NPO encourages critical thinking in schools

first_imgThinking Schools SA is revolutioninsing the way children are taught in school. The NPO calls for an approach that encourages learners to think more creatively and critically. (Images and Videos: Thinking Schools SA)Schools in South Africa assess learners through a standardised testing method. But many educational professionals are calling for an overhaul of the current system. They believe the focus should rather be on a more creative approach that encourages critical thinking.One of these organisations isThinking Schools South Africa (TSSA), a non-profit organisation that helps schools to transform the way they teach and learn through encouraging learners to think critically. It is backed by one of South Africa’s most well-known education commentators, Professor Jonathan Jansen.TSSA was established in 2011 after attendees at the International Association for Cognitive Education in Southern Africa conference, held in Cape Town, agreed to start an NPO that focused on the concept of thinking schools.Rector and vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, Professor Jonathan Jansen, supports TSSA’s approach to learning.It works with management and teachers to develop whole school thinking approaches and languages. It believes that critical thinking is not something teachers are explicitly trained to do and that the curriculum does not demand it. Instead, schools assess learners on how well they recall content. This results in graduates who are not able to think critically.TSSA implements thinking skills in schools by integrating critical thinking into the curriculum and making it a core part of how teaching and learning takes place.Watch these videos to learn more about TSSA:Learners gave their feedback on TSSA’s creative thinking approach.Director of the Discover Centre for Health Journalism at Rhodes University, Professor Harry Dugmore, tells TSSA what tertiary institutions look for in students.Have you played your part to build a better South Africa for all? Then share your story with us.last_img read more

Mandela: childhood heroes and lessons

first_imgThe stone down which Mandela used to slide as a child. (Image: Musa Mkalipi) The ruins of the African Native Mission Church that Mandela was baptised in. (Image: Musa Mkalipi) Despite the hardships, Nelson Mandela’s childhood was one of innocence and wonder. (Image: Nelson Mandela Museum) MEDIA CONTACT • Nokuzola Tetani Nelson Mandela Museum marketing manager +27 47 532 5110 RELATED ARTICLES • The simple palate of Nelson Mandela • Graça Machel – freedom fighter for life • Mandela archive goes live • Infographic: Mandela’s family tree • Madiba’s legacy is forever Nelson Mandela called Qunu in the Eastern Cape home, and it is where is to be buried on 15 December 2013. In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom , the struggle veteran described leaving the village as a nine-year-old, to travel with his mother to an unknown destination. “I could see the simple huts and the people going about their chores; the stream where I had splashed and played with the other boys … My eyes rested on the three simple huts where I had enjoyed my mother’s love and protection … I rued the fact that I had not kissed each of them before I left.”Qunu may have been Mandela’s spiritual home but he was born at Mvezo, close to Mthatha, the capital of the former Transkei, on 18 July 1918. When his father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, the chief of Mvezo, was deposed by a vindictive magistrate, the young Nelson went with his mother to live in Qunu. There Nosekeni Fanny, Gadla’s third wife, had friends and family on whom they could rely.In his book, Mandela told how he did not get to spend much time with his father as Gadla died when he was just nine. While still alive, the chief spent about one week a month with each of his four wives and their 13 children – the youngest son being Rolihlahla, later to be named Nelson.“Apart from life, a strong constitution and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla,” is the poignant first sentence of Mandela’s autobiography. The name literally means “pulling the branch of a tree” but the anecdotal meaning of Rolihlahla, he explained, is “troublemaker”. Then he added, with characteristic dry wit and understatement: “I do not believe that names are destiny or that my father somehow divined my future, but in later years, friends and relatives would ascribe to my birth name the many storms I have both caused and weathered.”Gadla was a counsellor to the Thembu royal house and an acknowledged custodian of Xhosa history. It was from him, said Mandela, that he developed a fascination with the great Xhosa warriors who resisted domination by white settlers. He defined himself by his father, he wrote, and when he died, rather than experiencing great grief he felt “cut adrift”.At his mother’s fireside he heard different stories – the Xhosa legends and fables, which, he writes, “stimulated my childish imagination, and usually contained some moral lesson”.Life in Qunu In Qunu he led a simple life. The villagers grew all their own food and the young boys, clad in blankets, became herders as soon they were old enough – in Nelson’s case, this was at the age of five. He described a rough and carefree childhood, spending most of his days “playing and fighting” in the veld with the other village boys – “A boy who remained at home tied to his mother’s apron strings was regarded as a sissy.” With his friends he made clay animals and became a skilled stickfighter, and said those days created “my love of the veld, of open spaces, the simple beauties of nature, the clean line of the horizon”.He came across few white people in Qunu and when he did chance to see a white policeman, magistrate