Schooling must promote and not interfere with children’s learning

Every successful society has a good education system backing it, and that is no coincidence; there is overwhelming evidence suggesting education in Africa is fact obsessed over kindling imagination and that has serious impact on invention. Discovery is a by-product of imagination not fact storing. We need a cultural shift and investment in a system of education that unlocks children’s imaginative minds, is not intimidated by independent thinkers and does not view individuals not submissive to it as a threat.  

A good education system maintains balance between imparting moral values, academic facts and kindling scholars’ imagination. It is paramount that we build a progressive model of education; we must be ready for a system and institutions that remove obstacles or hindrances to children’s good imagination. Progress will be attained when we are continually jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.

Lack of invention is the reality Africa faces today and is likely to face for generations to come if nothing is done to our education system. Pointing a finger of blame is not a solution; if anything, it ends up becoming a problem in itself; it becomes a veil under which incompetent leadership hides from failure. Africa has become accustomed to pointing her finger at other societies but that has not addressed the problem of producing academic graduates with locally redundant skills.

This is by no means a criticism of the graduates but a critique of the system of which they happen to be the by-product. If it becomes a habit that the product of a system does not freshen or edify society, a review of the system becomes inevitable.  

We have long known that schooling is interfering with our children’s education. Before formal schooling our children’s life is replete with a free spirit of creativity – creating fun games, singing, dancing, making dolls and replica cars, balls, etc. out of recycled material, but the moment they step onto formal education institutions that light is switched off. Instead of kindling their curiosity, a process of filling their minds begins; they are filled with fact after fact; this process takes away their independence, ensures they put aside their culture, their language, their creative minds and start learning/ memorising everything foreign to them and their community.

The system sanctions and isolates those children perceived to be dysfunctional to it; children are sanctioned for ‘daring’ to speak in their mother tongue in class, for being independent thinkers and for nonconformity and not being submissive to the system.

To protect itself, the system co-opts the ‘best’ of our own children (gives them titles such as monitors and prefects) and uses them not to advance things of value to their communities but to oversee the cancellation of their peers’ independence, local values and monitor the effective imposition of foreign attitudes and language within the school system. The outcome of the process is the effective loss of self-confidence among innovative children, and if you think of how many years are spent in school you can imagine the damage.

Graduates across the entire education sector are great fact hubs and always keen to show that off, but they rarely make discoveries or invent anything of public value; all they do is find their niche within the established foreign innovation.

Our schooling is not preparing children to explore their world, the platform is conformist in form – it is an indoctrination zone that teaches children what to think, not how to think; it does not encourage inquisitive minds that think beyond the examination and ask investigative questions of their immediate environment, of their society and the world and creatively work on finding answers to those critical questions.

MI

The formal education space is not a particularly creative zone, in fact it does not support invention, it stifles discovery. Its funding reflects its bias against creativity; chronic underfunding and toxic dependence on foreign invention only prepare our students to be good employees; career advice is mere display of foreign business into which students are prepared to fit in.

We must prioritise the eradication of a dysfunctional education system in our land; let us look at what is taught and how children are taught in school. What we can no longer afford is to label as education an elitist system that projects upon children elite prejudices, hopes and fears; we cannot continue down a route that moulds children to fit the pattern of other people’s desires.

Barriers and hindrances to children’s learning can only be removed through an education system that unlocks their inherent abilities, and such an education will not come cheap. Cultural sacrifice and massive financial investment is key.   

Education needs to be adequately funded and appropriately focused for it to promote invention. Our universities and colleges cannot continue being dumping sites of outdated foreign ideas. We should expect more from our medical, pharmacology, engineering schools, etc. How do we account for the fact we have traditional healers who use local herbs to treat various ailments yet our scientists have yet to make a safe scientifically proven drug out the same herbs? 

You cannot save money by underfunding education provision and creating a dysfunctional system; producing poorly prepared graduates whose pride lies in their deep understanding and appreciation of other societies’ inventions is a dangerous illusion of knowledge. So, whatever the cost of a good education, the price is cheap compared to that of ignorance.

Published by THE RESEARCH HUB

a progressive politics and policy researcher and author with an interest in Mthwakazi (Matabeleland) human rights, liberties, safety and security.

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