09 June 2010

Lessons Learned

While thinking about the effectiveness of our formal training activities in the field of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) – or perhaps for any activity one focuses on - I seem to observe that in our rural African environment a formal way of teaching seems less effective then an informal way of educating. This observation is being strengthened by observing the informal interaction of local talent on Social Networks on the Internet, for instance on Facebook or specific Twitter hashtags like #mwedu.

I see technicians at LinkNet acquiring ICT skills and growing in stature at breath taking speed in line with the Macha Works Model in the predominantly informal setting of Macha Works, while they are considerably slowing down and lose drive when going through - often costly and time consuming – formal, on western thinking based, training classes. Obviously, even acquisition of ICT skills in rural Africa can utilize the often well honed observation capabilities of people.

After reading a number of scientific papers, I was triggered to assess the phenomenon of writing as a representation of speech. As this is an oral culture, it is obvious that communications through writing is often ineffective, possibly because it basically is an abstract representation of reality. I have learned that in the rural African environment thinking and conceptualizing takes place in an existentialistic way. This is quite different that the essentialistic thought patterns enshrined in the West. In our environment, comprehension does not come through deconstruction of the matter at hand in layers of reality. Comprehension comes through an assessment of the whole, and then foremost in reviewing its relevance, and integration, and effect for groups of people in the community.

Thus it seems that practical skills are not necessarily acquired through imparting and absorption of abstract concepts. Actually, it seems that comprehension of such abstract facts are more related to foreign concepts of certification and individual remuneration, while observational and participatory interaction seem to relate to skills development for actions resulting in betterments in the local community.

Technological realities are now predominantly communicated through writings and deconstruction of various components that build the whole. Of course, it is not an issue of either this or that. However, it appears crucial that a complementary, humanized expression of technology is being developed. Real sustainability of technology can be witnessed in practice when an all encompassing description is recognized, described, and enshrined in the local language.