< Go back to blog

Trevor Noah and Shalane Yuen: The Dynamic Duo Transforming Lives through Education

"The fight to end learning poverty is not a solo endeavor. It's a collective responsibility," says Shalane Yuen, Executive Director of the Trevor Noah Foundation. This team is determined to make education transformation in Africa not just a dream, but an achievable reality.

In a time when educational inequities continue to persist, the phrase “knowledge is power” has never rung truer.

Learning poverty is a crisis that does not just affect the 70% of children in low- and lower-middle-income countries who cannot read and understand a basic text by the age of 10. It reverberates as a broader societal problem affecting the development and prosperity of entire nations. As the Trevor Noah Foundation puts it, “education is the key that unlocks human potential.” Challenges of this global scale require dedicated and expansive teamwork to overcome.

No matter our station in life, we all need to play our part in transforming learning opportunities for children. That is a central message that rings loudly from the work of the Trevor Noah Foundation. It is time to get very excited when global success stories, like Trevor Noah, at the pinnacle of their careers, establish changemaking platforms, partner with seasoned and dynamic leaders, like Shalane Yuen, and lock arms with local African communities to create a shift in the way we improve education.

In an exclusive interview with the Chandler Foundation, Trevor Noah stated, “We want to create an environment where everyone – governments, the private sector, philanthropists, community leaders and members – is putting resources into refurbishing a school, everybody is contributing resources into running the school, or teacher training, etc. We want to harness that stokvel attitude to create systems change.” With her expertise in education, technology, and international development, this is precisely the challenge that Shalane Yuen is passionate about, as she works out her shared mandate as founding Executive Director of the Trevor Noah Foundation.

“We truly see education as the way in which we can change the world,” explains Yuen. “We run programs based in South Africa primarily, and have some programs across Southern Africa, where we achieve equitable access to quality education for young people between the ages of three and thirty-five. We work very closely alongside global and local partners, and teachers, schools, and communities, to create learning environments where young people can thrive today and in the future.”

Under Yuen’s guidance, the Trevor Noah Foundation has initiated programs, like career guidance, educational resources, and teacher development projects, to enable a robust educational ecosystem. As a leader, Shalane Yuen recognizes the importance of adopting a multi-faceted approach. She knows how vital it is to understand local contexts and intricacies. Changemakers should not impose but collaborate with local communities to bring about improvements that local communities want to see.

Trevor Noah’s star power undoubtedly lends an unparalleled platform for advocacy. However, it is the convergence of this visibility with Shalane Yuen’s leadership that amplifies the foundation’s potential to drive change. This sort of pairing may serve to become an exemplar for other successful Africans seeking to nudge the needle of educational transformation towards improved opportunities for children and youth.

Here, then, is the formula for would-be philanthropists: Establish a platform; partner with a credentialled and committed leader; and leverage your combined vision, influence, and expertise to make tangible progress and impact. It is a blueprint worth replicating – and if others pay attention, the message of the Trevor Noah Foundation may just become catalytic.

We need more Trevors and Shalanes. As we convene for the educational side meetings during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, that much is clear.

“I think what is so exciting about this event we are hosting,” explains Shalane, “is that it is our first event during UNGA, and so we are just thrilled to learn … and really create spaces where people from all over the world, stakeholders from different perspectives and different sectors, want to come together and come up with solutions for solving problems that are close to our heart.”

The emerging presence of dynamic duos, like Trevor Noah and Shalane Yuen, should inspire us even more to foster a world where education is not a privilege for the few, but a fundamental right for all.

Latest article

Explore categories

Ongoing campaigns

Share this article

Make a Donation

Learning poverty is preventing children from learning reading and math, and life skills in Africa, Central America, South Asia, and the Middle East. But you can change that.