How to teach our children to be heirs of Zimbabwe


LEARNING does not take place in strata as suggested in the taxonomy of Bloom (Blooms Taxonomy) which advances that learning starts with low order thinking graduating to higher order thinking skills and that therefore teaching and learning should start with lower skills such as identifying, listing, narrating, before the more complex such as analysis, synthesis and application.
However, this theory is not consonant with what actually happens in practice, in reality.
When children or learners encounter an object, they encounter the whole and in their effort to learn, they seek to understand the whole, they do not approach the subject in a fragmented manner.
When a baby picks up something for instance, it feels it, when it holds it, it is mapping it in so many ways, the colour, the texture, rigidity, moistness, size, and when they put it into their mouth, they are still furthering the exploration, they gather a whole lot more information, about the taste, texture, moisture content, temperature, checking out and perhaps confirming what they initially felt with their hands.
Their minds are busy synthesising the information they are gathering with whatever they have encountered before, and making decisions about this new item, characterising, categorising it, and all this they are doing without talking to anyone, without consulting anyone.
At work is their logical mathematical intelligence; they are judging the length, the shape, the size, and deciding if it is like this then it is like that other thing or it can be used as such and so on; their bodily kinesthetic intelligence tells them if you try to bend it, bite it or perhaps throw it what happens, can you play games with it; and the spatial intelligence helps them explore the three ‘D’, rotating it perhaps, turning it upside down, and determining how come it looks like this when it faces that way and when it faces me, it does not look the same.
So the mind of the baby goes on, quite busy, the adults will never know.
The naturalistic intelligence also helps further the learning; is this a part of nature? Is this like leaves, a stick, a flower or perhaps a cob of maize?
At the end of the exercise the baby will have reached some understanding of the object, it will have synthesised the information it already has with what it has encountered and will have made some decisions about what the object is.
What is instructive about this is that unless disturbed the child takes as much time as it needs to carry out its investigations, to pursue its interest.
The interest is intrinsic, if the object does not move, or is not moved, it might go back to it time and time again for further investigations until it exhausts it and finally abandons it … perhaps.
However, in the classroom setting, we fragment the learning process, everything is so timed, in 35 minutes a child’s interest should be roused, pursued, concluded and put aside; even if a child’s interest was about to awaken and something was just about to…then the bell rings or the teacher suddenly interrupts the thoughts by asking them to close their books, and the sharp scraping of metal on the floor as the chairs are moved chases away any ghosts of the idea that still lingered, and if the next activity is football or netball in the grounds then the last tendrils of the idea might just go away for good or for quite some time.
Certain learnings, certain ideas need a lot of quietude to evolve, they need long uninterrupted periods of time for the mind to commune with itself, sort things out, interrogate ideas, classify them, synthesise them, and when it has sorted things out, it can be at peace and then go out and play football or whatever.
The mind has got its own learning priorities, for each thing it encounters in the real world or in school, it has got its own taxonomy which is determined by where it is at from previous encounters, that is the levels of development at which each of the nine intelligences are and how they interface with the learning material.
Some of the material the child is already done with and can learn very little else, and with the other it might have questions it urgently needs to pursue and so will easily be engrossed in it, thus it is impossible to impose a taxonomy, instead, the teacher has to be flexible enough to tune into their taxonomies, their frequencies and assist each where they are at.
So the teacher’s world is only one out of 40 or 50 very intelligent, very active worlds and if this teacher’s world acts as if it is the only world, it is bound to be a very lonely one, maybe with two or three cheer leaders or none at all and it does not work.
In the real world, there are no problem learners.
Children are perfect apprentices; they watch their parents do this and that, and they assist here and there, and during play, they repeat these activities, rehearse them and perfect them, and this goes on back and forth.
The next thing the little girls says to the mother, “let me cook sadza, I can manage,” and the mother says “haugoni wakambobikepi?”
But the child insists “ndinogona mhai” and the mother gives in a little, “ok try, but I don’t want you spilling meal-meal all over the place and don’t burn yourself!” she says gruffly.
The little girl bites its chin, squats before the fireplace and starts cooking.
The mother’s eagle eye nervously watches, giving instructions here and there, gradually she relaxes and the child accomplishes the task.
Two or three more trials and the child does not need the mother’s supervision.
The child is happy and the mother is pleased.
But the process has been going on for a long time, the child has been watching and learning, simulating and practicing until the repertoire of skills is acquired and the child is confident to try.When it comes to real life activities, children ensconce and they learn without external pressure, they pursue their interests to conclusion, they are self-motivated.
It is the sterility of the material in the classroom and the power-master mode of presentation and the fragmentation that puts them off, it is not about this or that taxonomy, if the matter ignites with something in them, they interface with it at the level at which they are.
Children will learn, they can learn, provided something is normal and is relevant. They are capable.When we teach the heirs of Zimbabwe correctly, they will never fail to make it for themselves and for us all.
Dr Mahamba is a war veteran and holds a PhD from Havard University. She is currently doing consultancy work.


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