EDUCATING OUR FUTURE – THE RASTAFARIAN STUDENT
As educators, we know that the primary basis of education is to prepare all children as pupils and students for the challenges of today and tomorrow. Any society that intend to survive the ages must value the intelligence of all its members, create an environment that encourages them to thrive and enable them to contribute as a means for societal survival in the unknown future.
This young man has been subjected to such trauma by his parents who believe they are fighting for his rights and the rest of us who have joined the conversation either to support the parents or who have ridiculed him, his family choices and his way of life.
Had the father not announced on social media and invited the court of public opinion, I am sure there would have been an amicable mutually beneficial end to this saga without the spectacle we are witnessing. Cooler heads would have prevailed on all sides – actually, cooler heads will end up prevailing, it always does.
Indeed, sometimes public debate is needed to keep our finger on the national pulse.
Most of us were nurtured in environments and with values that we continue to embody till this day. We sometimes modify our understanding and interpretations of our values as we grow and evolve over time. Our young men and women who are enrolling in schools all cross the country are no exception.
As educators, we have a responsibility to balance a convivial learning environment with the room we must create for growth and exploration by our beloved students.
This young man simply applied to Achimota School because he wanted to study there. He may be the future scientist who will discover the cure to that rare disease that will affect someone’s child or grandchild in the future. He may be the next farmer who will experiment with a new farming technique that will allow us to increase yield and end world hunger. He may be that police officer who will keep our neighborhood safe. He may be that teacher who will teach our child or grandchildren. This young man may just be that nurse or midwife who will skillfully help our wife and daughter deliver that pre-term baby.
Rastafarian or not, we need to ensure that as a society, we educate him.
Now, I am quick to add that we have policies, rules and regulations for a reason. However, every society, from time to time, revisits its policies and amends them for the changing times. Even constitutions go through amendments because over time, our conditions and understanding of one another changes .
It is the Canadian Philosopher and Communication Theorist, Marshall McLuhan who coined the phrase, "medium is the message". While our message does not change, our medium for conveying that message changes over time. It is only a people who intend to survive, that learn to adjust within reason to the changing environment.
When our great grandparents and grandparents went to school, classrooms were designed in such a way that it forced students to conform and follow very prescriptive ways of doing things. During their time, the education system was preparing them for the industrial revolution of their time where working on a factory floor or on the assembly line was the order of the day. It required conformityand sameness.
The greatest failure of modern human evolution is that, we have refused to allow our classrooms and our education systems to evolve with our needs. So we now produce square pegs for round holes*. We must revisit our entire design and our way of preparing the next generation to face the challenges of the future.
We must all turn it down a notch because in all sincerity, the conversation we are having is a focus on the peripheral issues while the real problems we confront continue to face us head on. Families must do all we can to get our children to understand that we live in a dangerous world that is sometimes unforgiving so we must prepare our children to withstand disappointment and push back. We must live and express our freedoms within the confines of our society norms. We must also give schools and educational institutions room to operate.
Schools and educational institutions must also prepare to create a reflection of the world we prepare our students for. Schools are safe environment to refine our thoughts, ideas and come out with our best self. This means, schools must be okay to accept the so-called unrefined and mold them. We must also, be willing to accept that learning is a continuous process and room must be made to allow the entire school community to learn. This sometimes means confronting the unknown together rather than shutting it out.
I do hope that as this conversation continues, we keep our eye on the ball regarding the real challenges we must confront - food security, job security, ending extreme poverty, providing quality education for all and building a resilient world for future generations.
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