The director has his own foundation called Rhiza which battles against extreme poverty and this became the very first foundation to which we donated Correctbooks.
But what are our further plans in South-Africa? Making more impact obviously! This means thinking of ways to make our products available in the book stores in South-Africa, but also how to enter the market of ngo’s and donors. In order to do this we will need to obtain the Correctbooks in South Africa. That’s why we are working hard to set up a production location in this beautiful country where my adventure started.
My adventure in Africa, in Rwanda to be exact, hasn't come to an ending yet...(Written by founder Sam)
I’ve been on the road again, a special road, because I visited a Rwandan school this time. Through this trip I could see with my own eyes how the youngest kids use the Correctbooks. The pupils at this school are only three to six years old. And I didn’t go alone because my parents and girlfriend were very curious as well. The children happened to make the most beautiful drawings.
During my visit I discovered something striking. Of the total number of students, only a third was still present at school. The other kids didn’t come back after their parents had to pay for lunch. For them, all extra costs make a huge difference. Luckily, with the arrival of the Correctbooks they don’t have to pay for their writing material anymore; so one less thing to worry about. Actually, Correctbooks have been coming in for the third time already at this school now! Because of that also the youngest kids get the chance to keep learning in a playful way.
I also knocked on the door of the local office of EPR. This is the organisation we work with in Rwanda. In this office I had a good cup of coffee with Jacques, the director of EPR. He really gave his honest opinion about the Correctbook products. Super helpful because we can use this feedback to keep improving! Another important partner of us in Rwanda is the Anglican church. This is because they give the teachers trainings. And yes, the demand for that is high, because Jacques also told me there is really a need of stricter rules amongst teachers.
I was glad to hear that the Correctbooks are being cherished, because they are safely stored in a locker at this school. In this way, kids will no longer lose or forget the books and pens. That’s why this is common in most schools in Africa. Maybe a n
Correctbook opens an office in Rwanda (written by Sam)
Hurray! Correctbook now has its own office in Rwanda. The team has worked extremely hard the past months to make this happen and we opened the office officially in November. The upcoming years, we will conquer the Rwandan market with our products in order to make writing accessible to everyone.
A real office arose, where there was a flat and sandy area last summer. A drawing of our desired office was made by the developer of the building. After that, the office was built with the speed of light. The best thing is; it is just a few steps away from our local production facility in the slums.
In November, I came to Rwanda to officially open the office, together with the Rwandan team. Wow, what a result! Our colleagues, production partner and developer of the building had a surprise for me: they worked till late into the night to do the last painting of the walls. They made the office a real Correctbook office by putting Correctbook signing on the walls. It looked incredible! Moreover, the office was neatly decorated. There was an actual opening ribbon and a big cake to celebrate! Our colleague Ezechiel gave a speech admitting he could only have dreamed of the beautiful steps we are taking now, plus there were presents for everyone.
It became even more special as my family was able to join during the opening as well. My parents and my girlfriend were in Rwanda and saw the projects of Correctbook for the first time. The fact that they were able to join the opening of the office is truly special to me, something I will always carry with me.
Last but not least; this office is not only perfect to deliver o
Correctbook’s first order in Rwanda! (written by Sam)
It is October 2021 and the very first commercial Correctbooks are being produced in Rwanda. That means that these Correctbooks are not made to donate, but to be sold in the Rwandan commercial markets. Of course these sales serve the same goal, to make writing accessible to everyone.
Correctbook aims to make her writing materials last longer than normal pens and paper, so that people will prefer buying Correctbook materials, because it saves them money. If more people buy our products, our sales will increase and that enables us to donate more writing material to children who would otherwise not have had access to any writing material.
In Rwanda we also want to prove the sustainability and effectiveness of our materials to donors and NGOs. By doing that, we hope to convince them to buy Correctbook writing material in stead of the regular pens and paper for their education projects throughout the country.
Another target group in Rwanda is private schools. Parents of the children in these schools pay a higher school fee than parents of kids in the government schools. These parents also have enough money to pay for the necessary school materials. If these schools decide to work with Correctbook writing material, they can save money and start using the most innovative writing material there is! And last but not least, by buying Correctbook material, they support our mission to donate the same writing material to children in their country that otherwise lack access to writing material.
