Friday, June 13, 2014

Tanzanian Lessons – Hapana Asante

Google Books
Sure, we learned on the job and on the mountain, but some of the lessons during our Study Abroad experience in Tanzania were actual lessons. For example, a local woman taught us important Swahili phrases like “Hapana asante,” which is a polite way to tell shopkeepers at the Maasai Market who think they have exactly what you want/need, “No, thank you.” We also learned about education in Africa through readings and discussions. Many of the readings came from the book, Comparative Education: The Dialectic of the Global and the Local. One chapter, “Education for All in Africa: Still a Distant Dream,” had a profound impact on me.

The chapter describes the unintended consequences of outside intervention in educational efforts. African leaders, like Nelson Mandela, recognized the power of education and the need for a literate citizenry.
But the authors suggest a lack of resources (see highlighted section below) interfered with the continent's attempts to educate everyone.
p. 358
When foreign aid stepped in to help, it came with strings attached. After all, he who pays the fiddler calls the tune, right? I relate this to recent reporting on Race to the Top: offer money to cash-strapped states in exchange for taking the outside agent’s advice on improving education.

In Africa, the advice entailed shifting the focus from an educated public to developing an economic engine.
p. 359
Recently, we have seen a similar push (again, connected to the outside aid) to ensure that U.S. students are “college and career ready.” Too many people making these decisions have either forgotten Dewey or never learned about him in preparation for their career.
During our discussion, we raised these issues and others addressed in the chapter, but it was the last two sentences that really got me thinking.
p. 385
A couple of weeks after I got back from Tanzania, I read this piece in the Washington Post that questions whether or not the education reform movement is too white when it comes to schools in black and brown communities. I immediately connected it to the highlighted passage and the idea that outside entities do not always know “what is best” for a group of people – especially when observing the situation from some privileged vantage point.

It is my fervent hope, that the next time someone in education reform tries to sell people in Tanzania (or in the U.S., for that matter) something they think we cannot live without out, that we politely respond, “Hapana asante” - No, thank you.

1 comment:

  1. I love a specific "hapana asante" that's not only "no, thank you" but 'and what ever makes you think you know what I need anyway????' Goal: make that phrase a meme.