Saturday, 24 September 2016

Teaching in the open: a Case for bomas and shady trees

The setting is South Africa's Mpumanlanga Province. The background to this region's development is of course intricately linked to its past: a homeland outside Pretoria created by the Apartheid Government in the name of 'separate development'. The environment is rural: cattle, goats, donkeys and chicken roam freely, while members of this community carry on with their daily lives, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the "other South Africa" - the one characterized by westernisation with a hint of Africa, driven by commercialization, consumerism and personal wealth accumulation above everything else.

But here in Siyabuswa the R578 carriers traffic, goods and passengers past rural dwellers for whom time has a different meaning. It is safe to assume that the principles spelled out in "The Fifth Discipline" are unknown to them for it talks about problems and a world that are not relevant to this part of the globe. Or is it?

My journey into a new world continues - the world that Castells describes and the wisdom of Gladwell are not known here. The changed world of work that Handy described so eloquently must still reach these shores - for even the Internet is either absent or slower here, or have little impact! The massive store of information on the WWW has little relevance here. Houses are still built of mud bricks, animals left to roam freely, children raised by their poverty-stricken grannies still run around without clothes at times. At least the cellphone has made a change - but instead of using it in class for teaching, the teachers use if during class to socialise and communicate with friends and family. It all remains in the realm of the wheel-barrow culture of work - the one where I often come across groups of workers who sit and look at the work, or lay in the wheel barrows. Perhaps their tasks seem menial and meaningless - how does one, in fact, sweep a dusty road if it is more or less dusty everywhere?

I don't know - Im merely a respecting traveler, observant to the effects of the past on the present...