The objective of the DNS colleges is to develop another kind of teacher, one uniquely qualified to become an agent of change in a local school and the larger community. The challenges of teaching primary grades in Africa and India are many fold, particularly in rural areas. There are often minimal resources upon which to rely and large numbers of students per classroom.
Literacy rates can also be very low, even among the adult population, and there may be few books or other educational resources upon which teachers can depend. Moreover, in Africa, when books are available, they are often not written in the local language (for example, Umbundu in Angola or Shangani in Mozambique), requiring teachers to be both resourceful and to think outside the box.
The DNS colleges prepare students to rise to the demands of a challenging teaching career in several ways. Students are immersed in academic subjects, but they also learn much more. Experience is considered essential, and student teaching begins at the start of the program in nearby primary schools.
The beginning teachers are also encouraged to become active participants in the community in which their school is located, learning about local needs and understanding how they can help meet them. Classes about good nutrition combined with starting community gardens is one example of the outreach student teachers perform. Other activities and projects may include organizing adult literacy classes, constructing a new well or latrine, or mobilizing volunteers to help stop the spread of HIV. In this way, student teachers learn first-hand that they have a key role to play in making a substantial contribution to improving conditions in their villages and towns.