While providing access to quality education is of vital importance, we need to start thinking of learning the way Mandela did – as a much larger concept that goes beyond the confines of the campus and prepares students to become citizens of the world.
Nelson Mandela once said:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Mandela’s belief that education is an essential factor in the creation of a peaceful and just society is one that is accepted and understood across the world as more people strive for sustainable change.
Friday, 24 January 2020, marks the second annual International Day of Education, a day that celebrates the role that education plays in promoting peace and development.
The theme for this year’s International Day of Education is:
The many ways learning can empower people, preserve the planet, build shared prosperity, and foster peace.
As a life-long seeker of education, Mandela understood that learning could also happen outside the four walls of the classroom and that often, with the correct attitude, the educator learned just as much as the student. Mandela pursued his own learning tirelessly, in many different environments.
He was the perfect example of a deep learner – someone who learns through dialogue and engagement with others, with himself, and with the world around him. This learning is central to personal development and understanding of context and perspective because you teach while also learning from the person you are teaching.
Learning should not only be focused on mainstream education or book learning. Education should also not be touted as only necessary or beneficial to inhabitants of underdeveloped countries. Rather, learning should be seen as a lifelong practice – the pursuit of knowledge and understanding through lived experience, engagement and dialogue, reflection, and action.
Mandela sought out lessons in his everyday experiences throughout his life.
From his childhood spent observing his uncle govern the abaThembu people by following traditional African democratic principles of government, to the primary and high school education he received from missionaries. From the university education where he engaged with students and faculty from many different tribes, races, and cultures, to his adult life where he engaged with and learned from political and professional mentors. But also, from his rivals and adversaries.
All of these life lessons and experiences molded him into the man we grew to know and respect – a visionary leader who was respectful and understanding and who worked to achieve justice and equality for all.
The most important lesson we can take from Mandela’s approach to learning was his ability to understand and adapt to changing contexts.
He could analyze, assess, and respond to changing circumstances and environments and adjust his approach in order to settle disputes and conflicts. He was able to see and understand both sides of a conflict and act to achieve a positive outcome.
Such skills are essential to achieve positive change, especially in today’s increasingly volatile world, where conflict is often fueled by an unwillingness to respect different perspectives.
For students or professionals navigating increasingly diverse study and work environments, applying Mandela’s approach to learning is key to developing their soft skills.
A Study Abroad Program in Africa is a perfect way for students or professionals to venture beyond the classroom and practice the Mandela way of learning, while also imparting knowledge and skills to the people they engage with.
From the moment participants land in the country of their chosen program, they will engage in deeper learning, through their experiences and dialogue with others as they work with and learn from locals in the community.
Also see: Writing for Change in Africa
They will learn through self-dialogue in the form of reflection and journaling. They will also indulge in collective dialogue during workshops and group sessions where they are invited to discuss their learnings and observations.
They learn to adapt their thinking through shifting ideas based on context, especially in terms of culture and tradition. Once back home, they have the opportunity to implement their learnings in their lives and daily interactions with the people they encounter at work, school, or university.
There are many unseen benefits to going on a study abroad program in Africa.
Participants are able to experience the wonderfully complex journey our societies are making from traditional to modern, while also appreciating the varying circumstances present in each environment and ways in which these affect how modern concepts and teachings are adapted to suit the African context.
Here is a continent with 54 countries, over 3000 ethnic groups and cultures, and over 200 000 years of verbal histories and traditions that are still taught and practiced to this day.
A continent with such a tapestry of people and experiences, diversity presents a truly unique experience for the study abroad participant. There are very few places left in the world where, in the morning, you could be assisting young entrepreneurs to develop sustainable businesses and, in the afternoon, learn the traditional way to stamp maize, from a local housewife whose family has been doing it this exact same way for generations.
Schools, colleges, and universities prepare people to become individuals that make a positive contribution to the world. They produce teachers, doctors, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and humanitarians – all essential to the positive development of society.
However, while providing access to quality education is of vital importance, we need to start thinking of learning the way Mandela did – as a much larger concept that goes beyond the confines of the campus and prepares students to become citizens of the world.
If you want your students to experience the Mandela approach to learning on a study abroad program, get in touch with us.