Owners of Learning. The Nyae Nyae Village Schools over Twenty-Five Years, by Jennifer Hays
In the foreword to Owners of Learning: The Nyae Nyae Village Schools over Twenty-Five Years, Willemien le Roux writes: "Reading this wonderful reflection by Jennifer Hays on the obstacles that San children and their parents confront in their efforts to achieve "a good education" has moved me in ways I did not expect".
I time travelled back over seventeen years to the discussions Jennifer and I had many times, always under the stars with glowing embers warming our winter-burnt faces, or summer thunderstorms chasing us into smoky grass and clay huts. All the while we were listening to the seemingly endless stories of San children who were being separated from their parents at a very young age and thrown into an alien culture and language environment. At night our thoughts would churn - is it right that children from communities like the San should be made to fit into a foreign education system? Or should that system be preparing to meet their needs - linguistic, emotional, cultural or even socio-political? Surrounded by the soft clicking sounds of people preparing for sleep, as the fires were burning low, we tried to imagine what good education would be like for people who still had one foot in their hunter-gatherer existence, while the other was trying not to slip on the unfamiliar ground of the modern world encroaching upon them from all directions. We have heard the same stories in all the areas and among all the language groups we have consulted, interviewed, observed and assessed over the years, in places such as Dobe, Qangwa, Ghanzi and Kaputura in Botswana, the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, and the many villages in Nyae Nyae, where Jennifer later did her doctoral research on the Nyae Nyae Concervancy's Village Schools Project. Nyae Nyae is an important example for San education throughout southern Africa - it is the one place where a community has been trying to put into practice an education that could bridge this gap with the help of progressive thinkers, educationalists, linguists and anthropologists. The deficiencies (as well as the advantages) of our own, western-based education systems came into sharper focus there in the sand, among the San huts and fire circles, as we observed a person sitting under a tree in the shade, surrounded by a small group of children of various ages. We imagined a school where the "blackboard" was the clean, soft sand they were sitting on; teaching aids would be manufactured there and then from dung and thorns and vines and seeds. The abacus would be made out of antelope droppings and berries strung together on a bow string, or children would count pebbles, droppings or pods. The adult would have all the time in the world, therefore there was no competition to finish first, or to win or lose. The "class" would be allowed to watch a bateleur eagle do its swerves in the sky above or to laugh at a beetle's tiny tracks crossing the letters or symbols they had just written in the sand. If the class got drowsy in the midday heat, everyone would doze off for a while right there. If they wanted to have playtime, the adult would go to do some chores and come back to her post by the time the kids indicated readiness for another session. All the peoples of the world started with such an education system, where parents owned the right and means to lead their children into a position of knowledge and understanding to cope with the demands of the adult world. Due to the pressure of modernity, all but the most marginalized have had to give that up for what is now considered "real" education. [...]
This is an excerpt from Owners of Learning. The Nyae Nyae Village Schools over Twenty-Five Years, by Jennifer Hays.
Title: Transformation from Below?
Subtitle: White Suburbia in the Transformation of Apartheid South Africa to Democracy
Author: Jennifer Hays
Publisher: Basler Afrika Bibliographien
Basel, Switzerland 2016
ISBN9783905758603 / ISBN 978-3-905758-60-3
Softcover, 17 x 24 cm, 282 pages
Hays, Jennifer im Namibiana-Buchangebot
The book 'Owners of Learning' describes the Nyae Nyae Village Schools, set in north-eastern Namibia, over twenty-five years.