Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ubuntu and Child Development- How to Teach "Human-ness" at an Early Age

The term Ubuntu can roughly be translated into several different things including “Human-ness”. The most common definition for this African term is “I am, because we are.” There are different ways to interpret this saying but in essence it encourages people to put aside selfishness and embrace a sense of caring, empathy, love and generosity toward all peoples. It does not advocate for revenge and selfishness. Ubuntu encourages community. It encourages people to take a step back from themselves and see what they can do for others. This is a concept we have drastically moved away from as a society.

The core concepts behind Ubuntu are important when considering how we raise the children of the next generations. If you take a step back and look at the children of the current generation, and those soon to come you see a trend developing. People are becoming exceedingly more selfish, self-focused, in need of instant gratification and have a sense of competitiveness, which knows no bounds. The sense of competitiveness is fueled by the perspective that you always need to have more or be better than other people. This may be fueled by the perception that things are limited. But they are just that, things. This viewpoint stems from a sense of selfishness and fear. Many people say selfishness is innate. And to a certain point that may be true, but with concepts like Ubuntu, it’s possible to move away from that perspective and create a shift in thinking. It is imperative to teach a sense of human-ness to children from a young age. When children are exposed to this type of concept early on, their behaviors and view of the world are far more empathetic, loving and caring. Children raised with the model of interdependence, have a far more balanced perspective of their relevance to the community as an individual and as a contributor to the society as a whole.

The SEEDS philosophy is all about community and bringing people together. We believe it is essential to get children involved with others so they can learn to develop a sense of community and oneness with other people. It’s a simple fact that we cannot live without one another. The SEEDS community is focused on developing the whole child and therefore raising children to believe they play a key role in the whole community, just like every other person does. It is essential to use concepts like Ubuntu to help children understand that though they are unique, wonderful gifts to this earth, they are also part of a bigger whole. Many of us as parents, teachers, educators, mentors and so on, forget that while each child is unique and special in their own way, above all else, it is their special contribution to the community that is vastly more important. It focuses on the team, on the group. Without everyone contributing, and looking out for one another, everyone will eventually fall.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Wonders of Respect

One of the guiding principles of S.E.E.D.S. Community-based Education is the idea of mutual respect, mutual benefit.  We firmly believe this approach is a sound way to begin a relationship.  When it comes to education, everyone (students and teachers) has something in their knowledge base that is of potential value to others.  Teachers may be in front of the class and may have years of formal education to their credit.  Yet an uneducated farmer from a small rural village may have a better understanding of raising crops than a college graduate with more degrees than the average thermometer.

When meeting strangers, it is easy to misjudge or judge them by their appearance, the circumstances, or whatever biases and preconceptions we hold consciously or unconsciously.  Fundamentally we are all human beings, homo sapiens, and share many traits.  Some people feel they are superior to others and demand respect from those whom they deem inferior.  Granting strangers the minimum modicum of hospitality and respect could be the first step toward creating an opportunity to exchanging knowledge.  This begins the process of understanding to bridge the knowledge gap of other peoples, cultures, etc.  You may be surprised what others have to offer once they feel welcomed and secure. S.E.E.D.S. programs focus on facilitating learning and creating opportunities for people to learn.  The credo of “mutual respect, mutual benefit” is very appropriate as the true power of information is only fully realized when it is shared.