Koen is passionate about inspiring people through teaching and this has led him to found more than one innovative project that has made a big difference beyond his immediate school teaching. Koen teaches Computer Science in a Belgian school, but has also created Project Kakuma, an initiative in which more than 100 global educators teach African refugees via Skype. This began when he started to teach refugee students via Skype himself, finding sponsors to host the calls and even sending his own equipment to the refugee camp. He also founded the largest educational website in Belgium, zelfstudie.be, which offers more than 60 digital courses, supporting 19,500 online students – many of whom are teachers themselves.
Koen uses a specific educational approach that he calls CARE! (Collaboration, Guidance, Real problem-solving, Empathy, and ‘the ! factor’ – being responsive to the student). The results in his school have been pronounced, with more than 75% of his students finding employment in web design within a year of leaving. Koen has presented his vision of teaching to national government and has also received numerous awards including the Microsoft Education Fellowship and the Toshiba DigiStudent award – for creating an educational app the allows people to identify trees. He speaks on computer science education all over the world and has also written four books on the subject.
If awarded the prize, Koen would use the funds to secure the future of the Kakuma Project, equipping 600 classrooms with desks, and schools with power generators and laptops. In the long term, Koen would like to widen this approach to other refugee camps too.