or traveller, “these whites appeared as grand as gods to me, and I was aware that they were to be treated with a mixture of fear and respect”.The Christian faith, however, had a strong influence as his mother had converted – Fanny is her English name – and had her young son baptised into the Methodist church. None of Gadla’s children attended school but after a friend pointed out to Fanny that her youngest son was “a clever young fellow” she relayed the message to her husband and he agreed that Nelson should be educated.His description in the book of the cut-off trousers his father secured around his waist with a piece of string – his first school “uniform” – makes for amusing reading. On his first day of school he received, like all black African school pupils at the time, an English name. He wrote: “That day, Miss Mdingane told me that my new name was Nelson. Why she bestowed this particular name on me I have no idea.” Perhaps, he added, it had something to do with the English sea captain, Horatio Nelson. One wonders what Miss Mdingane thought about her choice of name – and her former pupil – in later years.Children did not question adults – they learned by observation and emulation, he wrote. So when his mother told him he was moving again he did not ask why or where – he packed his few belongings and said a tearful farewell to Qunu, firmly believing there could be no better place on Earth. It was a tiring journey on foot – only made bearable because his mother was by his side – to his new home, Mgekhezweni, the “Great Place”, the capital of Thembuland and the seat of Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting regent of the Thembu people.A turning point Mgekhezweni was a different world. Whereas Qunu was a village of about 100 huts, with a shop and two small schools, the Great Place had at its centre Jongintaba’s large and gracious home, as well as seven stately rondavels and other buildings. There were fruit trees, flower gardens, vegetable patches and maize fields, and when the regent came driving up in an enormous car, the boy felt “a sense of awe mixed with bewilderment”. Jongintaba was to be his guardian and, “suddenly a new world opened up before me”.The adult Mandela realised this was a turning point in his life – the move that enabled him to begin building the foundation he needed to become the lawyer Mandela, the activist and struggle icon known affectionately and with reverence across the world as Madiba.Nelson’s mother – who would not have been expected to reject the offer for her son to be raised in the regent’s home – said a quiet goodbye and returned to Qunu. Her only words to him were: “Brace yourself, my boy!” Like any youngster dazzled by a new toy, he felt prepared for anything, as “I was wearing the handsome new outfit purchased for me by my guardian”. Fanny understood, he added, that he was to be groomed for a larger world and in the same spirit, did not protest when the regent later discouraged Nelson from visiting Qunu lest he “regress”.The young boy’s fortunes had changed markedly and he was enjoying everything – from the horse-riding to the chores – that Mgekhezweni, a Methodist mission station, had to offer. He instantly acquired a new “brother” and “sister” – Justice and Nomafa, the regent’s children. Justice, four years older, handsome and a fine sportsman, became the young Nelson’s hero.As at any mission station, religion was a big part of life and he attended church regularly to hear fire-and-brimstone sermons by Reverend Matyolo. And whereas Nelson admired the influence the reverend had over the people, he was more impressed by the unlimited power wielded by the regent, and the unwavering respect he received.“I saw chieftaincy as being the very centre around which life revolved,” he wrote. “My later notions of leadership were profoundly influenced by observing the regent and his court.” Tribal meetings – presided over by Jongintaba and his councillors and attended by any man who wanted to raise an issue or simply participate – were “democracy in its purest form”. Women did not attend, however: “I am afraid [women] were deemed second-class citizens.”A leader is like a shepherd Jongintaba’s habit of listening to all voices and allowing his subjects to offer criticism formed the basis of the leadership principles Mandela later adopted. “I always remember the regent’s axiom: a leader, he said, is like a shepherd.” Jongintaba took the same approach with his children and he and his wife, No-England, became like parents to Nelson. But perhaps the new addition to the family was a little less spontaneous than the other children because he earned the nickname Tatomkulu – “Grandpa”.At this stage, he said, he dreamed of training as an interpreter or a policeman – jobs traditionally done by African men – though he had been singled out to be groomed to become the counsellor to the future Thembu king, Sabata. But perhaps it was hearing from the chiefs and headmen who came to the Great Place about other great African leaders – such as Sekhukune, Moeshoeshoe and Dingane, who built strong nations – that inspired him to reach for a higher goal.One such chief, Joyi, railed against the whites for dividing the Xhosa tribe and the young Nelson began to weigh up what he said against what was printed in his British textbooks at school. Another chief, Meligqili, gave a doom-laden speech after Nelson had joined several other youths for the customary initiation ritual, saying that though they were now officially men, they had “no control over their destiny”. His words “had sown a seed” in his mind, Mandela wrote.The problem with girls Girls were a bit of a problem, and early encounters stung. Reverend Matjolo’s daughter Winnie – not the Winnie who later would become his wife – invited Nelson around