On the 15th of October our Correctbook team visited the private school IRIS Nursery in Rwamagana. The head of the school and her colleague were wearing very colorful clothing, which emphasized the beauty of that day. Both of them were so enthusiastic abo
Positive comments about Correctbook! (written by Sam)
Today, we are going to visit three schools to see the impact Correctbook makes with our own eyes. Two years ago we started a cooperation with the organization called EPR, to supply schools with our writing material. Visiting ERP’s office and three of the schools today, will be a perfect opportunity to check whether the schools are still using Correctbook in the right way.
The EPR headquarters are just one street away from our hotel. When we arrive in the early morning, the president and vice president are already waiting for us. Both of them are pleased to welcome us and the staff have coffee and cake ready for us to celebrate our visit. Vice president Pascal tells us how happy he is about what Correctbook is doing. In two years time as many as 27.000 children have been supplied with Correctbook’s writing material!
After this meeting, it is high time to go into the field. We are curious to know whether the Correctbook writing material in the school will still be in good shape after two years of extensive use. We step into a big land cruiser and drive to the three schools. Two of them are located in the city of Kigali. The third one is situated outside of the city.
When we arrive at the first school, we sit down with the head teacher of the school first. We have a lot of questions for her, like:
- Are the Correctbook materials still being used at school?
- How do they experience the quality of the material after two years?
- Do the ink stations work well?
- Is there enough ink available to keep writing throughout the year?
We are very happy to hear a positive answer on every single question we have! When I started Correctbook and introduced new products like the ink station, I had no guarantee that the products would hold out as I expected them to. Especially the challenging circu
Sam’s journey – 4th of October
A new production location in Kigali, Rwanda (written by Sam)
During my first week in Rwanda, we visited the production centre of our Correctbooks. Robert, our partner in Rwanda, went with me. Since 2019 we have produced 50.000 Correctbooks in his production facility. When we arrived, I read a sign on the wall saying ‘Official Correctbook production center’. I thought Robert had been kind enough to mention our name on the building. But then he explained that he had actually invested in a whole new building and in better machines especially for the production of Correctbooks!
I was overwhelmed. The factory is situated in one of the slums near Kigali. A production location in a slum was a dream that suddenly and unexpectedly became reality! The place is based so remotely, a sandy route with big potholes has to be taken. The ideal location for a factory? Not at all, but we want to create employment in the most rural areas and therefore we got used to transport our products on roads like these. The only mistake we made, because it was a surprise to us: we went with our passenger car and got stuck on the way back.
The lovely people there helped us immediately and pushed the car back up. They were laughing and enjoying it so much. Every time I am amazed by the level of happiness of the people living in Africa.
In three weeks’ time, the new factory had already produced 18.000 Correctbooks with only eight employees. I originally started Correctbook to fight poverty and to save the planet while doing so. Producing locally creates employment and avoids unnecessary (international) transport movements. Correctbook writing material is now available in seven African countries and it is produced locally in five of these countries.
This huge and wonderful surprise during my first week, definitely made the start of my new adventure in Africa an unforgettable one!
Posted: 7 July, 2021
After founding Correctbook, Sam van Tol started building his company in 2015. Friends and family helped in the attic to produce the product and even at the kitchen table the Correctbooks were packed before it was shipped. At the end of the day, he drove to the post office with a full trunk to provide Correctbooks to consumers. His dream soon arose to provide 1 million children in developing areas with erasable writing material in 2023 to reduce illiteracy.
Collaboration with Edukans and Blue Tree Group
In 2019 Correctbook was invited to participate in a collaboration with Edukans and Blue Tree Group. This collaboration is aimed at approaching education in Africa in a new and sustainable way and is called: Teaching With Impact. A great collaboration in which Correctbook offers the erasable writing material, Edukans the educational expertise and Blue Tree Group the logistical knowledge. Edukans received a contribution of 1,550,000 euros from the National Postcode lottery at the end of 2019 for the objectives of this collaboration! This contribution gave a huge boost and made it possible to provide 400,000 children in five different African countries with Correctbook's erasable writing material.
Correctbook in Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Oeganda and Ghana
Before the collaboration, Correctbook already donated their erasable writing material to four organisations located in South-Africa and Rwanda. In Rwanda, the material for the books was already produced in-house. Through the “Teaching With Impact” collaboration with Edukans and Blue Tree Group, Correctbook's distribution area expanded at once to Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. The 1st launch was in Ghana in March 2021. After Ghana, Malawi followed and in May 49,000 Correctbooks were distributed to 20 primary schools in Uganda. Launches in Ethiopia and Kenya are expected before the end of 2021. In addition to supplying Correctbooks to primary sch