africa, africa

05/12/2014

There are a few completely ignored chapters in the history of the world.  But, am not even going to rant about the lack of a canonical ‘women’s history of the world’ etc etc. Nor am I going to wail about the lack of reasonable and diversified representations of Arabic,  our very own Indic and Far-eastern ones, leave alone the very significant contributions of the world (non-european, that is)  natural history…

Am not even going to frustrate myself with a clear lack of  ‘native’ histories of such geographic categories as South America, Native America.

But am more bothered about how callously, we treat the histories  that spun the great  story of Africa.

I recall with horror that even the so called ‘learned’ ones, and historically inclined ones would know very little about Africa, and if at all, they may remember some details about Cleoopatra (thanks to  Asterix comics) and Mummies (thanks to horrendously hilarious ‘horror’ flicks from US – such as Mummy returns for the Nth time) – whereas for all practical purposes, Egypt is more a part of Asia than Africa. To top it all, many a learned folk would call Africa, rather poetically (sic) the ‘Dark Continent!’

Of course, African philosophy would be an oxymoron for them.

With some raking of the brain, some may even come out with names such as Nelson Mandela and ah, I forget the names of the cricketers – but, I reserve them for some future post.

Of course, lately, Africa has been reduced to studies on tribal massacres, internecine warfares, droughts  and occasional stunning  ‘nature’ documentaries, courtesy of ‘Discovery’ or the rabble rousing BBC channels or that bane of nature reportage – the execrable NatGeo channels — on the Idiot Box – on majestically l.e.. ee…eee….aping gazelles and imperiously waddling elephants and exotic backdrops and the stereotypical pygmies (!) hunting game of some random mutant mayhem or whatever.

The great American pulp film productions (there are also really and equally bad German and French ones, to give discredit to them too) have distilled Africa, in their own infernal wisdom,  into sad (um, actually hilarious) & melodramatic films like ‘Tears of the Sun’ or that endlessly abominable ‘Gods must be crazy.’ Sheesh!

History after history books are written about “world” wars whereas those wars were actually fought between avaricious and blood-thirsty European nations and in limited territories. Of course hapless colonies were also drawn in – but even that wouldn’t make those pointless bloodsheds, WORLD wars.

But am digressing, as is my wont. 8-)

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With erdkinder (=earth children – in German and in Montessoriese; adolescents), among many other things, we have been  studying the topography of Africa, on which we have layered nations and boundaries, rivers and mountains. Fascinating details to me, of course. From the reaction of the children, I could see that they are fascinated too! But then this was only a mere starting point.

The idea is to look at various (wilfully and often sinfully) neglected things, from fascinating & engaging points of view – so that synthesis at higher levels of abstractions could take place in the impressionable and curious minds of the adolescents.

It is amazing what an encouraged child would passionately do – I am actually thrilled at how the curiosity of some children has been kindled – how they want to know more – how they kept poring over all kinds of information for many an hour – and how, coherently & logically they try to understand and assimilate various factors.

Now our erdkinder know a lot more about the topography and the layers of Africa than probably a civil servent (IFS) wanting to ‘serve’ in Africa.

Darfur? They know what sad things are going on in Sudan. Rwanda? They will soon see Sometimes in April.’ They will have considered opinions on how Africa is torn apart NOT because of internecine tribal wars, not  because of that bogeyman for all problems of the world (=USA, sad!), but because of the machinations of the imperialistic Christianity and entrenched Islam – as implemented in Africa. Nigeria? They would soon know how Petroleum could  actually be a hindrance to development, at least there. They would know about slave trade. Not necessarily because of a couple of readings of Alex Haley. They would know about the incredible & brave civil society leaders – and not only Patrice Lumumbas.

They will know about the great and living scientists – all from Africa. They will have deep knowledge of African schools of Philosophies. Engineering wonders. All them interesting thingies, while having fun.

We used this book as a basic text; of the 14 children that I could work with, 2 took an active interest beyond the book. But, all participated in lively discussions; man, didn't we trip the light fantastic? :-) (Amazon link)

We used this book as a basic text; of the 14 children that I could work with, 2 took an active interest beyond the book. But, all participated in lively discussions; man, didn’t we trip the light fantastic? :-) (Amazon link)

They will have informed, learned & competent opinions on things that matter and that are of importance to us, as a society. They will not spend their time in front of dumb toys like  Sony PSP or discuss inane saas-bahu drivel on the Idiot Box aka TV or suffer from mall-nutrition and all that glitz.

They will know how to separate chaff from the grain. They will learn to filter out noises from signals. They will develop finely tuned tastes and a sense of aesthetics, with a keen eye to observe and reflect on the inherent beauty in everything. This is my fervent hope.

They will be responsible and considerate children, having a healthy respect for things that one should have a healthy respect for.

Hope, hope.

I live on hope. I am an optimist. At least, I would like to think so.

For the poor 'over enthusiastic' two kids - I gave this book. Then, I had to go Shakespeare to explain the Tempest context. But then, the truth is that the kids managed to finish and perhaps understand 1/3 of the book. Still, it is significant, considering the fact that they were merely 16 years old when these sessions happened. I think, they would be fine, erudite and men-of-action, in their early twenties now... Ah, the pleasant memories of dealing with them! (Amazon link)

For the poor ‘over enthusiastic’ two kids – I gave this book. Then, I had to go Shakespeare to explain the Tempest context. But then, the truth is that, the kids managed to finish and perhaps understand 1/3 of the book. Still, it is significant, considering the fact that they were merely 16 years old when these sessions happened. I think, they would be fine, erudite and men-of-action, now in their early twenties… Ah, the pleasant memories of dealing with them! (Amazon link)

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Now you may ask, what use this is, this Africa fetish – for the ‘secondary school leaving certificates’ of various kinds. I would be tempted to ask right back — Sir (or Ma’am), which part of  ‘secondary’ that you can’t understand. I am talking about the primary education, sorry.

I feel that, SSLC exam of any kind, will not be able to test the range and depth of the capabilities of these young adults (or old children, depending on your perspective) – Anyway, with a little bit of focus, rigour and 7Ps we will handle the exam part of their graduation appropriately. So don’t you worry.

And, the answer to the question – but WHY? – can be answered by an equally simple – Why NOT? But, the real answer to the question would take a whole big post and I suppose you are too tired now. The answer would be at many levels, questioning our basic beliefs and internalized assumptions about what we think education is.

If at all someone asks, we will handle that later, okay? For those who would want to ask, the forum is always open in terms of comments to this (offending) post and I suppose WordPress allows threaded comments too!

In the meantime, rejoice with me, and peruse the quiz questions that our children reasonably handled – there were seven rounds of them. There will be more. I have provided the scans of the questions. Answers, you can figure out yourself, if you want or you know, you can even ask…

Journal Entry# March 25, 2009 – 10:43 am (with added notes as on 21st November, 2014)

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