“I am because We are” …. Is Learning Global or Contextual? Part 2

In the early part of my last week, I had two sets of conversations: one with my Professor Ayotola Aremu and the other with a colleague in one of the South Africa Universities-Dr Clement Lawrence. In the two conversations that lasted for about two hours altogether, the need for learning to be contextualized to Africa Society became the fulcrum of our discussion. As we jostled our discussions, it became so clear that I needed to write the second part of what I started last week on  (Is Learning global or contextual?) After that discussion, I needed to find out more about how to contextualize our learning while searching for a philosophy that emanated from the Africa continent that speaks to our cultures, values, climate, languages, lifestyle, etc. I have read enough of realism, dualism, idealism from great Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Alexandra the great. The four major philosophers that came from Greek culture, whose philosophical beliefs have impacted our whole. The culture of the western world is built on the foundation of these philosophies. One great example is the form of government the whole world is running called “Democracy” Some nations in the world had been practicing democracy for centuries, and it has been presented to us in Africa as the best form of government. Nations in Africa who were running a form of government threw out their native form of government away to give room for democracy.

Last week, you could remember I wrote about learning theories that were propounded by western theorists, other examples are classical conditioning theory of Watson; Operant conditioning of Skinner; behavioral theory of Pavlov, the cognitivism theory of Gestalt, etc. All of these theories form the basis of our educational system today, and they have also taught us how our brain process information and a change in behavior. When Pavlov used the dog for his experiment to explain how human behavior is viewed, it was pointed out that human behavior could be analyzed by looking at the stimuli and responses relationship. Don’t worry for some of us who are not familiar with such theory…it’s called behavioral theory which seeks to explain human behavior by analyzing the antecedents and consequences present in the individual’s environment. The majority of these theories are largely speaking to an individual’s environment when a change of behavior is expected to occur in an individual. I can go on and on with these, but what is my point? All of the theories came from western environments. Though some of them can be adapted to our environment, it has to be adapted before it can be used, especially in the Africa context.

In my search for an Africa philosophy to support the need to pay close attention to how learning takes place in our environment, I was glad when an Africa philosophy ensued from our discussion, called Ubuntu was mentioned. It simply means “I am because We are”. It stresses the need to pay attention to our community. However, as indicated by Nelson Mandela, “the Ubuntu philosophy (I am Because We are) does not mean that people should not address themselves to a problem, but it does imply that they should look at whether what they are doing will enable or empower the community around them and help it improve” I think learning will make a lot of sense if viewed through the lens of our indigenous community. In my short-sighted view, I think the reason for the western world that witnessed a lot of technological advancement is tied to the fact that they keep looking at the environments. Learning must be situated in an environment, for it to impact the same environments.

Ubuntu has clearly shown us that if what we are doing will not improve our economy and national life in Africa, then we need to rethink our strategy. COVID-19 pandemic had shown that we can all stay in our own countries and make an indelible impact. Nations have peeped into their national life for any clue to solving the problem of COVID-19, a typical example is Madagascar’s herbs made to solve the problem of COVID-19 pandemic. Madagascar just followed the Ubuntu philosophy. Most times, when a foreign strategy or approach is deplored or implemented, we are not really helping our community but rather helping to further prove the dominance of the theory or universality of the solution. Whose economy are we fostering and helping to grow when a foreign strategy is adopted and implemented in our community? The answer is laid out before our eyes- “to who/nation we obey and yield ourselves to the servant of such are we”.

The initial step toward creating a learning experience that is sticky, memorable, and action-centric is to begin to focus on learning activities that resonate with our context, by using our languages. In Nigeria, the major languages are Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo, how do you explain Mathematical Fractions to Yoruba Boy or Hausa Girl or Igbo Man that will resonate with him/her forever? The other day, I watched a video clip where Equation was taught in Yoruba language, it’s very beautiful and appealing. Sadly the “A for Apple video” has replaced “A-Aja; B-Bata” of J.F Odunjo in Nigeria. I don’t think any Generation Z or Alpha child could read the legendary books like “Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Eledumare” and the likes. All the remaining part of our cultures, values, and languages has completely been relegated and forsaken for a foreign culture completely alien to our cultures.

 I think we only received physical freedom labeled as independence, but our thinking is still colonized.”

Real freedom is the freedom to think and think indigenously and at the same time, independently. It’s very funny to note that our e-learning courses that are designed, created, and developed in Africa are still laced with foreign thinking. Course assets used are foreign: foreign images, vector diagrams, video, website images are foreign, even silhouette images that have become universal in their application are still foreign, etc. We must start to solve our indigenous problems by using contextualized examples. Remember learning that cannot solve our contextual problem is not learning.

The essence of learning is to be able to solve our problems not “theirs” 

Ubuntu philosophy says I am because We are”

See you next time.

Thanks for reading.

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