Have you ever pondered the difference between “to study” and “to learn”? I did just now and while doing so a whole other much bigger subject rose to the top. The reason why adult educators, trainers and teachers struggle so much in South Africa.
In the 13 years I’ve been happily living in South Africa I have learned that the people down here are very stubborn. And as I moved more into the teaching arena in the last couple of years I wonder more and more why it is that South Africans haven’t quite understood the value of education – not just for their kids but most importantly for themselves, adult education. (By the way, I am NOT talking about preaching a subject and then testing how much is retained by memorizing and then have it forgotten the next day.)
The roots of that can be found in the history of the country, and without delving too much into that, I guess it’s save to say that current older generations (who parented the young ones) in this beautiful and rich country have learned to be self-sufficient. They’ve been boycotted by the rest of the world for so long and thus learned to get on without any outside influence. This has planted the “suspicious” seed in their subconscious mind as they now see any outside influence suspicious – “if we could get on without this, why do we need it now”. And outside can be defined as anybody, South African or not. Mind, this is not happening on a conscious level…
[Just for the record, this entire post is my personal, private opinion with which you may or may not agree, it is simply my experience.]
Plus the whole history of Bantu eduction and A-level and B-level schools etc has screwed up the very idea of learning in people’s heads – on either side of the racial divide. The government said to the previously advantaged ones: “you don’t have to learn more, we’ll look after you” and to the disadvantaged: “you don’t have to learn more, we’ll look after you”. And educated people is a danger for any government (hence almost no government school anywhere in the world teaches self-improvement) and nowhere has this been lived out stronger than on the southern most tip of Africa. This is SUCH a rich country in terms of resources and most importantly its people. I’m willing to believe that they (aka government) were so scared of individuals becoming strong and abundant (which is incredibly easy down here) that they decided to keep everybody numb (using mostly schools and churches as weapon of choice).
I’ve come to believe this because I encounter so many people who are stuck in the “I don’t need to learn more” mantra that I had to start pondering on why this would be. Adult learning is practically non-existent in South Africa. Sure, there are enough training institutions out there, but they are having a hard time convincing people that continuous learning on an adult level is a necessity. Filling rooms for educational seminars, trainings, etc. is a difficult task indeed. I mean the government had to even use force and implement a skills levy to get at least some adult education going!!
Never mind self-improvement. Oh let’s not go into that one! It almost seems like the majority of South Africans I come across (and that’s not a representative spectrum of the whole country, mind) have been so indoctrinated by the notion that bettering yourself is evil that they are full of fear when it comes to making changes in their own life, mind, spirit, etc.
Ok let me say one thing though very clearly – I have come across MANY beautiful and extraordinary people who are the epitome of self-learners and hard-core life long students. Amazing people who are willing to let go of the past and learn new ways and means. That is why I’m still here and why I know that every single one down here can follow that same path. In fact this idea turned into part of my mission.
The truth though is that the majority of people is very scared of learning and that is because they haven’t learned how to learn. Sounds like a catch 22 to me! But hey, it’s my mission to open up as many people as I can to the power of learning, self-study and self-improvement. I am incredibly happy when I see movements like @leadSA that tackle this very issue at the core. In South Africa we have to stop believing that we are entitled, that we have no choice, that we need somebody outside of us to help us – it’s time to stand up and realize that if we want to make this a better place we got to take a look at ourselves and start with the man in the mirror (thank you MJ for that powerful song!).
Below is the call to action from the leadSA campaign. Personally I’d add that in order to do all these things you’ve got to learn and improve yourself. Standing up in the heat of the thick is not an easy thing to do, it takes great courage and leadership which comes from learning and improving. EVERYBODY can do it – and MUST do it, most people though don’t know how to. I hope that we can change the “ignorance is bliss” mental state into “leadership is a necessity” for everybody in this awesome country.