for a meal on the instigation of her scheming older sister, to see how the country lad fared with a knife and fork. He could not pin down the skinny chicken wing he had been given, though he tried and tried and became “wet with perspiration”. Afterwards, he wrote, the older sister warned Winnie off “such a backward boy”. She had more mettle, however and: “I am happy to say the young lady did not listen – she loved me, backward as I was.”Winnie subsequently went to a different school and they lost touch. But the first female he related to as an equal and a close friend was Mathona, though again it was not a good start. Wearing new boots on his first day at the Clarkebury Institute, where he would complete his high school education, he said he felt “like a newly shod horse… As I clomped into the classroom, my boots crashing on that shiny wood floor, I noticed two female students in the first row.” One of the girls said to her friend: “The country boy is not used to wearing shoes,” at which, he said, “I was blind with fury and embarrassment,” and vowed never to speak to her. But they became the best of friends and he found the clever and mischievous Mathona was someone with whom he could “share secrets”. She was a lucky find because he wrote that she became a role model for his future relationships with women, “for with women I found I could let my hair down and confess to weaknesses and fears I would never reveal to another man”.And indeed, Mandela’s marriage partners have been strong, supportive women – African National Congress activists Evelyn Mase and Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela, and former Frelimo activist and human rights campaigner Graça Machel.The teachers were of a good calibre at Clarkebury, and Nelson participated enthusiastically in sport, if not shining at it. It was only later, at Healdtown , the Wesleyan College in Fort Beaufort, that he found his talent for boxing. Mathona was a good study mate and adviser and the Reverend Harris, the school governor, a man worthy of respect. He was serious, however, and “ran Clarkebury with an iron hand”. But again, just as it appeared Nelson would be in for trouble, fate stepped in: he was tasked with working in the reverend’s garden, where he met a gentler man, who was broadminded and unselfishly devoted to educating his African charges. He was able to get to know the school governor better and hone his skills in growing vegetables.Beyond Thembuland The young man was developing his talents and acquiring the skills that would later equip him to lead. But, he conceded that though being at Clarkebury broadened his horizons, he still had a parochial outlook: “I would not say that I was entirely an open-minded, unprejudiced young man when I left … My horizons did not extend beyond Thembuland and I believed being a Thembu was the most enviable thing in the world.”Much more water would flow under the bridge before the activist Nelson Mandela would emerge to fight for a non-racist, non-sexist South Africa.last_img read more

With West Indies at their weakest, chance for Team India to win a series overseas

first_imgEasy for Sir Viv to say. When the West Indies played their best cricket, no one else dared bark.Richards took part in 35 Test victories overseas and played in a team that once went 10 years losing only eight Test matches. In toto. Home and away. Sir Viv should know.But,Easy for Sir Viv to say. When the West Indies played their best cricket, no one else dared bark.Richards took part in 35 Test victories overseas and played in a team that once went 10 years losing only eight Test matches. In toto. Home and away. Sir Viv should know.But who shredded the script? How come nervous travellers India – they’ve won only 16 away Test matches in 70 years-have now stepped into Sir Viv’s borders for five Tests and find themselves anointed favourites? Brian Lara, Caribbean cricket’s answer to Bobby Fischer, has remarked he is “quietly fearful” of the Indians.Single Agenda: Sourav Ganguly leads a team which hasn’t won in the Caribbean since 1971Instead of a triumphant fist-pump, a quick double take is recommended. Sourav Ganguly and his weary men have, unfortunately, not yet turned into ferocious bad dogs. It is the West Indies who are in disarray. India happen to be visiting.It’s the synchronicity which has every expert proclaiming that this is India’s best chance to win an away series outside the subcontinent since England, 1986.Says former captain Dilip Vengsarkar, who was the best performer of the 1986 series and led the Indians through a shell-shock of a West Indian tour in 1989: “This must possibly be the weakest West Indian team ever. They don’t have experience in the bowling, don’t have the class. This is our best opportunity ever.”Flip the coin over and it looks a little different. What is being tested is not West Indies’ strength at home-their powers are fading but they have lost only three series in the islands in the past 30 years-but rather India’s ability to win abroad.advertisementIn 1992, a line-up that contained Kapil Dev, Mohammed Azharuddin, Ravi Shastri, Sachin Tendulkar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Manoj Prabhakar, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath couldn’t beat Zimbabwe in Harare. Six years later, an Indian eleven including Azhar, Navjot Sidhu, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Nayan Mongia, Srinath and Kumble actually lost a Test at the same wretched place. The opposition was Zimbabwe, hardly classy world-beaters.Javagal Srinath leads India’s best attack in yearsIndia’s away record remains a hurdle, a handicap, a heartache and a headache that nothing-no home remedies like Tendulkar centuries, Kumble five-fers (five wicket hauls), Harbhajan hat-tricks or Gangulyan lofted sixes-can cure. It will only be cured when the jinx is broken.When Srinath- who pulled out of the 1996 tour due to a shoulder injury-talks about the West Indies today he could be an impatient commuter sprinting for a train, “There is not much time. The bottom line is I have won nothing abroad. We need to make sure that we do.”A veteran of two West Indies tours, Ravi Shastri says emphatically, “I think this is the first time we have the attack to take 20 wickets since 1971.” Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Tinu Yohannan are hardly the Beastie Boys, but they are not the Marx Brothers either.On wickets which are far slower than what Shastri and Co faced in the 1980s, the presence of Kumble and Harbhajan Singh should in theory give the Indian attack both bark and bite.Manjrekar too insists, “We should be looking at winning in the West Indies-that’s the only result we should be satisfied with.” India rarely travels with such gung-ho ambition. As a player Shastri watched the body language of teammates shrink into silence when faced with lively wickets and hostile quick bowling in the Caribbean.”You could tell from the guys’ faces who was s******g bricks, who wanted to play and who didn’t for fear of being exposed.” A player on the 1996 West Indies tour remembers what he was told even before landing: “Seniors told juniors all the usual stuff, ‘Oh, in Jamaica it will keep flying’. That’s nonsense, you get true wickets there. Some are even slower than India. Winning overseas is a mental block.”Mainstays: The slowing wickets should favour Sachin Tendulkar (left) and Rahul DravidClick here to EnlargeIt’s a block many in Ganguly’s team believe they are chipping away at. They cling to the memory of two wins outside India last year in Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. “It’s a confidence thing,” skipper Ganguly told INDIA TODAY.”We came back in Lanka after losing the first Test and squared the series with a depleted side.” India were the last team to beat Sri Lanka at home before Sanath Jayasuriya’s men won nine straight Tests in a row.The Indians are studying videotapes of the Windies’ recent series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The more Net-savvy have trawled through scoresheets of the Windies’ home games. They have discovered that scoring rates in the Caribbean have fallen: from an average of 3.3/ 3.4 runs scored per over to 2.3/ 2.4 runs per over in the past five years.advertisementIndia vice-captain Rahul Dravid translates the numbers into match-day scenarios, “It’s going to be a game of patience,” he told INDIA TODAY. “The key for the batsmen would be to try to get in on those wickets and be patient.” V.V.S. Laxman, who opened for the Indians on the 1996 tour, says, “The wickets there are similar to Indian wickets-you have to back yourself, occupy the crease and get the runs.”Occupation of the crease. Patience. Ho hum. Not quite our flash middle-order’s morning cuppa. The tour dangles many individual carrots: Captain Ganguly (and for that matter the unflash Dravid) have not scored a Test century overseas for three years, Tendulkar doesn’t have one in the West Indies and Laxman hasn’t crossed the three-figure mark since the Big One in Kolkata.Click here to EnlargeGanguly tosses aside the carrots and looks at the entire plot, “All of us need to score runs, but runs that are going to help India win the series. Those runs, scored under pressure, have more value.”On tour, Indian teams have rarely valued their chances or put a high-enough prices on their wickets. They have tossed opportunities aside like cheap trinkets. In 1989, current selector and ex-coach Madan Lal watched in horror as the Indian batsmen failed to chase 120 in Barbados.It would have given India the series, but Lal remembers their chance came in the earlier Test in Trinidad. He confesses “we didn’t push hard enough” to put up a good lead and let West Indies save Trinidad.The Slow Stuff: The spin of Anil Kumble (right) and Harbhajan Singh will test the WindiesNeither Lal nor any survivor of that tour will comment on how many of the 10 wickets that fell on the final day in Barbados were to genuine panic and how many were deliberately thrown away.”Let’s not go there,” says one player. “All we needed were two partnerships, we went numb,” says another. The Nasty Nineties are, on available evidence, behind the team but the habit of blowing chances overseas is not.In Harare (again) last year an hour’s poor batting let Zimbabwe back in the second Test and helped them level the series 1-1. In Sri Lanka, a few months later, the Indian batting threw away good starts in Colombo twice and let the Lankans take the series 2-1.India even scored 372 on the first day of the Test series against South Africa and went on to lose the game. Lal says sternly, “You have to use your skill at the right time.”The tour of the West Indies, old timers say, is a chance for individual players to “explore” themselves and to come to terms with what they are capable of. One of those is Harbhajan Singh whose battle against the West Indian batting and its left-handers is expected to be decisive.advertisementHe has a particularly good record against lefties and remarks, “I’m hoping when I come back, it will be better.” What about the most la guid lefty of them all-Prince Brian-who single-handedly denied the Australians a series victory on their 1999 tour? Ganguly steps in, “Lara is quality, but for a batsman all you need is one good ball. We’ve got to be disciplined and make sure he gets enough of those.”The Indians have travelled away from home in hope and anticipation before and the chorus on their departure has remained the same: opportunity, opportunity, opportunity. But like the old song says, it ain’t no chance if you don’t take it.last_img read more