Zanelle is an American volunteer teaching school in Lesotho. She is talking to Frank, a cynical doctor in South Africa.
‘And you? What are you doing there?’
‘I’m a teacher. The only one in the village. I teach children of all different ages – six to sixteen.’
‘What do you teach them?’
‘Different subjects. Math, English. Some history.’
‘Can’t be too effective.’
‘Well, I mean. Different ages all together. Different levels. All those subjects.’
‘It’s not like the schools you probably went to,’ she said, a bit stiffly. ‘But it does have some effect. These are very poor people. Anything is better than nothing.’
‘Well, of course. Don’t you think so?’
‘It seems to me,’ I said, ‘that past a certain point, anything is exactly the same as nothing.’
I disagree with Frank in this case, but the question is an important one. Anything is definitely not ALWAYS better than nothing in development efforts.
-from The Good Doctor, by Damon Galgut (p97)