Educating our youth to fulfil Mandela’s dream

2015-05-04 10:16
Values such as respect, responsibility, integrity, courage and compassion should be modelled by our teachers in the classroom and taught through the curriculum.

Values such as respect, responsibility, integrity, courage and compassion should be modelled by our teachers in the classroom and taught through the curriculum. (Rogan Ward)

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We need to instil the desire and capacity to live with compassion, integrity and wisdom, says Simon Weaver

CRY our beloved country. There is no doubt that our beloved South Africa is crying at the moment. Our great leaders who have gone before us must be resting ­uncomfortably and crying in their graves as they see our beloved country being racked by selfishness, greed, corruption and violence.
Fear and the desperation of the poor and the marginalised in our society are bubbling to the surface as the countless unemployed clamour to have their voices heard. In the past few months, we have all been wracked by our own fear, depression and negativity about our ­beloved country, our country that promised so much when we at last realised our freedom in a relatively peaceful first democratic election in 1994. Xenophobia has resulted in many ­people being uprooted from their homes and from their places of work, to be chased into refugee camps and sent home to their countries of origin. Where is our ubuntu, where has it gone? Where is our love, understanding and compassion for others?
However, we must not give up! Regardless of the negativity that we are currently experiencing, we need to continue to fight for our dreams and breathe life and hope into our country. Our leaders like Nelson Mandela have given us a vision of what our future could be like. In his now famous speech from the dock in 1963, he said: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.” This ideal and dream for the Rainbow Nation to be free of any form of discrimination and abuse of power were those for which he was prepared to die. As we currently drift further away from this great ideal we must reignite the dream and put our shoulders to the wheel to fight to realise it. We have the power to turn all this around and create a new South Africa where love and harmony flourish and where greed, corruption, fear and violence are fought against and minimised. As Mandela said: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
He also pointed out: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” However, education in South Africa is currently in disarray. We are not harnessing this powerful weapon to assist us to fulfil ­Mandela’s dream. We need to focus on this and ensure that we teach our future generations so that they are able to produce the Rainbow ­Nation that Mandela dreamt of.
As educationalists, we should be unlocking and developing each child’s God-given talents so he or she can make a meaningful difference for South Africa. In our own country we face many challenges, including climate change, water scarcity, growing species extinction rates, economic instability, a leadership vacuum, growing crime rates, poverty, a huge discrepancy between rich and poor, oppression and the abuse of women, children and animals. We desperately need our children to be prepared to face an uncertain and bleak future. We need to ensure they are able to solve these problems.
Currently, our education system equips our children with the skills and abilities to read and write, and although some of them may be verbally, mathematically and technologically literate and successful in achieving the requirements of our education system, they are unprepared to face the challenges of our broken world. The system that we have emphasises the importance of the success of the individual. You acquire your education in order to ensure that you live a life where you are able to do what you want and buy the things you desire. The education system prepares people to ­operate in a global world for the benefit of themselves. It is self-focused and narrow in its delivery in that skills are emphasised.
Although the basics are essential, they need to be augmented with some important additions if we are to realise Mandela’s dream. If we continue in this narrow way we are never going to be able to fix the many problems that we have in our country and make it a sustainable and harmonious place for the future.
A second and very important aspect that we need to concentrate on is teaching and instilling in our children the correct values. Our youth needs to be encouraged to act with respect, responsibility, integrity, courage and compassion. Values such as these need to be modelled by our teachers and taught through the curriculum.
Ubuntu needs to be encouraged and taught, and our children need to be guided away from thinking in a selfish and self-centred way where only the individual matters.
We need to teach our children through everything we do, to do the most good and the least harm to others. We need to engender a deep respect and understanding for everything and everybody around us; a respect for their God, oneself, others and the environment. Our children need to be looking outside of themselves and thinking about the marginalised and poor in our society so that they can, through their courage and compassion, devise ways of overcoming these problems instead of adding to them by acting in a selfish, greedy and corrupt manner.
Zoe Weil says it best when she says education should be to “provide all pupils with the knowledge, tools and motivation to be conscientious choice makers and engaged change makers for a prosperous, healthy, just, and humane world for all people, animals and the environment”. The term that she likes to talk about is “we need to graduate a generation of solutionaries”. People who are focused on doing good for those around them and developing solutions for the many problems that we face.
She defines a solutionary as “someone who identifies inhumane, unsustainable and ­exploitative systems and then develops practical, effective and visionary solutions, both large and small, to replace them with those that are restorative, healthy and just.
“Solutionaries bring their knowledge and skills to bear on pressing and entrenched challenges in an effort to create positive changes for all people, animals and the Earth.”
In producing these compassionate and engaged solutionaries, there are four elements that we need to concentrate on in our schools.
• Providing accurate information, so we have the knowledge to face challenges. This will result in our children being exposed to the hard truths that surround us, including global warming, the extinction of animals, abuse, exploitative systems, etc.
• Fostering the three Cs: curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, so we have the tools to meet challenges.
• Instilling the three Rs, the two Cs and the one I: reverence, respect, responsibility, courage, compassion and integrity, so we have the motivation and the correct values to confront our challenges.
• Developing a positive attitude. This would involve developing passion, motivation, discipline, perseverance and resilience.
This type of education would not only instil the desire and capacity to live with compassion, integrity and wisdom, but it would also provide our children with the knowledge and tools to put our values into action in meaningful, far-reaching ways so that we can realise Mandela’s vision for South Africa. By harnessing education in this way, we will have created a most powerful weapon to change our country.
As Weil says: “It’s time to make living ethically, sustainably and peaceably on this planet the very purpose of education.”
This means that education needs to be given the best people and the most resources so that we can turn South Africa around and make it a prosperous land where people live in peace and harmony with one another and ubuntu is returned to its rightful place among its people.
• Simon Weaver is the principal of Cordwalles Preparatory School.

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