The African Leadership University is likely to be one of the most recent examples of life largelearning. They aim at “decolonising” knowledge, broadening the horizons and making knowledge really accessible to every African students.
The issues at stake in this particular process of decolonisation are but irrelevant. First of all, closing the gap – at least, partly – between African students leaving to study in Europe or in America, and vice versa. As of today, the ratio is 10:1. In other words, ten Americans or Norwegians, for instance, exploring South African townships, for one Ghanaian who might make it to the Eiffel Tower.
Secondly, learning to communicate in other languages than English, to deconstruct the idea that knowledge is largely written in the Commonwealth’s language.
Third, learning to work together, both students and teachers, to create new educational models that go beyond books and look more closely to real life. If students are exposed only to written sources, their knowledge is largely constrained to the eras of colonisation and post-coloniality. To instil a much deeper knowledge and more sensitive awareness to context and content, students should be assigned non-textual sources of history, culture, and belief: studying artefacts, music, advertising, architecture, food, and more. Each week students engage with at least one such source to attend to the world around them in a more careful way. A wise mix of theory and practical knowledge gives students a greater awareness of the world around them. Today.
This approach is very similar to the one I identified as life largelearning. Deconstruct and reconstruct the shape of knowledge. Let us imagine a castle built with Lego© pieces. Every brick can be used to build not only a castle, but a car as well, a skyscraper, a bridge, and a thousand more things. They are still the same bricks, aren’t they?
Similarly, even beyond African borders we can “decolonise” our knowledge. Cancel the supremacy of the traditional educational approaches, opening the doors to new ways of knowledge as well. I did not write “as well” by chance. A nation, a people unaware of their history is a people with no future. But we need also bricks of experience to build the future.
Being a student now is much tougher than it was a few decades ago. Today’s youngsters are not only required to study, but even to handle a fast-pace world. They should learn to leave the room not just to notions, but equally to practical skills. Going back for a second to the Lego© example, they should be learning how to build bigger structures using the same number of bricks.
The transition may not be smooth. Deconstruct does not mean to destroy, which could be seen as the quickest (and most damaging) way. To deconstruct means to take every single pieces, leaving nothing behind, and care for them until the next time we will use it again. To deconstruct means to be careful, patient, creative, flexible.