1. Support overseas education
The first one from my Ways to Help from Home list:
From my limited knowledge of the “African” education system (which is a HUGE generalization), much of the teaching is done through memorization instead of critical reasoning. For example, one of my friends volunteering at South African schools told me she was surprised that the kindergartners already knew their alphabet. Then she switched the letters around and realized they knew how to list their ABCs, but didn’t know the individual letters.
She said that she saw a teacher get mad because she asked a student, “What do you eat for breakfast” and he answered, “I eat Jungle Oats.”
“No,” the teacher chastised. “The correct answer is ‘I eat bread for breakfast.’”
They were encouraged to memorize answers, but not analyze the answers.
Here’s another story.
I recently taught one of my coworkers how to use the Voto platform for All Voices Matter project. Voto has done a great job making their website super easy to use – even I can figure it out! But maybe I should have prepared a little better because when we looked at our survey questions, I told my colleague to take out the “If” because the platform rewrites the questions.
Why have you not registered for health insurance?
If the reason is lack of money
If you are not interested
If the registration process is too difficult
If you don’t know where to register
At the end we checked it, though, and the questions didn’t make sense. For the reason lack of money, press 1. For you are not interested, press 2.
“Actually, I think we should leave in the ‘if’,” I said.
He looked at me like I was a total idiot for getting the process wrong. Like, since I’ve uploaded surveys before, I should know how to word the questions correctly the first time through.
I might be reading my interactions wrong, but it appears that iterative thinking isn’t encouraged here. I doubt that math teachers tell their students to look at their answer at the end and think, “Does this make sense?” Instead, if they follow all the steps correctly then they should get the final answer right.
Teachers everywhere should value creativity. Students need to be taught that it’s ok to experiment and how to critically analyse their thoughts.
I don’t know how to change overseas school curriculums. Maybe every country should have a television network that plays The Magic School Bus.
From home, though, I think it’s important to encourage learning and teaching as best as we can. In the development worker crowd, people who volunteer to teach and work at orphanages are at the bottom of the totem pole. I recently met a young couple who looked like they were 16 (but are probably closer to 20) who came to Ghana to teach at a school for 2 months. As they told their story, the rest of the development workers smirked. First, they’re a couple. Working with your boyfriend/girlfriend is soooo lame. Second, they’re only here for 2 months (being here for 3 months, I also don’t warrant much respect either). Third, they’re teaching. Basically they’re just playing with kids and taking photos. That’s not producing any lasting change.
But we development workers need to stop thinking that like. More specifically, I need to stop. Most westerners can probably look back to their childhoods and remember one or two teachers who made a big difference in their life – hopefully positive.
Consequently, I have decided to be more supportive of development workers who teach.
On another note, I believe that it’s usually more useful to bring African delegates to North America than send North American delegates to Africa. Again, sorry for using huge generalizations. Unfortunately, people are less willing to donate to bring a black person to Canada than send a cute blonde girl to Africa, even though that’s often a more worthwhile cause.
There are already enough Tinder photos of white people surrounded by black children.
(Seriously, people, stop it.)