Getting an education the first time around is a privilege that too few people benefit from the first time around. Getting to relive the experience through digital platforms is a uniquely 21st Century phenomenon that many of us across the globe are going through together. I think that most adults are finding this difficult. Things have changed and maybe the first time around they didn’t even like school.
If anything “good” has come out of the pandemic, it has to be the way it has united humans across the world via the internet as we struggle through our struggles together. I never knew I could relate to a woman in Israel having a meltdown over her child’s online schooling until it happened. I think it was the clarinet practice that broke her? No matter. I could totally “get” her through the barriers of distance and every other identifier one can think of. I had been there, sister.
The internet. What did we do before it? How do people get along without it? I was worried about the Digital Divide before this pandemic hit us all in the face with a bat. Not just for the purposes of free speech but for the availability of information. I thought advocacy would help it, many dreamers on the world wide web are naïve. But years have passed and I am resigned because que sera sera. What is the point?
The point is that hope, uh, finds a way. I sit across the table sometimes from a young one whose discipline while in virtual class is impeccable. It actually makes me feel bad about my own professionalism. Like most people who write for a living, I do what a lot of people consider to be “nothing”: staring into the middle distance, pacing, going off to hang out, watching cartoons. It is not for nothing, it is work. Ideas are like extroverts: being around other ideas makes them happy and healthier.
The internet offers us all manner of “places” to go and satisfy our souls with the company of others. And when our souls are satisfied, we go on and create nice things, sometimes turning the things we craft with our minds, hearts and hands into goods.
Ah, capitalism. It is good for the productivity but dear lord, the rents, the taxes? Forget it.
Recently as I perused a certain online neighbourhood news bulletin I stumbled across some news. Apparently the Public Education System in Tanzania has decided to try out some new “combinations” of subjects. Somewhere deep in the cold, impenetrable vaults of the bureaucratic machine a human being had heard the faint cry: Change was overdue.
Soon, students who want to sit national exams in Tanzania for secondary students entering Form V will be able to take new combinations of subjects. The restrictions of combinations stay the same, the transformative “newness” is supposed to struggle within those confines to deliver an education fit for the 21st Century. I don’t know anymore. There have been so many attempts and education reform here who even keeps track? The students who have been experimented upon throughout the years?
It might be different this time. Apparently the sciences and some of the arts have been introduced in a fresh way to help students navigate the deep, unpredictable waters of the Whimpering Twenties and beyond. Physics, Mathematics and Computer Studies (PMC) is finally putting those rational weirdos to good use, but I worry about that combination. I have met people who think like machines. Uncanny valley is even worse in real life.
Kiswahili French and Chinese (KFC), Kiswahili English and Chinese (KEC) suggest that Tanzania is looking to boost its International Relations of the Money and Other Kinds, perhaps?
Physical Education, Geography and Economics is oddly thrilling. There is something I can’t quite place about the potential I see in this odd bird. The outlier though has got to be Physical Education, Biology and Fine Arts (PBA). The practical application of this combination is not obvious, it is a misfit. Of course, I like it. After all, a mind trained in the rigours of art — art demands honesty! — residing in a body that is (hopefully) trained, fit and well-fed is a great start. The biology bit? Very cool. Biology is the Sociology of Science, after all. I dig it.
They say old dogs can’t learn new tricks. This is not true. Old dogs learn new tricks all the time, in human terms in just means never lose sight of the child inside you who is ever hungry for new knowledge, who is happy and creative and quick to make friends. I am getting to be an old dog soon enough; I certainly don’t want to learn any new tricks. But the times demand it. Luckily I have the help of my old friends, my inner child, and youth.
Anyone can evolve, given positive encouragement and incentive to guide their foray into the infinite quest for knowledge. I should know. Happened to me. I hope it happens to everybody at least once in their lives.
So I wish my government the very best in this quest to give Young Tanzania a fighting chance at success in the future. And I guess that I will also try to adjust. New Maths is terrible, but there is a YouTube video that took me by the hand and guided me through some exercises. It will never feel comfortable, but it did kind of feel familiar, which is good enough.
Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report: E-mail: [email protected]