Learning to Unlearn Learning to Unlearn
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The first time I saw the quote from Alvin Toffler, ‘the illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write but the ones who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn,’ I thought of a typical student, likely in a chalk and board classroom. Little did I know, this quote spoke of people like me, maybe like you, not typical students, but bombarded with opportunities and challenges, all pushing us to learn, unlearn and relearn, in other words to be so comfortable with change.

COVID19 has brought about a new myriad of behaviors and redefined our relationships. Everywhere, be it at home, at work, at school and in the community, our engagements have taken a turn. I once met a person homeschooling her children because she was only in Tanzania temporarily and considered retaining the same curriculum from her home country. The more she got into the details of how she goes about it, the further the thought moved from my head. I was fascinated to say the least but knew for certain, it was not for me. Needless to say, I work in education and fully aware how sharing knowledge to the point of comprehension, requires some saint-like qualities.

The year was 2017. Little did I know, 3 years later I will find myself creating mechanisms to support learning at home for my two children, learning with them and enabling them to learn from others and themselves. Critically, I am faced with a test of being able to adapt to change, calmly and timely.

Most parents around the world found their role shifting from a caregiver to that of an educator, a facilitator of learning and provide therapy services without booked hours. We are more involved than ever, not just on what goes in our children’s tummies but also their heads and their hearts; schedules, lessons, assignments, household chores, friends and values. Part of it, we had to learn what we know about raising a child contrary to how we were raised or maybe we have to relearn contrary to how we have been raising them.

If you are a parent, your relationship with your child has definitely transformed. We tend to forget, education is not schooling and education is meant to holistic. John Dewey, an influential figure in education reforms, even spoke about the social aspect of education, it is a process of living not a preparation for future living.

What exactly does this mean? Education is about learning and learning is as much of an outcome as it is a process. This process combines structured quantitative teaching such as what we find in curriculums and syllabi and social factors including the environment, relationships or engagement and communication coming from those two factors. Information and knowledge shared, requires an effort on the learner to figure out why, to rethink and to relate for purposes of understanding and application.

These things may seem researchy (I just made up that word, don’t look it up) but I had to tell you why it is not enough to use this time that schools are closed after COVID19 to bombard your child with a crazy schedule from 8 am to 5 pm, to get the entire bookshop at home and find all educational videos that youtube can provide. That is just the ‘what’ of learning, information and knowledge is what we learn. It is so important however to indulge in the ‘why’ of learning, this is where magic happens. ‘Why’ seeks to make sense of the ‘what’, to understand, apply, interpret, analyse, evaluate and create.

In this digital age of information, we are clearly not short of the ‘What’, knowledge and information is available at the tips of your fingers. It is important we cultivate the right environment where learning, both conscious and unconscious, can flow freely. How you demonstrate your values, your priorities and choices. Your involvement, participation, dedication and support towards your child. Talk to each other, do things together, describe your activities, contradict your child’s thoughts, let them convince you, ask their opinion, assert your boundaries (and repercussions for violating them) and reward each other. I have been learning, unlearning and relearning these things. I am renewed and it took a global pandemic attack to make me revisit what truly matters.

The future is going to change. As much as this is exciting, not everything has to change. Some beautiful things of the past need to be maintained and reinforced. Technology is not an end in itself, merely a tool and one of the multiple means to an end.

Back to home schooling, now that we know schools are beyond academic, lets appreciate their social, spiritual and communal aspects coming from human interactions in a regulated environment. There is that old adage that says, don’t fix what is not broken.

By Faraja Nyalandu

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